Singapore Itinerary: History, Heritage, and Culture (2022)
How many days should I spend in Singapore? That was the biggest question I had when planning my first trip to this beautiful city-state. Most blogs suggest an itinerary of 2 or 3 days.
However, after a day in Singapore, I realized 3 would not be enough. There were too many things to do, food to eat, museums to visit, neighborhoods to wander through, and architectural gems to uncover. In the end, I needed to extend my stay to 5 days.
In this 5-day Singapore itinerary post, I’m going to show you EXACTLY how to experience the best of the little red dot’s heritage, history, and culture. You’ll learn how to explore its colorful and vibrant neighborhoods, check out its beautiful historical architecture, dig into its fascinating immigrant history, and try its melting-pot of cuisines.
Unfortunately, 1 of the best museums is closed for renovation:
- Peranakan Museum is still closed for revamping as of October 2022.
- The Chinese Heritage Centre is under new management and is also closed as of October 2022
For tips on saving money during your trip, check out my list of Singapore travel hacks.
To learn more about its history and culture, you can read a book from my list of books on Singapore.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, read this website’s disclosure page.
Singapore Itinerary 5 Days
Table of Contents
- Day 0: Changi Jewel Waterfall
- Day 1: Chinatown
- Day 2: Colonial Singapore
- Day 3: Food tour + Little India + Kampong Glam
- Day 4: Cooking Class + Gardens by the Bay
- Day 5: Black & White Houses + Zoo
Day 0: Changi Airport
When most of you come to Singapore, you’ll arrive at Changi Airport. Luckily, even before you leave the airport, you can already start your sightseeing.
1. Rain Vortex Waterfall
COST: Free | OPEN: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm (M-Th); 10:00 am – 10:00 pm (F – Su) | LOCATION: Terminal 1 Arrival Hall | WEBSITE: Jewel Changi Airport
Located in Terminal 1’s Arrival Hall, you’ll find your first sightseeing experience—the Rain Vortex. It is the largest indoor waterfall in the world at 7 stories, and it is definitely something you should not miss while in Singapore.
There’s a light and sound show at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm (M- Th) and 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, and 10:00 pm (F – Su)
There are walking trails all around the waterfall as well as restaurants and other places to relax.
How to get to the Waterfall
It’s located in Terminal 1 Arrival Hall.
But from Terminals 2 and 3, you can get to the waterfall by bridges.
A free airport shuttle bus runs between Terminal 4, Terminal 3, and the waterfall.
2. Getting to your hotel or hostel
There are many ways to get from the airport to your hotel. Check out a detailed explanation of how to do it from my 10 money-saving tips for travel in Singapore.
If you’re coming in from Malaysia, I’ve got a really helpful guide on crossing the border between Malaysia and Singapore.
Day 1: Chinatown
Spend the first day of your trip to Singapore uncovering the history, heritage, and culture of the Chinese community in Chinatown.
This is a fascinating neighborhood filled with beautiful architecture, world-class museums, beautiful murals, historic temples, and delicious and inexpensive food.
Click to view in Google Maps
Start your first day at a kopitiam (coffee shop) for some kaya toast and kopi (coffee).
Kaya toast is a toasted piece of bread or a bun with coconut jam (kaya) and a slab of butter that could clog an artery or two but is worth it because it’s so delicious!
Now one thing to be aware of is that you need to make sure that you try this toast and coffee at a good kopitiam (traditional coffee shop) and not some tourist trap.
Some places serve mediocre kaya toast, while others offer kaya toast to die for! If you’re following this Singapore itinerary to the T, then you’ll be doing a food tour on Saturday, and if you do Hello Singapore’s food tour, you should get your chance to try really good kaya toast at a legendary kopitiam.
Where can you get the best kaya toast?
Best Singapore lists the five best places to get kaya toast in Singapore.
Here is a list of some kopitiams in Chinatown:
- Ya Kun Kaya Toast – You want really good kaya toast, head here. This place is legendary! Ya Kun’s got street cred from having been around since the 1940s.
- Nanyang Old Coffee – This place is in a great location near the Chinatown Complex and Chinatown MRT station. But to be honest, I was disappointed in their kaya toast.
Check out these travel guides for Singapore
2. Tour Chinatown
After filling up on kaya toast and coffee, your Singapore itinerary takes you on a tour of Chinatown.
Of course, you can wander around Chinatown on your own, but you’re not going to get to learn about the history and culture of this fascinating neighborhood.
I highly recommend joining a guided tour. Chinatown is a place filled with many stories and secrets of the poor immigrants fresh off the boat from China, the wealthy Peranakans who dominated commerce, and the triads who ruled the criminal underworld. Hearing these stories as you wander the streets of this colorful and beautiful neighborhood makes your experience so much more special than doing it on your own.
Here are the BEST guided tours of Chinatown:
- The Beginnings of Chinatown Walking Tour – A highly-rated tour of Chinatown that focuses on the founding of Singapore. RATING: 5.0 (100+ Reviews) | Read Reviews and Book Tour Here
- Chinatown Heritage Wall Murals Tour – This tour focuses on the fabulous wall murals of Chinatown | RATING: 5.0 | Read Reviews and Book Tour Here
- Nostalgic Chinatown Tour – A guided tour of Chinatown from a former resident of the neighborhood. RATING: 4.8 | Read Reviews and Book Tour Here
- Chinatown Heritage Walking Tour – Discover Chinatown’s rich history and heritage with this 3-hour guided tour. Read Reviews and Book Tour Here
3. Telok Ayer Street
If you’re going to tour Chinatown on your own, you can start on Telok Ayer Street in the Chinatown subdistrict of Telok Ayer.
It’s less than 5 minutes from Ya Kun Kaya Toast Restaurant. There’s also a convenient MRT station right where this walking tour begins.
Telok Ayer was the first street in Chinatown, making it one of the most historically important streets in Singapore.
What’s even more interesting is that until the 1880s, the bay went all the way up to THIS street. Ships would pull up on the docks along Telok Ayer. New immigrants from China would disembark from these ships.
But its position next to the shore did not last long. In the 1880s Singapore started reclaiming land from the bay (Telok Ayer Bay) in front of the street. By the time it was all done, Telok Ayer was 5 blocks from the water.
Today the street is a mix of old culture with temples, mosques, clan houses, and restored shophouses and new culture with trendy bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels.
One of the first things immigrants would do when they arrived on the shores of Singapore would be to head to Thian Hock Keng Temple to thank the sea goddess Mazu for protecting them during their journey from China.
The name of the temple literally means Palace of Heavenly Happiness. It was first built at a joss house in 1821 and then rebuilt in 1839.
The temple has 2 main shrines: one dedicated to Mazu and the other to the Buddhist deity, Guanyin.
5. Amoy Street
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Running parallel to Telok Ayer Street is Amoy Street. This is another beautiful and historically rich street lined with restored shophouses.
The street was named after a famous port in China where many of the immigrants embarked on their journey to Singapore. Today the city is called Xiamen, where I also lived for 4 years.
In the 1800s, this street was a busy commercial hub filled with trading houses dealing in rice, spices, textiles, etc. The street was also referred to as First School Street since the first free school was built along it.
Nowadays the shophouses on Amoy Street (and pretty much everywhere in Telok Ayer) have been turned into trendy bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops.
6. Thian Hock Keng Mural
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Walk down Amoy Street until you find yourself in front of the BEST mural in Singapore. That’s saying a lot since this city is full of murals.
The mural tells the history of the immigration of the Hokkien Chinese to Singapore. It’s so long (40 meters) and detailed that you could spend 20 to 30 minutes looking at it.
7. Ann Siang Park
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
At the end of Amoy Street and a bit hidden away is the entrance to a small park called Ann Siang Park.
Before exiting the park look for an old water well. This was where sailors and traders would go to get water. They would bring the water down to their boats on oxcarts.
Exit the park on Ann Siang Hill Road.
8. Ann Siang Hill Road
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Exit the park from the opposite end of where you entered. You’ll come to Ann Siang Hill Road.
The street was named after a wealthy Hokkien merchant named Chia Ann Siang. Born in 1832 in Malacca, he started working at 16 for a British firm that specialized in the trade of spices, tobacco, tin, and tea. He eventually left the company and started his own timber business, becoming so successful and wealthy that he bought Ann Siang Hill.
You’ll find covered sidewalks all over Chinatown. Under British rule, Singaporeans were required to have a roof over the sidewalk to keep them dry from the rain and cool from the sun. Even today they are a blessing for tourists and locals.
Ann Siang Hill is particularly interesting for its beautifully designed ceramic tiles on the sidewalks and facades of restored shophouses.
The next stop on this Chinatown itinerary is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple.
This very busy and colorful temple was originally built in 1823 and then rebuilt in 1843.
It’s located on the main drag that bisects Chinatown, New Bridge Road, so you can’t miss it.
You can enter as long as you take off your shoes at the entrance.
After visiting the temple, walk down the very lively and colorful Pagoda Street. This part of Chinatown is completely different from Telok Ayer, which was quiet, calm trendy, and gentrified. Pagoda Street is a bit grungier–full of people, tourists, vendors selling souvenirs, and restaurant after restaurant. The restored shophouses are brighter and more colorful and I think more interesting.
This street is a great place to return to in the evening. Lots of street musicians and restaurants with outdoor seating. Very lively atmosphere. It also felt very safe when I was there at night.
The street also has my favorite museum in Singapore, the Chinatown Heritage Centre. We’ll stop there later in the tour.
11. Murals of Chinatown
12. Sago Street
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Make your way to the tourist center of Chinatown, Sago Street. You’ll find a tourist information center here as well as tons of souvenir shops.
On Sago Street is the most famous Buddhist temple in Singapore, Buddha Tooth Relic.
Buddha’s tooth is supposedly here. Somewhere upstairs. I looked for the stairs (even visited twice) and never found them.
Even if you can’t find the tooth, it’s worth a visit for its culture and architecture.
After the tour ends, get some lunch in the Chinatown area. You can challenge yourself by having lunch at a hawker centre. There are 2 in Chinatown: Chinatown Complex and the Maxwell Centre.
Lunch ideas for Day 1 of your Singapore itinerary
Chinatown Complex or Maxwell Centre– At first, you might be a bit intimidated about jumping into a hawker centre on your first day especially if you’re traveling solo.
But be brave!
No one’s paying attention to you. Everyone’s so busy eating or working their butts off.
Walk around the area and just check out the different stalls. There are a ton. Whatever looks good, try it. You can order food from a few stalls. Take a seat at any table even if there are other people sitting at it. Singaporean people are super friendly. They might even give you some advice on what stalls to go to for your second round of food.
I just randomly chose whichever stall looked good and wherever I saw local people ordering. I had satay and char kway teow (noodle dish).
To save a table or seat while getting your food, place a packet of tissue paper on a table. This tells people that someone is sitting there. It’s a very local thing to do.
An alternative to the hawker centre is one of the many, many restaurants around Chinatown.
There’s a famous Michelin-starred hawker centre stall called Hawker Chan that opened up a restaurant in Chinatown outside of the centre. It’s famous for its roast duck and pork. The restaurant on Smith Street called Liao Fan Hawker Chan is definitely not as busy as the one in the Chinatown Hawker Centre.
As of October 2022, Chinatown Heritage Centre is still temporarily closed.
However, I’ve decided to keep it on this itinerary because it might be reopened by the time your Singapore trip starts, and I don’t want you to miss this fascinating museum.
If it’s open, you might still be able to get discounted tickets online.
This is one helluva wonderful museum on what it was like for poor Chinese immigrants (I’m not talking ‘bout Crazy Rich Asian Chinese immigrants either) in Singapore up to the 1950s.
The museum has these realistic and gritty reproductions of a Chinese shophouse and the rooms above it from the 1950s.
There was a shortage of affordable housing, so families lived in these tiny rooms and shared the kitchen and toilet with everyone else living in the building.
When Lee Kuan Yew came to power, he promised that one of the first things he would do would be to tackle Singapore’s housing problem. The result was the city’s famous public housing buildings (80% of Singaporeans reside in this kind of housing).
16. Dinner in Chinatown
COST: US$5 – $8 | OPEN: 8:00 am – 2:00 am | LOCATION: Google Maps
For dinner, I’d suggest going to the Maxwell Food Center, which is across the street from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice – The most famous hawker stall at Maxwell is Tian Tian Chicken Rice. Both Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain raved about this place. I visited Maxwell while on a walking tour with Hello Singapore. Tian Tian was closed, so we had chicken rice at another hawker stall. It was still excellent!
Chili Crab – I also had chili crab at Maxwell Food Center. This dish is amazing and if you don’t have it at least once on your trip, you’re making a grave mistake! At this hawker stall, it cost me around S$30 (US$22/€19.46/£17.17), which I think is cheaper than other restaurants. I don’t know which stall it was as my guide helped me order but Maxwell is not large so you should be able to find it.
Of course, you can save your chili crab experience for one of the most famous chili crab restaurants in Singapore.
It looks like the average price per person for chili crab is now around S$50 (US$35 | £31.34 | €36).
Singapore has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. The best place to experience this skyline is by going to the top floor of one of its most famous public housing buildings–[email protected].
You can actually go to the rooftop of this building for spectacular panoramic views of the city, the harbor, and Chinatown. It’s pretty cool!
The Duxton consists of seven high-rise apartment buildings. There are 2 sky bridges that connect the buildings together. The one on the 26th floor is only open to people living in the buildings, but the one on the 50th floor, which is the top floor, is open to the public for a fee.
How to get to Pinnacle @ Duxton:
The apartment complex is about a 10-minute walk from the Maxwell Food Centre.
When you get to Pinnacle @ Duxton, go to Building 1G and look for the self-service kiosk machine to buy your ticket to the top floor.
You need to have an Ez-Link Transport Card to pay the S$6 (US$4.20 | £3.76 | €4.32).
You can find out how to get an Ez-Link card here.
I went to Duxton on a tour with Hello Singapore. If you’re going on your own, you might have some trouble finding it. To visit on your own, check out The Smart Local’s article on this building to learn how to get to the roof on your own.
DAY 2: Colonial Singapore
Day 2 of this Singapore itinerary is mostly devoted to the British colonial side of Singapore’s history.
But before we get to see how the Brits contributed to the beauty of Singapore, let’s peek inside the lives of one of the most fascinating groups of people in Southeast Asia—the Peranakans. In the morning you’re going to visit the home of a wealthy Peranakan family called the Baba House.
You can take however long you want at the sights along the itinerary, but try to get to the National Museum by 2:00 for their free guided tour and to the Merlion Statue by 7:45 or 8:45 for a light show.
The afternoon itinerary involves a lot of walking, part of which is outside in the hot Singapore weather. Don’t rush. Stop and rest once in a while. Bring water!
Constructed around 1895, this historic 3-story blue house was the home of a wealthy Peranakan (Straits Chinese) family.
Now the National University of Singapore owns the house. It is used to show the public what life was like for Peranakans in the twentieth century. They give fabulous guided tours.
When Chinese and Indian traders began arriving in Singapore and Malaysia around the 1700s, only men came. So, these traders married local women and thus, had children with them. These children were called Peranakans, which really means a person whose father is Chinese and whose mother is Malay.
Peranakan culture is a mix of Chinese and Malay cultures. They are also called Straits Chinese and they are usually quite wealthy since most came to the region as wealthy merchants.
Lee Kuan Yew was a Peranakan and so were the families from the book/movie, Crazy Rich Asians.
Today it’s pretty hard to distinguish Peranakans from other Chinese Singaporeans. You can read more about Peranakan culture in my Singapore Food Tour Guide.
Just make sure to buy your tickets in advance online from their website, which is essentially through Peatix. If you need to contact them for whatever reason before your tour, you can do so via Facebook. I had to change the dates after purchasing my ticket, and they helped me cancel my ticket. I then bought a new ticket.
Singapore also has a great Peranakan Museum that is a must-see. However, it’s closed for renovations.
2. Orchard Road and Lunch
After the Baba House, continue your Singapore itinerary by taking the MRT to Orchard Station to see Orchard Road. This is the city’s most famous shopping street. It’s lined with modern sleek shopping mall after shopping mall filled name brand stores Prada, Gucci, Versace, etc.
I’m not a big fan of malls or shopping, but I felt I had to check out Orchard Road since it is one of the most famous streets in Singapore. I still had a great time!
Unless you’re really into malls, checking out 1 or 2 of them is enough. I visited Paragon and Orchard Central. The glitziest mall is supposed to be ION Shopping Mall.
For me, the highlights were all the food courts, restaurants, bakeries, and gourmet delis in their mall’s basements.
I ate at the famous Din Tai Fung (Google Maps), located in the basement of the Paragon Shopping Mall. This is a well-known Taiwanese dumpling restaurant chain. If you’ve never had soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) before, you are committing a major sin.
Then I picked up some more food at the famous Killiney Kopitiam, which I’ll tell you about later in this post.
3. Emerald Hill Road
After Din Tai Fung at Paragon Mall or wherever you went for lunch, walk for about 10 minutes down Orchard Road and turn left onto tranquil Emerald Hill Road, where you’ll find some gorgeous Peranakan terrace houses.
The ones that are closer to Orchard Road have been turned into bars and cafes.
Keep walking further up Emerald Hill Road where you’ll find some more elegant terrace houses that were built in the 1920s.
Are you ready for lunch part 2?
I was still hungry, so I headed back to Orchard Road and walked for 10 minutes to Killiney Kopitiam for MORE food.
Killiney Kopitiam is a small local restaurant that is supposed to have the best kaya toast in Singapore.
Yes, it was pretty darn good.
Not to worry if you don’t like kaya toast as much as I do. The restaurant has loads of other dishes that are delicious and perfect for those on a budget like laksa, kong pao chicken, Hokkien mee, curry chicken, etc.
If you’re not hungry at all, then just skip this stop on the itinerary.
5. Singapore National Museum
COST: S$15 (US$10.50/£9.40/€10.80) or discounted online tickets | TIME: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm | TOUR TIMES: 11:00 am & 2:00 pm (M-F); 11:00, 2:00, & 3:00 pm (Sa-Su) | LOCATION: Google Maps | WEBSITE: Singapore National Museum
Next stop: National Museum of Singapore
One of the best history museums I’ve ever visited!
The museum is devoted to the history of Singapore.
Make sure to get to the museum before 2:00 pm for the FREE guided 60-minute tour. My guide was passionate that she made the history come alive.
The other exhibit that left a deep impression on me was the famous speech by Lee Kuan Yew when he gets choked up about the breakup of Malaysia and Singapore. Then he talks about how important it is to have a multicultural society. Very moving!
6. Colonial History Tour of Singapore
The rest of today’s itinerary focuses on the British colonial history of Singapore. You can do it 1 of 2 ways:
- Join a history and culture tour of Singapore the with Hello Singapore – The tour focuses a lot on the colonial period of Singapore’s history. This is what I did when I was in Singapore. The tour starts at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. It also hit the Merlion Statue, [email protected], and Maxwell Hawker Center, a tea ceremony and much more.
- Independent tour on your own – Below I’ll explain where to go and how to get there. This is almost the same as what I did on my Hello Singapore tour. But this tour also includes a stop at the Old Hill Street Police Station, Raffles Hotel and time to see the lightshow from Marina Bay Sands, which is not included in Hello Singapore Tour.
7. Raffles Hotel and Long Bar
COST: S$43.5 + 10% service charge for a Singapore Sling | OPEN: 12:00 pm – 10:45 pm for the bar – the wait to get a table can be more than an hour | HOTEL LOCATION: Google Maps
After the National Museum, swing by the Raffles Hotel, the quintessential colonial hotel—posh, stately, and historical.
Built in 1830 the Raffles Hotel was originally built as a beach house and then converted into a modest beach hotel. Then in 1887, Armenian hotel owners, the Sarkies Brothers, bought the hotel and converted it into a luxury hotel. Over the years they added more wings to the hotel.
The Sarkies Brothers were forced to sell the hotel when they went bankrupt during the Great Depression.
The hotel was where the rich and famous stayed when they visited Singapore—Charlie Chaplin, Jean Harlow, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and Somerset Maugham.
You don’t have to stay here to experience that colonial vibe, though. Just go to the famous Long Bar. This is where celebrity guests and the local European community would gather to drink and socialize back in the days when Britain still ruled Singapore.
It was also where the national drink of Singapore was invented, the Singapore Sling. Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the drink specifically so that the European women could drink something that looked like fruit juice and not alcohol since women at that time were not supposed to drink alcohol in public.
You can still order the iconic drink as well as other drinks. The bar still keeps up the tradition of letting patrons their peanut shells (peanuts are free) on the floor.
Don’t worry about dressing up to visit the bar. There were lots of tourists wearing casual clothes including shorts when I was there.
8. St. Andrew’s Cathedral
COST: Free | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm| LOCATION: Google Maps
Next to the City Hall MRT station is St. Andrew’s Cathedral. This wedding-dress-like church was built by Indian convicts in 1838. After being damaged by lightning, it was rebuilt in 1862. You’re free to enter and walk around inside the church.
As you make your way to the river, you’ll pass by the oldest government building in Singapore, the Old Parliament House.
It was built in 1826 as a private residence of a Scottish merchant. Eventually, it was purchased by the British government and turned into a courthouse. When Singapore became independent, it was used as the Parliament House until 1999.
It is now an art venue for concerts, film screenings, and exhibits called Art House.
10. Old Hill Street Police Station
Singapore is filled with so many architectural gems. The Old Hill Street Police Station is definitely one of them.
It used to be a police station. Now it’s filled with art galleries.
Ideally, come at dusk right when the building lights up. it’s cool how the light shines on the different colored shutters.
11. Clarke Quay
Walk along the river away from the bay toward Clarke Quay with its arcade of Easter-egg-colored buildings. These former shophouses and warehouses are now trendy bars and shops.
12. River Cruise
If you’re tired and have the money, you can hop on a bumboat for around S$25 (US$18.43) and take a cruise down the Singapore River to the Merlion Statue area. You can catch the boat outside of Clarke Quay.
An alternative to the boat ride is a walk over Read Bridge or Ord Bridge and walk toward the bay along Boat Quay.
Here you’ll find fewer pastel colors but still, more shophouses or godowns (warehouses) turned into bars, restaurants, and shops. The popular chili crab restaurant, Jumbo Seafood is here.
13. Merlion Statue
You can get to the statue by walking along Boat Quay or via the river cruise.
Singapore means “Lion City” in Malay.
There’s a legend about a prince who spotted a lion while visiting the island of Temasek and, thus, he decided to name the island “Singapura.” There are no lions in Singapore and perhaps there never were any.
14. Lightshow at Marina Bay Sands
Make sure you get to the Merlion Statue by 8:00 pm or 9:30 pm so you can enjoy the light and water show from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. On Friday and Saturday, there’s another show at 11 pm.
Here are some possible places to eat for dinner on day two of your Singapore itinerary:
- Glutton’s Bay – near the Theaters on the Bay with great views of Marina Bay Sands; I recommend going here for dinner
- Lau Pa Sat Food Court – This hawker center is if you’re walking away from the bay and toward Chinatown; Lao Pa Sat is supposed to have good satay.
- Jumbo Seafood – Clark Quay – I didn’t eat here as it’s quite pricey; it’s a popular restaurant; I had chili crab at Maxwell Centre for S$30.
- Violet Oon – Peranakan food at the National Gallery, Clark Quay, and other locations around Singapore; a bit fancy
Day 3: Food Tour
On day 3 of this itinerary, you’ll be exploring Singapore’s food culture with a visit to four different neighborhoods.
You’ll also get to see some really cool shophouses and terrace houses.
1. Joo Chiat (Katong) Neighborhood
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Today you’re going to need to start out early in order to make it to my #1 favorite neighborhood in Singapore—Joo Chiat, also known as Katong—before the start of the food tour.
Joo Chiat is the most charming area of Singapore. It’s also the center of Peranakan culture and architecture. The townhouses here look like painted Easter eggs—pink, tan, yellow, green, blue, purple.
If that sounds gawdy. Far from it. It’s elegant, beautiful, and classy.
The neighborhood is also filled with cute shops, cafes, inexpensive eateries as well as trendy and higher priced ones.
Katong is known for having restaurants that serve the best laksa in the country. And the laksa is specifically called Katong laksa.
Get to the neighborhood by 8:00 so that you can spend an hour walking around and walking to the meeting point (also in Joo Chiat/Katong) for the food tour.
How to get to Joo Chiat / Katong
I visited Joo Chiat during 2 of my 3 trips to Singapore.
The first time was on a food tour and I got to Joo Chiat by Grab (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber). It cost S$11 (US$8/£6.33/€7.15) from Chinatown. But I’m thinking that prices have gone up and it’s going to cost you a bit more than that.
The last time I visited Singapore, I stayed at Ibis Hotel in Joo Chiat, and the moment I stepped out of my hotel I was surrounded by the neighborhood’s stunning architecture. By the way, I highly recommend the hotel if you’re looking for something clean and relatively inexpensive.
Most of the time I traveled to the other parts of Singapore by bus.
I took bus #16 from Orchard Road and Kampong Glam area, and bus #33 from Clarke Quay, Colonial District, and Kampong Glam. It takes around 30 minutes.
The closest MRT is Eunos Station and Paya Lebar Station. Eunos Station is .8 miles (1.3 kilometers) from the beginning of today’s itinerary and Paya Lebar Station is .7 miles (1.2 kilometers) from today’s starting point.
Start out your tour of Joo Chiat at 185 Joo Chiat Road (Google Maps), at the corner of Joo Chiat Road and Joo Chiat Lane. It’s also the location of Common Man Coffee.
Walk south along Joo Chiat Road. You’ll find beautiful shophouses. On the first floor are cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels. The top floor is where people live.
Walk one block to Koon Seng Road and turn left. Here are the iconic Peranakan houses (Google Maps). These colorful and ornate homes were built in the 1920 and 1930s.
Actually, the best time to get a photo is at noon when the sun is directly above.
After taking photos of the colorful homes, get back onto Joo Chiat Road and keep on walking south until you get to East Coast Road.
2. Eat Like a Local on a Food Tour
Arrive at the meeting point on East Coast Road by 9:00 am for the start of the BEST thing I did in Singapore—a food tour with Hello Singapore!
Food is such a big part of Singapore culture. I bet if you asked any local in Singapore what their favorite past-time is, they would almost all say “eating.” So, to understand Singapore culture, you’ve got to get to know their cuisine and the best way to do that is to take part in a food tour. Luckily, Singapore has an amazing one!
It’s basically a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan, Arab, and European food.
Find a food tour that will have you sample dishes from all 6 cultures.
I did my tour with Hello Singapore Tour, and we tried over 10 dishes and drinks from all the different cultures. This tour was probably one of the top 3 food tours I’ve ever done in my life (Oaxaca and Hanoi were the other 2).
My tour went to 4 neighborhoods:
- Joo Chiat / Katong – Peranakan food
- Airport Road Hawker Center
- Kampong Glam – Malay and Arab food
- Little India – Indian food
You can read my honest and unbiased review of my Hello Singapore food tour experience. I didn’t receive any discount for writing the review.
Hello Singapore Food Tour takes you to Kampong Glam, where you get to try tons of really good food and drinks. You can also return here after the tour to do some wandering around on your own. With its many bars, cafes, and restaurants, it’s a great area to hang out in the evening.
But if you decide NOT to do the food tour, you can take head to Kampong Glam from From East Coast Road by taking Buses #10, 12, and 14.
Kampong Glam is the traditional Malay, Arab, and Bugis neighborhood of Singapore. It was founded all the way back to the beginning of colonial Singapore when Samford Raffles formally separated the different ethnic groups into their own separate neighborhoods.
Here are some things to do in Kampong Glam:
- Sultan’s Mosque
- Malay Heritage Centre
- Loads of cool murals
- Restaurants that serve Malay and Arab foods and drinks
- Western cafes, restaurants, and bars
- Historic shophouses – Haji Lane, Bussorah St., and Kandahar St.
Walk down Bussorah Street. It’s filled with outdoor restaurants and beautifully restored shophouses. At the end of the street is Sultan’s Mosque. It was originally built in 1824 as a one-story structure and then rebuilt in 1932.
When you get to the mosque, turn right and you’ll come to the Malay Heritage Centre, a museum devoted to Malay-Singaporean culture and history.
Originally built in the 1840s’, the Heritage Centre’s building used to be the palace of the Sultans of Singapore.
Definitely stop here if you have the time!
6. Haji Lane
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: Google Maps
Filled with colorful boutiques and hipster cafes and bars, Haji Lane is another not-to-be-missed street to explore in Kampong Glam.
7. Murals of Kampong Glam
COST: Free | OPEN: 24/7 | LOCATION: All over Kampong Glam
Kampong Glam also has some interesting murals. You can find the one in the above picture a block from Beach Road at 27 Sultan Gate. If you search for “Mural: Coffee Story” on Google Maps, you should be able to find it.
Another mural to view is at Hotel Nuve on 13 Jilang Pinang.
You’ll also find loads of street art on the side streets off Haji Lane and Subban Street.
If you’re on the Hello Singapore Food Tour, you’ll be heading to Little India after Kampong Glam. You can hang out here when the tour is done and wander around the area. Maybe eat some more Indian food.
If you’re not doing the tour, it’s a 15-minute walk from Kampong Glam. The main street is Sarengood Road.
The neighborhood is vibrant, colorful, and buzzing with energy. It’s the best place to experience the Indian culture of Singapore. It’s filled with shops selling saris, garland, gold, and Indian spices.
For me, the best part was just walking around and taking in the sights an sounds.
Originally this area was the site of a racecourse that was popular with Europeans.
Little India became the center of Indian culture in Singapore when the cattle industry took off. The industry employed mostly Indian migrant workers. The migrants settled in the area, opened mosques, Hindu temples, restaurants, sari shops, and other businesses.
What to do in Little India?
9. Tan Teng Niah
COST: Free to look at from the outside | OPEN: 24/7| LOCATION: Google Maps
Start your tour of Little India by taking some Instagram-worthy photos in front of the most colorful house in Singapore.
This bungalow was the former home of a prominent business person, Tan Teng Nia, who used to operate candy factories in the area.
10. Sri Verramakaliamman
COST: Free | OPEN: 5:30 am – 12:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm LOCATION: Google Maps
Dedicated to the god Kali, this is Little India’s oldest Hindu temple.
You need to take off your shoes and wash your feet in order to enter.
11. Indian Heritage Centre
Before leaving Little India, you can learn about the culture and history of Indians in Singapore by stopping at the Indian Heritage Centre.
12. Shopping / Window Shopping
COST: Free | OPEN: 5:00 am – 1:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
The best thing to do in Little India is to just wander around visiting the different shops that sell everything related to Indian culture—saris, religious items, gold jewelry, Indian spices, fruit, vegetables, Indian snacks and sweets, etc.
There are loads of souvenir shops as well.
Day 4: Cooking Course + Gardens by the Bay
On your fourth day in Singapore, spend the morning doing a cooking course and in the afternoon and evening at Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Click on map to view in Google Maps
One of the best things I did in Singapore was to take a cooking course.
I took mine with Food Playground in Chinatown (right next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple).
When I took my course, the class had only 5 students, the instructor was patient, kind, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, the food was fantastic, and it was a lot of fun hanging out with people from all over the world.
We learned about the history of Singaporean cuisine and learned how to cook 3 dishes–Hainan chicken and rice, wonton soup, and a third dish but I don’t remember what it was.
Each day focuses on a different dish. Check the school’s website to find out what dish you will learn how to cook on your particular day. But to give you an idea of what their schedule says as of October 2022, here it is:
- Monday – Nasi lemak
- Tuesday – Curry chicken
- Wednesday – Nonya laksa
- Thursday – Sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice
- Friday – Char Kway Teow
- Saturday – Curry chicken and roti jala
- Sunday – Nonya laksa
You can get a discount if you book your course through Klook.
- US$79.35 / person if just 1 person books
- US$66.69 / person if 2 people book together
Get to Gardens by the Bay around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. You could spend about 4-5 hours here visiting 3 or 4 attractions, walking around the park, having dinner, and watching the sound and light show at night.
The Gardens by the Bay is this huge park filled with different kinds of gardens, a lake, sculptures, giant artificial trees called Supertrees, an observatory at the top of one of the trees, and 3 conservatories (Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, and Floral Fantasy).
The park and the sound and light show are free, but there are 5 attractions that cost money. I would recommend visiting at least 3 of the 5 attractions.
What can you do at Gardens by the Bay?
Here is a list of the attractions, their costs, and their opening times as of October 2022. Check the Gardens by the Bay website for the most up-to-date info.
|Park & Supertree Grove||5:00 am – 2:00 am||FREE|
|Flower Dome & Cloud Forest||9:00 am – 9:00 pm||S$28 (Adults); S$15 (Ages 3-12)|
|Floral Fantasy||10:00 am – 7:00 pm (M-F); 10:00 am – 8:00 pm (Sa, Su, Holidays)||S$20 (Adults); S$12 (Ages 3-12)|
|Skyway||9:00 am-9:00 pm||S$10 (Adults); S$6 (Ages 3-12)|
|Supertree Observatory||4:00 pm – 9:00 pm (M-F); 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Sa, Su, Holidays)||S$14 (Adults); S$10 (Ages 3-12)|
|Sound & Light Show||7:45 pm and 8:45 pm||FREE|
What I did at Gardens by the Bay:
I visited Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and Skyway and saw the sound and light show.
Floral Fantasy and Supertree Observatory did not exist during my visit to the Gardens.
My recommendation would be to definitely do Cloud Forest. Then either see Flower Dome or Floral Fantasy. Finally, do either Skytree or Supertree Observatory. If money is no issue, do all 5 attractions.
I also walked around the park at night visiting the lake and the floating baby sculpture.
Where to buy tickets:
You can buy tickets online or at the park. You can also get discounts by buying more than one attraction at one time.
- Klook – purchase in your currency; get discounts if you buy a bundle of attractions
- Gardens by the Bay Website – purchase online in Singapore dollars (you’re subject to your bank’s exchange rate)
Getting to Gardens by the Bay:
Take the MRT to Bayview station. You’ll then walk along a very long passageway to a set of stairs that will take you outside. Look for the very easy-to-miss signs pointing in the direction of the ticket counter.
Getting Around Gardens by the Bay:
This place is HUGE! Expect to walk a lot. I did.
If you don’t or can’t walk so much, there are shuttles that take you around the park for a fee of between S$3 and S$5. Check out the Gardens by the Bay website for more information.
1. Buy tickets for attractions
When you first get to the park, you should buy your tickets for Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, and Floral Fantasy if you didn’t buy them online beforehand. So, go to the ticket counter first thing.
Sounds easy, right?
It’s actually not so clear when you get to Gardens by the Bay what to do, and the ticket counter is quite far from the attractions.
Now, you might be able to buy tickets at those 3 attractions from electronic kiosks. You couldn’t when I was there.
For the Skyway, I bought my tickets at the Skyway. Just keep in mind that the Skyway closes if it’s raining.
2. Flower Dome
Visit the Flower Dome first.
The Flower Dome is a glass-covered conservatory filled with flowers from all over the world. The dome is divided into sections based on the regions of the world like Europe, Africa, South America, and so on.
The Flower Dome was one of my favorite attractions. I’m not into flowers, but I can appreciate their beauty, and the conservatory was filled with so many wonderful and exotic flowers.
Unfortunately, I went to it when it was dark outside, so I couldn’t see the flowers very well and I couldn’t get many good photos of them. So, visit it BEFORE the Cloud Forest when it’s still daylight.
3. Cloud Forest
Next to Flower Dome is Cloud Forest. This was my favorite of the 3 domes at Gardens by the Bay.
When you step inside Cloud Forest, you’re essentially entering an indoor cloud forest environment with an artificial mountain covered in living plants and flowers and an artificial waterfall. Every once in a while you’ll get sprayed with some mist.
It’s actually pretty cool, especially if you’ve never been in a real cloud forest before.
You’ll take an elevator to the top of the mountain and then walk back down passing by the numerous exotic flowers and plants and with the sound of a waterfall in the background.
4. Floral Fantasy
A 10-minute walk from Cloud Forest is Floral Fantasy. It is another attraction that didn’t exist when I visited Gardens by the Bay.
Floral Fantasy is an indoor space with 4 garden landscapes and a 4D movie ride called Flight of the Dragon Fly, in which you get to feel what it’s like to fly around through the eyes of a dragon fly.
Supposedly, it’s a great place for Instagram.
5. Supertree Grove, Skyway, and Supertree Observatory
The best time to visit Supertree Grove, the Skyway, and the Supertree Observatory is at dusk to see the sunset and at night to see the Gardens by the Bay and the skyline of Singapore all lit up.
The Supertrees Grove is a forest of giant artificial trees that are covered in living flowers and plants. At night, they’re illuminated in colored lights. There are 18 trees in the park, 12 of which can be found in the center of the park.
It’s free to walk around the Grove.
The Skyway is a series of bridges that connects the trees in the Supertree Grove. You can walk on the Skyway and see fabulous views of the city and the garden.
You need to buy a ticket to go up onto the Skyway. This can be done online or at a ticket booth near the Skyway.
When I visited, you were required to sign up for a time slot to do the Skyway at night because that was its peak time. I’m not sure if they still do that. You might want to visit the ticket booth when you first get to the park to see if it’s still true and to reserve a time slot.
You’re only allowed to be on the Skyway for 15 minutes, which is plenty of time.
The Skyway will close if it rains. It looked like it was going to rain, so I went up during the day instead of waiting for the evening. In the end, it didn’t rain.
The Supertree Observatory is another new attraction that didn’t exist when I visited.
Supertree Observatory is on the top of the tallest tree in the Grove. It’s taller than the Skyway.
You get stunning 360-degree views over the tops of everything.
6. Sound and Light Show
At 7:45 and 8:45 pm there is a sound and light show, which in the trees light up . You can watch for free from the ground under the Supertree Grove or from the Supertree Observatory or Skyway.
7. Satay by the Bay
You must go to Satay by the Bay for dinner. It’s a hawker center at Gardens by the Bay. Most of the food stalls are open from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm daily, but there are some exceptions like the steamboat stall or the roast duck stall. You can check the Gardens by the Bay website for more information.
You can also get a discounted cash voucher through Klook.
3. Marina Bay Sands Skypark
If you still have the energy, head to Marina Bay Sands for more panoramic views of the city. You can either go to the bar Ce La Vi or the Observation Deck for the views.
Ce La Vi Skybar
Finish the night off at the Marina Bay Sands. You can go to the Ce La Vi Skybar and order a drink for an amazing view of the city.
Just keep in mind that there’s a dress code after 6 pm.
The bar is on level 57 in tower 3.
Before 10 pm, it costs S$22 (US$16/€14/£13). After 10 pm, it’s free, but you’ll still need to buy a drink.
If you feel that you might be underdressed, go to the Sands Skypark Observation Deck instead.
It’s open from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm.
You can get to the Observation Deck from tower 3.
Buy tickets at a discount online or at Marina Bay Sands. As of October 2022, it costs S$26 (US$18.23/£16.36/€18.64) if you buy at the Observation Deck.
Day 5 – Architecture + Singapore Zoo
The last day in Singapore includes a visit to a hidden gem–a tour of the Black and White Houses. Then in the afternoon a trip to one of the best zoos in the world including a night safari.
1. Black and White Houses Tour
COST: S$100 (US$74/€65/£55) | TIMES: 9:00-1:15 | WEBSITE: Jane’s Tours | TRANSPORTATION: Get to the meeting point by Grab
If you love history, architecture, and interior design, you are going to fall head over heels in love with this Black and White Tour.
I guarantee it!
So why visit these Black and White Houses?
This is a description of these historic homes from the book, Crazy Rich Asians (it’s where I first heard about the):
“The exotic Black and White houses of Singapore are a singular architectural style found nowhere else in the world. Combining Anglo-Indian features with the English Arts and Crafts movement, these white-painted bungalows with black trim detailing were ingeniously designed for tropical climes. Originally built to house well-to-do colonial families, they are now extremely coveted and available only to the crazy-rich ($40 million for starters, and you might have to wait several decades for a whole family to die).”
It’s not a cheap tour, tours don’t run every day, and they might even not be running when you read this because of COVID, but if they are, do go!
You can read a review of my experience in the article Review of the Black and White Houses Tour of Singapore.
On the tour, you get to go into three beautiful colonial houses. On my tour, we got to take photos of the interior of two of the three houses.
They do not always go to the same homes.
You can have lunch in Dempsey Hills, where you are dropped off at the end of your Black and White Houses tour.
I was dropped off at Hubert’s Butchery at 22 Dempsey Road. The drop-off point is in an area with lots of trendy shops and restaurants in buildings that used to house the British colonial army.
You can read about the top 10 restaurants in Dempsey Hill by Singapore food blogger, Seth Lui.
Your other choice is to eat at the zoo. That’s what I did. You can eat outside the zoo or inside the zoo where you eat at a cafeteria-style restaurant called Ah Meng’s.
I had nasi lemak for the first time, which was surprisingly really good. Nasi lemak is a Malay dish and mine included coconut-infused rice, pickled cucumbers, peanuts, anchovies, sambal, and fish.
3. Singapore Zoo
COST: S$48 (US$34/£35/€30) adults and S$33 (US$23/£21/€24) children; S$88 (US$62/£56/€63) for Zoo and Night Safari Combo Ticket; You can get a DISCOUNT by purchasing tickets online | TIMES: 8:30 am – 6:00 pm | WEBSITE: Singapore Zoo | TRANSPORTATION: Ang Mo Kio MRT station + Bus 138
After the Black and White Houses tour, take a Grab to get to the Singapore Zoo. It cost me S$16 (US$12/€10.36/£9.22) to get there from Dempsey Hill
If you’re coming from Chinatown, take the MRT to Ang Mo Kio station (30 minutes) and then hop on city bus 138 to the zoo (30 minutes), which is the last stop.
Singapore Wildlife Reserves has four parks: Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and Night Safari. If you want to see all four, you need a whole day.
I’m not into zoos. I don’t like animals being kept in cages, but I heard that the Singapore Zoo is supposed to be a good zoo for animals, so I decided to check it out.
Lonely Planet raves about the orangutans, and yes, they were cool. I rather liked the Probiscus monkeys. They’re primates with very large noses, hence the name “Probiscus.”
4. Night Safari
COST: S$55 (US$39/£35/€40) adults; S$38(US$27/£24/€27) children; S$88 (US$62/£56/€63) for Zoo and Night Safari Combo Ticket; You can get a DISCOUNT by purchasing tickets online | TIMES: 7:15 pm – 12:00 am | WEBSITE: Night Safari
The next stop on your Singapore itinerary is a visit to the Night Safari.
It’s right next to the zoo. There are signs pointing the way.
The Night Safari has four main activities: a live fire show, a live animal show, a tour in a tram, and a walking tour around the park. You can do them in any order, but this is what a staff member at the park suggested I do.
You can also witness lion and tiger feeding times on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Lions are fed at 8:00 and tigers at 8;30 on the tram tour and 9:00 and 9:30 while walking along the trails.
The Fire Show
When I visited the zoo, there was no live fire show. You can probably do it first as it’s at the park entrance. The Fire Shows are at 6:45, 8:00, 9:00, and 10:00.
Creatures of the Night Show
I first went to the 20-minute Creatures of the Night show.
According to the Night Safari website on May 27, 2019, the first show is at 7:15 pm and the other shows are at 8:30, 9:30, or 10:30.
The audience sat in an amphitheater-style arena around a stage where two or three people brought out exotic animals like a giant snake, an owl, and a cheetah. Sometimes a member of the audience would come to the stage to take part in the show.
The Creatures of the Night show was good, but my seat was way at the back so it wasn’t easy to see what was happening on stage. Get there early!
After the show, I took the tram ride around the park. The line for the tram was not as long as I had read about. I only waited for ten minutes. Make sure to sit on the right side to get the best view of the animals.
The animals aren’t in cages. But there is a moat between you and them. I expected the animals to be more active since it was nighttime, but they weren’t at all.
It seemed the only animals that were active were the hyenas, who made this awesome incessant noise! I guess they’re laughing at something!
Walk on the trails
The last thing is to walk along the trails in the dark and observe the same animals. There are four trails that connect with each other. You’ll eventually walk along all the trails to get back to the entrance. The trails are even cooler than the tram because sometimes there aren’t any other visitors around, and it’s just you and hyenas.
Transportation back to the city
The bus stop is across the street from the Night Safari entrance. I got on bus 138 at 9:45. It took 30 minutes to get to Ang Mo Kio MRT station. It took another 30 minutes to get back to Chinatown by MRT.
Where to stay in Singapore
Hotels and hostels in Singapore are not cheap compared to the rest of Southeast Asia.
You’ll find loads of pricey hostels, only a few budget hotels, some medium-priced hotels, and loads of luxury ones in Singapore.
Airbnb is technically not illegal. But since the majority of Singaporeans live in public housing, they have to follow the strict laws against renting out their home short term.
Here are average prices for places to stay in Singapore
- Hostel – US$40
- Cheapest hotels (2 star) – US$70 (hard to find and don’t expect a window)
- Medium-priced hotels (3 star) – US$150 – $200
- Luxury hotels (4 – 5 stars) – US$300 – $500
Places to stay for those on a budget
Most hostels in Singapore have capsule-style beds. This means you have a privacy curtain with your own bedside light and outlets by your bed as well as lockers for your valuables. The best hostels are in Chinatown and Kampong Glam neighborhoods.
1. Atelier Hostel
PRICE: US$41 | BREAKFAST: Included | RATING: 8.5 (200+ Reviews)
Located in the heart of Singapore near the MRT Chinatown Station, this newly built hostel has capsule-style dorm rooms. Breakfast is included. There’s also a self-laundry service but no kitchen. This hostel looks exactly like the old Adler Hostel that I stayed in on my first trip to Singapore. Is it the same place but with a new name? Chinatown is the perfect place for first-timers.
2. ST Signature Chinatown
PRICE: US$70-$80 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING 8.3 (400+ Reviews)
This is a decent place for those on a budget but who don’t want to stay in a dorm room in a hostel. The rooms are small and the cheapest ones don’t have windows, which is normal in Singapore. There’s a shared lounge and kitchen. Located right in the center of Chinatown.
Mid-Range Places to Stay in Singapore
Sadly, Singapore doesn’t have a lot of 3-star hotels that are under US$200. But you can still find a few good one for around US$150. Besides the one I recommend below, also check out The Sultan and lyf Funan Hotel.
3. KeSa House
PRICE: US$140 | BREAKFAST: Not Included | RATING: 9.0 (1,000+ Reviews
Located in the heart of Chinatown, this is the highest-rated hotel under US$200 in Singapore. It’s located in renovated 1920s shophouses. The hotel has an outdoor space, lounge, and kitchen for guests to use. The cheapest rooms do not have windows.
If you want some luxury, Singapore is teeming with luxury places to stay. There are so many that it can be hard to choose.
4. Marina Bay Sands
PRICE: US$500 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 9.2 (7,900+ Reviews
If you can afford it, why not stay in the most iconic hotel in Singapore—Marina Bay Sands. It’s got killer views and the largest rooftop infinity pool in the world and a great rooftop bar. On the downside, the rooms are not as nice as at other hotels in the city.
5. Raffles Singapore
PRICE: US$850-$1000 | BREAKFAST: Optional | RATING: 9.2 (800+ Reviews
This historic hotel is so gorgeous that if you can swing the price tag it would be foolish not to stay here. You’re literally walking in the steps of history—where some of the most famous people stayed when they stopped in Singapore. The rooms are gorgeous suites. The location is perfectly situated in the colonial center of Singapore.
Where to After Singapore
Singapore also makes for a great transportation hub to various places in Southeast Asia, especially Bali and Bangkok.
Have more questions about traveling to Singapore, hit me up in the comments section below.
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