Ask Stephanie Anything: 6 Cheap things to do in Singapore

 

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I get many emails from readers asking advice about where to stay and what to do in destinations that I’ve visited. Just email me at stephanie@pearlsandpassports.com if you have a question and I will answer it.

My question today was recieved from Caroline, a grad student who will be working in Singapore for the summer. How exciting!

”Hi Stephanie!

I just happened across your blog… I haven’t had time to search through it yet, but I was wondering if you might have some quick advice for me. I’m a grad student and I’ll be working at NUS in Singapore for a month this summer… do you have any tips for either really neat (and affordable) things to do in the city, or cool day trips from Singapore?

Thanks so much!

Caroline”

Singapore has an unjust reputation for being an expensive city. I believe that cities can be as expensive or as affordable as you want them to be. Dubai is one of my favourite cities in the world and I visited it on a very limited budget and had a great time!

Unlike Dubai space is at a premium on the small city state of Singapore. Most people live in high rise buildings above shops and restaurants. Despite this there are many things you can do for free or very cheaply in Singapore.

1) Visit the Botanical gardens.

Despite being so built up, Singapore has beautiful and vastt botanical gardens with beautiful flowers from different parts of the world. I found it hard to stay here for long due to the heat and humidity of Singapore but it is a great way to spend a few hours of the day. I especially loved the Orchid garden with the replication rainforest.

Bring a picnic and enjoy the greenery, you will appreciate it after working in the city!

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2) Buy a pass for the Museums and Art galleries.

In most museums in Singapore you can buy a three day pass for all of the museums and art galleries for just $20! This is a real bargain and a great way to escape the heat and learn more about the fascinating history of Singapore! Be sure to attend the tours of the larger museums and art galleries, they are probably the most informative tours that I have ever had the pleasure of taking. Explore the smaller quirkier museums too like the philatetic museum, (Thats a stamp museum for us non- geeks).

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3) Explore Chinatown.

People say that the best food in Singapore can be found in Chinatown, it’s an area buzzing with life. So many sights and sounds to behold. Pull up a chair on one of the tables in the centre of the narrow streets and taste the most authentic Chinese food outside of China.

There’s also a stall owned by a German selling bratwurst in Chinatown! I love the cultural diversity of Singapore.

4) Visit Sentosa.

Sentosa is a small island off Singapore that is easily reached by cable car from Singapore, (Be aware that the queues can get very long near the end of the day!). Sentosa is famed for it’s theme parks but it is also boasts a long white sandy beach and 70% of it is lush rainforest filled with wildlife. You will feel like you are a million miles from Singapore!

5) Explore Little India.

Before I flew to Singapore I spent six weeks in beautiful Sri Lanka. Initially the craziness of Sri Lanka left me feeling a little unsettled but I eventually got used to the different pace of life. When I arrived in Singapore I almost experienced another bout of culture shock, it was so different to Sri Lanka. Singapore is very urban, clean and organised and nearly every Singaporean has a smartphone and a snazzy wardrobe. It’s a million miles away from exotic Sri Lanka,

As soon as I got off the metro at Little India I felt right at home again. The streets were filled with familiar sights such as women dashing around in colourful saris and the smell of incense and curry around every street corner. The crowds of people in Little India were chaotic compared to the organised metros of Singapores CBD.

little India is the perfect place to experience Indian culture. There’s a surprise on every corner be it a Hindu temple or markets selling scores of Saris. There’s no shortage of amazing curry houses and cooling lassis either! I got my second henna hand tattoo in Little India for the cheap price of $5!

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6) Go on a free walking tour.

Singapore is such a beautiful city full of amazing architecture juxtaposed against temples and hawker centres. I went on a free walking tour in Singapore where the guides are Singaporean students. It was invaluable to help me orient myself in the vast metropolis and I got some cool local tips too!  I ended up near the famous Bugis street and ate dinner in one of the best Hawker centres in town for just $4.

Who says that Singapore is expensive?

 

 

 

 

Have you visited Singapore before? If so did you find it affordable like me or more expensive? Do you have any more tips on cheap things to see and do?

 

 

 

 

Ask Stephanie Anything: Flights

 

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I get many emails each week where wannabe travellers ask me various questions about travel. Here is an email that I recieved this week;

Hi Stephanie,

Hello!  I came across your blog this week and have really enjoyed reading some of your posts about your fascinating adventures!  Thank you!  I have a huge interest in taking a big Asia trip to many of the places you visited, but I am not sure where to begin!  I was wondering how you knew how much money to save prior to traveling to all of these amazing countries.  I have been doing the “9-5” so to speak for only three years now and would love to plan a big solo trip without the fear of having to book many overpriced flights.  Any insight would be so greatly appreciated.  Thank you for sharing your stories and inspiring me!

Best, Nina

Hi Nina! Thanks for reading my blog.

Safety and cost

Asia is an amazing place to travel too. Many people thought I was crazy for wanting to travel around Asia long term. I’m glad I never listened to the haters, travelling around Asia was the best experience of my life. It’s very exotic, historical, safe, easy to get around and most importantly cheap!

If you are worried about safety I wrote a detailed article on ytravel blog about staying safe in South East Asia, read about how to stay safe here.

I too worked the 9-5 before I set off on my ten month trip around the world. The main way I saved up was working overtime and living on an extreme budget. I go through saving up for a big trip in more detail here.

Overland travel vs flights

I love to travel without plans and luckily South East Asia is very easy and cheap to travel around last minute. I travelled overland around South East Asia. It wasn’t glamorous or comfortable and it sometimes took days but it gave me a unique insight into the workings of the different cultures in the countries I was travelling through.  Overnight trains in Thailand are surprisingly luxurious (If you choose the bottom bunk!) but overnight buses in all countries are very basic and you may be sharing a ‘bed’ with an Asian businessman who tries to spoon you in your sleep. Even the hard times are unique experiences where you get to discover different country’s quirks, (Even though you don’t think it at the time!).

Air Asia sell very cheap flights around Asia and there are a few other local budget airlines if you don’t fancy overland travel.

As for the main flights it depends what you want. There are three main ways to buy a flight ticket for a big trip.

Basic return ticket

These are perfect if you want to visit one country or continent. You can sometimes return from a different airport or country from the one you landed in and sometimes you can extend the layovers so you can experience more countries in the one trip.

One way ticket

Many long term travellers advocate the one way ticket. They are perfect if you have no idea where you want to go yet and it sounds pretty badass to say that you have bought ‘a one way ticket to Bangkok’ on your Facebook status! Beware that last minute flights once you are travelling can cost a lot! Only book a one way ticket if you have near enough open ended time to travel and have a flexible timetable to avoid having to pay for a very expensive flight home.

Round the world ticket

Round the world tickets are multiple tickets included in one price/ticket. They are usually an E ticket which means that you do not have to print off information for your flight, just turn up at the airport with your passport!

Many long term travellers will tell you to avoid these because you are stuck to an itinerary and plans change. I think that if you plan your basic trip that these tickets can be the cheapest and most convenient way to fly. Try to buy a ticket with a ‘multiflex’ pass so you can change the date of your flights as many times as you want. If you need to get home urgently many RTW tickets will fly you home asap for no extra cost. That’s priceless peace of mind.

I bought a round the world ticket from STA and it was undoubtedly the best choice for me. I got multiple quotes of the same itinerary from various agencies and the STA ticket was the cheapest and most convenient. STA sell a multiflex pass which means that you can change your flight date as much as you want if there are seats available. I bought one and certainly made use of it thanks to being the most indecisive traveller ever! I must have changed my flight dates at least 20 time throughout my trip due to plans changing and meeting friends. Beware that RTW tickets will charge you more to fly home at peak times like Christmas. I changed my plans and decided to travel home for Christmas. It was the best £150 I’ve ever spent!

 

I hope this information helps, let me know if you need any more information. Enjoy travelling around beautiful Asia, I miss it!

 

Please email me at stephanie@pearlsandpassports.com if you have any travel related questions 🙂

 

 

First impressions of Singapore

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When I arrived in Singapore I was a little bit burnt out from travelling around Sri Lanka. Although I loved the country it was not an easy country to travel in as a newbie traveller and I was frequently overwhelmed by the sighs, sounds and different cultural practices.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I arrived in the vast Singapore Chiangi airport. I window shopped at all of the Western luxuries that I had been without for weeks and my mouth watered when I saw a Subway. Sri Lankan food is delicious but it does get a bit repetitive. It’s very hard to find bread and mayonnaise that is not sweet out there too! I had actually dream’t about a tuna and cheese sub when I was on my bus to the airport in Sri Lanka.

My backpack was now 19kg so I treated myself to a taxi to the hostel to save my legs and my dignity. It was strange not having to barter for ten minutes before agreeing on a price. The hostel was cosy but absolutely tiny! Luckily it was very well laid out and every square foot was useful and functional. I would soon learn that most Singaporeans live in small government owned flats. It’s a very densely populated city state!

 

I wandered around the sprawling city after recharging with a nap. I absolutely love architecture and Singapore’s skyline was nearly as impressive as Dubai’s! Despite the city landscape there were areas of grass and trees too.

 

 

 

Singapore is modern, clean and English speaking. It was a welcome rest-bite from ‘real Asia’ and I spent a week relaxing and eating delicious local and international food. I love fashion and I loved the Singaporeans quirky fashion sense. I spent hour looking at kooky Asian cosmetics and beauty products, I couldn’t believe that they had strips to make their eyes a more Western shape and every face product was whitening.

I guess everywhere in the world people want what they don’t have.

The rumours are right, Singapore is spotlessly clean and there are signs everywhere telling you not to chew chewing gum, jaywalk or even bring smelly Durian fruit on the metro!  Other bloggers have described it as being too perfect but I thought that it still had lots of character and history.

In Singapore I was anonymous. It’s very overpopulated so people barely acknowledge your existence as they push past you in the busy streets or busy metro system. Surprisingly I had mixed feelings about this. I sometimes got annoyed at how much I stood out in Sri Lanka, how people would chase me down the street trying to sell me things or talk to me. Here everyone just went about their daily business, barely glancing up from their smart phones.

I missed the attention.

I ended my first day in a hawker centre near Bugis street. Eating the delicious and very cheap food (just $3 for prawns and noodles!) I felt excited to further explore the city. Singapore has world class museums, art galleries, monuments, nightlife and undoubtedly the tastiest and cheapest food in the world. I felt completely safe.

Despite all this I felt like I wasn’t in Asia anymore….

 

Have you visited Singapore? If so did you think that it was too perfect or an example of how a well run city should be?

You can keep up to date with my adventures by following my Facebook page. I update it daily and it’s an easy way to contact me.

https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports

 

 

 

Ask Stephanie Anything! Part 1

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A lot of people ask me various questions about my travels on Facebook and Twitter so I thought that answering the questions publicly would be a good way to help other people. After all if one person is thinking it surely someone else is!

So here it goes! You can ask me any question you like my contacting me on my Facebook or Twitter pages 🙂

How have you dealt with uncomfortable situations with people you don’t quite get a good feeling from?

I’m very lucky because I have only not felt safe twice during my travels. The first time was in Colombo in my last night in Sri Lanka. I arrived late after hours on the bus and I was going to go Negombo on the bus so that I was near to the airport the next day. As soon as I got off the bus I got a really bad feeling. I was surrounded by men so decided to get straight in a tuk tuk and head for a luxury hostel that had been recommended to me by a fellow traveller. Unsurprisingly the tuk tuk driver ‘couldn’t find’ the hostel so tried to take me somewhere else instead. I stayed in the tuk tuk and told him that I wasn’t going to get out until I was at the hostel. Luckily enough he was suddenly able to find it….

The second time I didn’t feel safe was in Kuala Lumpor. I hated that city. I was out on my own taking photos of a church when a man approached me and started talking to me. I was in quite an isolated area so I just said ‘no thanks’ or something and started walking off. I turned around after a block or so to find that he was still following me! I walked faster and then walked in to the reception of a random hotel to try and stop him from following me. Luckily this did the trick. I just didn’t feel safe in KL, it’s a dirty and chaotic city and it has scores of people sleeping rough in the street. More that I have ever seen in my travels!

So overall I’ve been very lucky. If I meet someone who seems ‘dodgy’ I just use common sense and try to get away, with a smile. You soon become aware of who is trying to trick you out of money and who is genuine when you travel.

 

 

Did you feel safe staying in your ‘rustic’ bungalow in Koh Chang?

At first I didn’t, the door didn’t close properly and a small child could easily break in. I then realised that I am in Koh Chang and I should trust people. All around me were fellow travellers staying in the other huts so it would be hard for someone to actually break in. After that I did feel quite safe and really enjoyed staying in the huts, until I got dengue fever…

Whats it like travelling on your own?

I liken travelling on my own to being on a rollercoaster, sometimes I have loads of friends and sometimes I’m completely alone and it seems like everyone else is travelling in a couple…. Luckily i’m the type of person who enjoys my own company immensely. I love exploring new places alone because there’s no one else saying ‘oh we should go there’ or ‘oh I don’t want to eat that’. It’s complete freedom.

I have also found that travelling alone has made me a lot more confident. I can now walk up to people and start a conversation and I feel a lot less shy. There’s lots of solo travellers too which can make it easier!

The only time that I wished that I was travelling with someone was when I had dengue fever. Other than that I feel a sense of accomplishment doing everything by myself! I rarely feel homesick now.

Surprisingly I still meet a lot of travellers who are surprised that I’m travelling alone. Many say that it’s not safe for a women to travel alone which is quite a sexist view. Overall I feel safer on my travels than I did in England, that sure says a lot!

 

How do you decide that it’s time to move on?

Usually I move on when I am bored or when I meet other people to travel with.  I spend over a week in Singapore which was far too long in hindsight but I really needed that taste of Western civilisation after Sri Lanka. I was enjoying eating Western food again after a month of rice and curry! Little did I know that Malaysia was also extremely modern!

I stayed in Koh Chang for so long because I made some amazing friends. Good friends are worth staying for!

Please let me know via email, Facebook or twitter is you have any more questions for me! I update my Facebook page daily and it’s the best place to follow my travels!

Two months of Travel: Summary and review

petronas1= toers, Kuala Lumpor, Malaysis

It’s hard to believe that I have been travelling for over two months now. In the real world two months is a long period of time but when travelling the days and weeks blur in to one. It’s so refreshing not having any responsibilities and to just do what I want each day! (For most days this involves a beer or two…)

I’m currently in Koh Chang, an island on the East coast of Thailand. It has a very chilled out hippy vibe and quite a good night life! I’m staying in a (very basic) bungalow right next to the sea and I fall to sleep each night to the sound of the jungle. Worlds away from the craziness of Bangkok!

So where have I travelled to in the past month?

Singapore- I spent my first three days in Singapore visiting the various museums and art galleries and just soaking up the culture. The history of Singapore fascinates me and how it’s a perfect mix of East meets West. After a while Singapore started to feel quite sterile. Although I loved the city I longed for a more ‘Authentic’ travel experience. Singapore was a perfect city but I feel that it’s best visited with people. It was very romantic.

 

Malaysia- I didn’t know what to expect with Malaysia. I actually forgot that I would have to go through Malaysia to get to Thailand at some point so I didn’t really research it. I needn’t have worried. Malaysia was very easy to travel through and very different to what I was expecting.

Melaka and Penang were very charming cities with beautiful quaint architecture and ‘hipster’ cafes and bars.

Kuala Lumpor was no where near as exotic or exciting as I was expecting. I loved seeing the Petronas towers but I wanted to leave as soon as possible

During my time there I met some amazing people and fell in love with Malaysian food, especially mee goreng!

I explored the West coast but I can’t wait to explore the East coast, I hear that it’s such a beautiful place and so different to the West coast which I found quite commercial.

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand- I’ve now been in Thailand for over two weeks and am loving the Thai people. They always seem to be giggling or eating! My kind of people! I hope to learn more Thai during my time here and maybe volunteer at a school at some point. It will be good to have more structure in my day.

I celebrated Songkran in Bangkok which was just out of this world! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

I also had some crazy (Hangover 2…) nights out and experiences in Bangkok, the city really stole my heart and I now class it as one of my favorite cities in the world. (After my beloved Liverpool of course).

 

 

Total countries visited= 3, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand

Languages attempted= 1, a small amount of Thai. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even attempt Malay but everyone just spoke English to me. I will learn some for when I visit the East coast!

Mosquito bites= 1064 (approx, mostly from having to shower outside here in Koh Chang)

Boxes sent home= 1, I sent one box of clothes that I don’t wear and souveniers back home which weighed 3kg! My bag is a lot lighter, phew.

Modes of transport= Overnight train, bus and ferry. The standard of the buses seems to be decreasing the further North I go, I can’t imagine what the buses are like in Laos….

Pizzas consumed= 0, Haven’t I been good! I’m trying to eat mainly Thai food and avoid snacks at the moment. I went a bit overboard with Western food in Malaysia and Thailand.

Beaches sunbathed on= 1, lonely beach in Koh Chang which must have the shallowest water in the world! It’s literally a foot deep really far out!

New clothes Aquired= 2 dresses in Bangkok, 1 Chang vest and 1 Malaysian style top from Melaka.

Lessons I have Learned= That it’s very hard to be ‘vintage’ when travelling! It’s so hot that you sweat loads and in the bungalows where i’m staying now there is no mirror or sinks! Seriously!

To do list=

I need to research volunteering options in Thailand and work out where I want to go next.

I also want to go trekking in the Jungle here, now that would be an experience and some well needed exercise!

What do you think of my second month of travel? Should I have given Kuala Lumpor more of a chance? Where should I visit next in Thailand?

 

 

 

 

My top 5 travel regrets

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Being a relatively new traveller (6 weeks in to my big trip!) I don’t really have many regrets at this point. I try not to have regrets because I think that things happen for a reason and that even bad situations can turn in to good situations in the future!

George from George on the go (who i’m going to be meeting up with in Bangkok for Songkran very soon!) nominated me to write about my top 5 travel regrets.

So here it goes

1) Bringing too much stuff!

I think everyone was waiting for this one! My bag weighs 19kg! That’s a lot of weight to be carrying from place to place. The bag is actually really hard to actually get on my back. I don’t even think that I’ve brought that much. Well maybe 5 bikinis was a little bit excessive…..

 

 

2) Not travelling solo sooner

When I went to Spain to teach English I had not been on holiday for over 2 years! That’s 2 years of horrible English weather and no sun, I’m surprised that I didn’t develop rickets! 

The reason that I didn’t travel is because I had no one to travel with. Most of my friends didn’t have the money to travel or didn’t like sunny destinations. Many had boyfriends that they went on holiday with instead. I thought that I would be lonely if I went on holiday alone and look a little bit, sad. I’m so glad that I found travel blogs that made me realise that I can travel alone and it’s actually great fun! You are hardly ever alone when travelling alone anyway, there’s loads of other solo travellers all over the world!

 

 

3) Spending too much time in Singapore

After the chaos that is Sri Lanka, Singapore was a well needed restbite in civilisation. Everything was clean, there were pavements and more importantly, Subway! Naively I didn’t realise that other places in SE Asia also have a lot of conveniences and are a lot cheaper with more character. As soon as I landed in Melaka, Malaysia I regretted spending so much time in Singapore. Melaka had charm and Western convenience. It was very bohemian and had quirky little cafes on each corner. Much more my style than expensive and sterile Singapore! A classic case of fear of the unknown.

 

 

 

4) Not exploring more of Europe and the UK

I find it crazy that I’ve now been to the same amount of countries in Asia as I have been in Europe, in just 6 weeks! All that time the UK and Europe was on my doorstep and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t even been to Ireland! When I get back I’m going to take advantage of cheap Easyjet flights and see more of Europe. I’m also going to get in my car and drive to places in the UK that I have never been. The South West coast is supposed to be beautiful yet I have never been there!

 

 

5) Packing the wrong things

I packed a lot but surprisingly I missed a few items that are vital. I normally wear dresses at home and out of the dresses that I brought 2 are too hot because of the longer sleeves and one if far too dressy and tight to wear in Asia. I don’t feel like ‘me’ wearing trousers or shorts everyday.

I should have brought some sleeveless sun dresses. I would feel more like myself then. So far most dresses have been ‘Asia size’, made for small thin women. Hopefully Thailand will have a larger selection of dresses and I can buy some new ones and send my others home.

Thank you for reading about my 5 biggest travel regrets. Hopefully you can learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes as me and end up trekking through Asia with a 19kg backpack wearing leggings….

I nominate Lillian from Travel Armadillo and Neil from Backpacks and bunkbeds to tell us all about their travel mistakes. They are both seasoned travellers so It would be interesting to see how their travel regrets compare to mine.

 

One month of travel: Summary and review

 

I can’t believe that I have been travelling for one whole month! At times it has been hard but for the majority of the time it has felt like one big holiday!

I was waving my old life goodbye one month ago, leaving everything for the unknown. Parts of my trip have felt like a dream, too much happiness in such a short period of time! With the highs comes the lows though, feeling slightly homesick and missing good old Western food!

I have experienced three very different cultures this past month. I’m finding the variation exciting and am loving getting my bearings and discovering each new place that I travel to.

So where have I travelled to in the past month?

My first stop was the breathtaking Dubai. I was greeted with masses of skyscrapers and a city full of contradictions.

I enjoyed a night out at an expat bar, I got lost in Dubai mall, I was in awe of the amazing architecture, I learned about Dubai’s culture and history in Dubai museum and I had an experience of a lifetime on a desert safari.

I fell in love with the exotic Arabian culture and decided that I would love to work in Dubai one day!

 

 

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Jumeirah Mosque

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Then I landed in an Island very different to the urban utopia that is Dubai: Sri Lanka! I was greeted with chaos in Colombo, cows on the road and crazy drivers aplenty. I had some amazing experiences on this Island paradise starting with being a beach bum in Hikkaduwa. After acclimatising and getting over slight culture shock it was time to explore the Island. I will be writing about my experiences very soon!

Sri Lanka definitely made me a stronger person.

 

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Sri Lanka has such beautiful beaches! I’m scared that nothing I see on my travels will compare!

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I am now in super clean, super organised Singapore and I love it! It’s a much needed taste of the West. I’m enjoying the variety of food after eating rice and curry nearly everyday in Sri Lanka and my heart rate is beginning to slow down now that I don’t have to dodge crazy tuk tuk drivers, bus drivers and cows when walking down the street!

I even met a Scouser today! That made me feel more at home!

Surprisingly I have spent a lot less than I expected, even though I have been having amazing experiences every couple of days! You can live cheaply in any city if you spend wisely!

Total countries visted= 3, UAE, Sri Lanka, Singapore

Languages attempted= 2, Arabic and Sinhala

Mosquito bites= 1052735 (approx)

Items lost = 1 pair of flip flops, ipod shuffle, tweezers, travel wash, umbrella  pacsafe case, travel adaptor and probably many more…..

Injuries sustained= Just bruises on my head from falling asleep on a Sri Lankan bus and a bruised ankle from falling over on a Sri Lankan bus (Sri Lankan buses are dangerous!)

Pizzas consumed= 4 (They had pizza hut in Sri Lanka! Thank goodness!!)

Rice and curries consumed = 243 (approx) I have had enough rice and curry to last a lifetime….

To Do list

I need to lighten the load in my bag! My bag weighs 19kg now! It’s manageable but far too heavy to carry for long distances. I need to have a sort out and send some things home or throw them out. My toiletries weigh more than anything. I thought I was really clever bringing 6 bottles of sun tan lotion but they are just not needed! I’ve only used one so far! I have not even gone through one of my 4 cans of deodorant either…..

I also need to eat my way through Singapore….

So what do you think of my first month of travel? 

Does anyone have any ideas about what I can post home/throw out of my bags to lighten the load?