Across the Globe with Matthew Hilber: Bali & Singapore

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Editor Matthew Hilber spent 24 days traversing through Bali and Singapore with his wife, Christin, and his two daughters, Scarlett and Serena. “Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians?” he asks. “It’s basically a tourism film for Singapore.”

Keep scrolling to see the beautiful tropics, learn more about the cultural experience, and live through some serious food stall envy.

The Fun Stuff

Where to eat

Bali – The food here is abundant, fresh, and very affordable. You pretty much can’t go wrong (but don’t drink the water.)   However, for a special treat In the city of Ubud, we went to Locavore for lunch (dinner reservations were booked out a month in advance!) and had one of the best meals of our lives.

Singapore – Food and where to eat it were a huge part of our visit in Singapore.  There are these giant food courts (for lack of a better analogy) called Hawker’s Centers that are sprinkled throughout the city, which have 200 or so individual food stalls where the proprietors basically make one thing – and they make it EXTREMELY well.  Our number one destination was a food stall in the Chinatown Complex that serves Shoyu Chicken & Rice, and was the first food hawker to get a Michelin Star. The line was long, but the food was amazing and it only costs $3.

BBQ Stingray at Satay By The Bay in Sinapore
Tiong Bahru Hawkers Center – Singapore (You really haven’t had Pig’s Organ Soup until you’ve had Koh Brother Pig’s Organ Soup!)

Where to drink

It doesn’t matter where you are in Bali – if there’s cold Bin-Tang beer, then that’s the place to drink it!

What to see

This list could go on forever – Bali has an immense number of temples, beaches, and natural wonders.  You pretty much can’t go wrong there. Some highlights: The Sacred Monkey Forest, Tanah Lot Temple (which is on a rock in the middle of the ocean), Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Jimbaran for seafood on the beach, and pretty much any Bali Swing.

Waking up from a nap in The Sacred Monkey Forest – Ubud, Bali

Where to stay

AirBnb is the way to go in Bali!  You can always find one with a pool – which is a must especially with kids – and they are plentiful and inexpensive.  Plus you have a built in support network through your host who can hook you up with reliable drivers & babysitters.

What to experience

Bali – Get massages, and get them often.  High end, low end, you really can’t go wrong, they are always great and really affordable.  A quick Google of whatever area you are in will yield tons of options to choose from.

Singapore – Besides the hawker centers, the museum scene in Singapore is bananas.  There’s a ton of history packed into the last 200 years of that place and they are very good at displaying it.  Also go see the Supertrees – especially at night. And if you’re feeling crazy rich, book a room at the Marina Bay Sands and swim in the infinity pool that’s perched 650ft above the city.  (You can only use the pool if you’re staying in the hotel.)

Super Trees – Gardends By The Bay – Singapore
Super Trees – Gardens By the Bay – Singapore

Best Coffee

Bali – All coffee here is the best coffee you will ever taste.  I’m pretty sure even the Folgers is freshly ground that day.  

Singapore – Coffee in Singapore is best taken with sweetened condensed milk and eaten with kaya toast, and even better if you go to Ya Kun Kaya Toast to do all of the above (plus have some soft boiled eggs.)  We went here 3 times in 5 days – it’s that good!

What to pack

You won’t need much for Bali – half the time you’re in a swim suit, and if your AirBnb doesn’t have a washing machine, then you’ll have no trouble finding a local laundry close by that will wash your clothes – and iron your underwear – for a few dollars. 

Singapore – it’s a real city that’s completely walkable, so a comfortable pair of shoes and a big appetite is all you really need.

Getting ready for the Waterpark on Sentosa Island (Singapore)
Un-BBQ’d Sting Rays at the Water Park

What to bring home

We brought home sarongs from Bali – you need them to enter the temples there – and some traditional wood carvings.  

Singapore – Our goal in was to acquire an authentic MahJong set which we found in a random stall in Chinatown run by the one person in Singapore who does not speak English.  (Our bargaining was hilarious.)  

The Extra Stuff

Do you recommend any day trips?

Bali – Be sure to visit The Sacred Monkey Forest right outside of Ubud.  Also the Tanah Lot Temple is great. Stay away from Uluwatu Temple unless you like waiting in line for 2 hours with hordes of Instagrammers who are just there to take a selfie.

Tanah Lot Temple – Bali
Bali Swing over Tegallalang Rice Terrace about 150ft in the air.  Serena is 6 years old. No fear!
Tegallalang Rice Terraces – Bali

What were you listening to/reading on the trip?

We listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack.  (It’s really good.)

Tips & Tricks

Bali – While they look like the most dangerous mode of transportation, I never felt safer than when we were on the back of a moped.

Singapore – the mass transit system in Singapore is top-notch!

Give us your #1 Travel Hack

Do you have kids?  Are you going to be on a plane for 16 hours straight?  Then get those inflatable travel cubes that fit on the floor in front of their airline seat.  It turns the whole row into a tiny Business Class for kids!

from Left to Right – Matt, Scarlett (8), Serena (6), Christin (wife)
Haji Lane – Little India – Singapore

Pura Gunung Kawi Temple – Bali