‘WHAT? Five days?’
…and that’s the reaction I got every time when I told people I was going to Singapore for five days.
Most people would visit Singapore for only three days tops. But we were there for five days, and by the end of it, I was still hungry for more.
Yes, Singapore IS a small country, yet there are so many great things to do. It was my second visit to the Lion City, but I still managed to discover a lot of new things that I didn’t get to try the first time round. Here are a few things to do/places to go in Singapore that I enjoyed while I was there. Aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed guaranteed. *wink*
Taste all the local delicacies (and take photos of them)
Singaporean cuisine reflects the diverse and multicultural society that the country is. It is a result of migration flows from centuries back, and now we have amazing delicacies that represent a big melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Peranakan, Indonesian, Indian, and Western influences.
In fact, food was one of the major reasons why my friends and I wanted to visit Singapore. Laksa, chicken rice, Kaya Toast, carrot cake, Char Kway Teow, Nasi Lemak, satay, tofu pudding…the list goes on and on. Visit any hawker centre, and you can taste all these amazing food for a really cheap price – most dishes are usually less than SGD$5 (more below). My favourite one is Maxwell Food Centre near Chinatown, which is where the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice is located.
If you are crazy for an unforgettable bowl of laksa like us, you should definitely go to 328 Katong Laksa. It is worth taking that trip to the east – it’s Gordon Ramsay approved. The rich flavours of the broth go so well together with the noodles…it’s heaven in a bowl.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a famous place for – yes – kaya toast. What started as a small coffee stall in Telok Ayer Basin in 1944 has now turned into numerous franchise branches in Singapore and abroad, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.
But there’s another joint that serves (in my opinion) much better kaya toast, Tong Ah Eating House. Their bread is toasted over charcoal, which gives off a fresh crispy texture that is totally different from toast made from a normal toaster.
And sorry I only have a picture of the Laksa because whenever food arrives I just wanted to tuck in right away while it’s still hot. #sorrynotsorry though. 😉
Great hawker centres that we didn’t get to go: Chinatown, Newton, Tiong Bahru, Old Airport
Take a silly photo at the Merlion
Because why not? There’s no better way to announce your arrival in the Lion City with a photo of you ‘drinking’ the water coming out from the Merlion statue on your Instagram feed. Or not, I mean, that’s optional really.
Go to ATLAS for a drink
ATLAS is a lobby bar/restaurant in Parkview Square, an Art Deco inspired office building near Bugis. Upon entering, you will feel the lavishness and the Art Deco vibes coming right at you. The decor and design are indeed very glamorous (and perhaps over the top), and it will bring you back to the Roaring Twenties instantly. It for sure felt like entering the extravagant world of Jay Gatsby.
Or even CÉ LA VI
Located at the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands, CÉ LA VI gives you a great view of the Downtown business district, as well as Marina Bay (and if you miss the Merlion already, you can see it from here too).
We made the mistake of watching the National Day fireworks from there. Not only it was super crowded (because everyone had the same idea), we were actually too high up that the fireworks didn’t even get that high. So we didn’t end up seeing a lot. Oops.
Wander around Tiong Bahru
Tiong Bahru is one of my favourite neighbourhoods I visited this time round. We started our quiet morning at Tiong Bahru Bakery with amazing croissants to die for. You’ll also find BooksActually, a cosy independent bookstore (with two cats) that all book lovers have always secretly wished for. There are also tons of cute shops, cafés, and quiet streets to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon at. Plus another food centre where you can feast without worrying
too much about your wallet. It is a hipster enclave and a very local neighbourhood. Need I say more?
On a side note, Tiong Bahru is a great area to visit if you’re into architecture. The buildings in this neighbourhood are mostly low-rise Art Deco apartment buildings. Some say it is gentrifying (thanks hipsters), but I think currently it still has a good mix of both old and new. Tiong Bahru market and food centre still felt local. Well… as a tourist I can only say this much…
Dine at Dempsey Hill
Dempsey Hill is a rather posh area of Singapore. You’ll find plenty of upscale restaurants, cafés, wine bars, and art galleries. Despite being not too far away from the main shopping area of Orchard Road, Dempsey Hill is rather tranquil. The fact that it is surrounded by nature (loads of trees lol) makes it feel even more relaxing. We visited PS Cafe‘s branch here, which has great ambience (and great food, of course). Like the area, the restaurant is also isolated and tucked away, and coming here in the morning when it was still relatively empty felt like entering a secret garden. If I could, I would definitely spend more time there.
Kampong Glam is the native Malay and Muslim neighbourhood in Singapore. It is also Singapore’s oldest urban quarter. The two most famous things you’ll find in the area would probably be Sultan Mosque and Haji Lane.
Sultan Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Singapore, particularly to the local Muslim community. The present mosque was built in 1932, and became a national monument in 1975.
A short walk away from Sultan Mosque is Haji Lane. You’ll find colourful shophouse façades, crazy street art, cool restaurants, bars, and cafés (and an ice cream joint where I totally stuffed myself with a cup of soft serve, #DietStartsNever), independent boutiques and shops selling all kinds of quirky stuff. Apparently this is the original hipster enclave before the rise of Tiong Bahru.
One of the (many) things I like about Singapore is how well-preserved their colonial architecture are. And most importantly, how the old architecture did not become just another ‘museum’, but part of contemporary life. And one of the great examples is Chijmes.
Before Chijmes become the cool commercial complex that it is now, it was a convent, orphanage and school complex built between late 19th century and early 20th century. The school moved out of the site with the government acquiring the land in 1983. In 1990 the buildings were declared as national monument, with restoration work beginning a year later. The site was completed in 1996, and has since won a Merit Award in the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2002.
The former cathedral building is now a stunning wedding venue, which also happens to be where the wedding scene in Crazy Rich Asians was filmed!
Gardens by the Bay
Personally I am not a big fan of flora and fauna, but I was very impressed by Gardens by the Bay on a whole different level.
They aren’t lying when they call Singapore the Garden City. Gardens by the Bay spans 101 hectares of reclaimed land, and it is consisted of three gardens – Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden, and Bay Central Garden.
The three most popular spots you’ll come across at Gardens by the Bay are the Flower Dome – the world’s largest glass greenhouse; Cloud Forest, which features the world’s largest indoor waterfall; and Supertree Grove, which has 12 supertrees ranging from 25 to 50 metres in height. The skyway walk provides a panoramic view of Marina Bay.
Apart from the amazing 328 Katong Laksa, Katong is also a great place to discover Peranakan culture, due to the area being a former Peranakan enclave.
Peranakan people are descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand between 15th and 17th centuries. Peranakan people have their own unique culture, in the way that they have a strong emphasis on preserving and maintaining their Chinese heritage through cultural practices in various aspects of life. This include cuisine, festive rituals, clothing, and obeying Chinese morals and values.
These houses has a unique architectural style that is not seen anywhere else in the world. You can see colonial influences, as well as local twists that adapt to the climate of Singapore. There are plenty of these shophouses in the area, so feel free to wander and explore the area. There’s also a Peranakan museum too.
Also, they look amazing on Instagram, just sayin’.
Marina Bay Sands
Like I said before, you could go to CÉ LA VI, or just walk around the shopping centre below (it’s huge!). Or go to the casinos just for fun. Of course don’t forget the Art Science Museum and Helix Bridge nearby.
Other things to do
Luge at Sentosa: I had a ton of fun at the Luge ride in Rotorua, New Zealand a few years ago, so I thought I’ll have a go here. Not only the tracks weren’t as fun, we spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME queueing. So nope.
Emerald Hill: Despite being in close proximity from Orchard Road, the busy shopping district, Emerald Hill is a quiet (and also posh) residential area. It was relaxing to wander around the streets, and peek at (rich) people’s homes. Take note of the unique architectural styles as well.
Going to the local supermarkets is always something I love doing when travelling. Not only it is a good insight into the local life, I enjoy checking out the local snacks and bringing them home. For Singapore particularly, we took some chicken rice and laksa flavoured crisps home, as well as some crispy salted egg yolk fish skin. And packets of Laksa. And I won’t tell you how many.
Little things to know
Dining at restaurants is actually pretty expensive. Not only a 10% service charge is included on the bill, there is also a 7% government Goods & Services Tax (GST). So if budget is a rather huge concern, don’t you worry – there are SO MANY great food options at the many hawker centres across the city, and also food courts inside many department stores and shopping centres. These are the places where you only pay for your food – and nothing else. In fact, I reckon a lot of the great authentic local food are in the hawker centres.
Another thing I noticed is how walkable the city is! It could be because the places we went to are mostly quite close to each other? But in my opinion walking is an excellent way to explore and find your way in any city. You get to immense yourself in the environment, notice how the scenery changes as you walk. And often, you might discover some local hidden gems along the way.
Thank you Singapore, I had a blast. Hope to see you soon some day.
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