How to Maximize an 18-hour Singapore Layover

Expat Life, Wanderings

We intentionally chose to have a longer layover on our journey back to Dubai so we could explore the Lion City a bit more. Yes to maximizing vacation leave credits and value for money!

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A glimpse of Singapore’s coastline.

21:30 – 01:00

Our flight from Manila was delayed due to some technical difficulties so instead of arriving at 8:20 in the evening in Singapore, we arrived an hour later.

Mathew’s high school classmate and friend fetched us at the airport and accompanied us to our hostel in Little India.

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Lanterns and other lighting ornaments decorated Little India in celebration of the Deepavali Festival (Festival of Lights) which usually starts mid-October.

After we have checked-in and sorted out our things, we headed to Chinatown to grab a bite. We were supposed to sample the various street food at Maxwell Road Hawker Center but almost all of the stalls were already closed.

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Maxwell Road Hakwer Center is constantly in the list of the top hawker centers to try in Singapore.

It was past 11 in the evening and most of the stalls operate only until 10 pm.

Luckily, there were a few restaurants open at Chinatown Food Street.

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Chinatown Food Street. Just a few minutes walk from Maxwell Road Hawker Center.

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Edamame for appetizer, spicy beef, grilled squid, fried rice and some cold beer for dinner while exchanging thoughts on our expat life. Thank you, Bonner, for hosting us!

We walked back to the hostel to ease our full stomachs then said our good byes and called it a night for the following day is going to be day of exploration – or walking, A LOT of it.

We passed by the Buddha Tooth Relic and Museum on our way to and from Chinatown.

7:30 – 12:30 

We had coffee and toast at the hostel and waited for the front desk to open so we could check-out. Early check-out can be arranged a day prior but we forgot to inform the staff, thus the wait.

We started our walkathon at around 9:00 in the morning from Little India to Haji Lane then Sultan Mosque which are both in Kampong Glam district.

There were already several tour groups when we got there but still considerably less crowded I think, compared to visiting the spot at a later time.

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Sultan Mosque or Masjid Sultan at Kampong Glam – Singapore’s cultural district.

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Our Lady of Lourdes Church. We passed by this Catholic church while on our way to Haji Lane. Walking is indeed a great way to explore a place.

We enjoyed Haji Lane, most especially Mat. There were a lot of cool boutiques and hip art shops and the vibrant murals were also equally striking.

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One of the tour groups we encountered, intently listening to their guide.

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Uncle putting things in order in front of his pop art shop.

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It helped that it rained the night before as it alleviated the Singapore heat a little bit making our long walks bearable.

After exhausting the nooks and crannies of Haji Lane, we boarded the train at Bugis MRT Station to Bayfront to walk some more and explore Gardens by the Bay and the nearby attractions.

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Marina Bay Sands, our view from Gardens by the Bay

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The Singapore Flyer

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The Helix Bridge

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Throng of tourists gather around Singapore’s national icon – the Merlion.

We decided to just have lunch at the airport in case we will be late for boarding, at least we were already there.

Mathew had hainanese chicken rice while I went for the curry laksa. This was still in Singapore Food Street at Terminal 3.

Hainanese chicken rice is a popular choice when you want to try the local cuisine. It is considered as one of Singapore’s national dishes. Another must-eat when in the Lion City is Laksa, a spicy soup with rice noodles usually served with shrimp and tofu.

We freshened up after lunch then proceeded to our boarding gate, made a quick video call back home to check on our little sunshine and mentally prepared ourselves for we will be going back to the desert grind.

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Layovers might be our thing from now on. 🙂

Terima kasih, xie xie, Singapore! Until next time lah.


We arrived at 9:30 in the evening and departed for Dubai at 3:10 in the afternoon the following day.

P.S. This was our second time in Singapore but the first time to be exploring it together. The first was some 3+ years ago when we stayed in this tiny yet amazing country while waiting for our papers to Dubai. I went first then after a few months, Mathew decided to follow. We are grateful to our friends who hosted and assisted us during our short stay in Singapore. Thank you to Nang Karen, Nong George and Bonner! You are part of our expat story. ❤

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