I’d always wanted to visit Singapore, but never really had the chance. Sure, I’d been to Changi Airport, but that doesn’t count. To truly experience a destination, people always say you need at least 48 hours to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes... and even then you’re only just scratching the surface.
Friends told me I could spend the whole break munching my way around the city, from ritzy 5-star hotels to food stalls at the city’s famous hawker centres. Being a fan of great food, and wanting a chance to get lost and meet some local Singaporeans, I figured it was a challenge worth accepting.
First up was breakfast, Singapore style. Being my first time in Singapore, I couldn’t go past trying the famous kaya toast. Though it sounded a bit wrong, it’s essentially a coconut and egg jam, it tasted amazing. More than just a breakfast staple, it’s an equivalent to scones with jam and cream. If you go out for a coffee, chances are you’ll see people snacking on this tasty treat almost everywhere.
Multiculturalism is evident in every part of Singapore - food, architecture and even the languages spoken. If you want culture you can’t go past Chinatown, perhaps the most multicultural part of the city. This vibrant hotspot is home to more shops and cafes than you can shake a stick at, but it’s the history and culture that really sets it apart. The Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple is a definite must-see.
Once I’d explored Chinatown, I headed to Maxwell Road Food Centre for lunch. According to those in the know, the dish of choice is Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. Head to stall 10 to see - and dine from - the original stall. It’s a simple dish, but it’s big on flavour. If you don’t fancy chicken and rice, two of the city’s other famous dishes are hokkien mee (a noodle dish usually served with prawns) and the deliciously calorific char kway teow, which is made of flat rice noodles stir fried with chilli, prawns, cockles, bean sprouts and chives, often including egg, sausage and fishcake as well.
Around this time I felt like my foodie challenge is a bit over ambitious, so decided to shift focus and do a bit of sightseeing instead. Singapore Flyer was a great way to see the city, from Marina Bay to the gorgeous Gardens by the Bay, and all in air-conditioned comfort. After soaking in the view from the Flyer, I climbed into another taxi and head for Kampong Glam.
If you’re in luck like me, your taxi driver might even give you a quick personalised tour along the way.
Kampong Glam has been Singapore’s Arab-Malay quarter since the early 1800’s. If you’re a shopper, check out Haji Lane, a trendy laneway offering a range of independent boutiques, stylishly cool second-hand clothes stores and quirky outlets. At first glance it seemed like an unlikely spot for fashion finds, but stores such as Know It Nothing, Pluck and Salad make it a must-visit when you want to splash out on quirky, conversation-starter pieces.
Little India was another must-visit. Serangoon Road is the heart of the area, where munching on a roti prata and trawling the shops for cheap and cheerful jewellery should be high on your list. One of the most well known spots is the Mustafa Centre - a 24hr shopping centre where you can pick up everything from Indian spices and knick-knacks to electrical goods and clothing. For something a little bit different, you can even have your fortune read by Mani the parakeet - a local star.
Ann Siang Hill and Club Street offers a more sedate shopping experience. One of the most beautiful areas in Singapore, this road is stuffed with pastel-coloured shop houses which house the bohemian, the high end and the hipster. Think French bakeries, fashion designers and the most quirky bookstore in the city, Wood in the Books.
For dinner, criss-cross your way back to the Singapore Flyer. Located downstairs is Singapore Food Trail, another dining venue that gets foodies hot under the collar. It offers great selection of 1960s Singapore-themed dining at reasonable prices. If a 1960’s theme isn’t your style, try East Coast Lagoon Food Village near East Coast Park, which pulls in the beach crowds for its grilled cuttlefish, fish and crab.
In the know:
- Shops in Singapore don’t open until around 10am, so if you’re planning to do some early morning shopping to beat the crowds you can forget about it.
- Singapore is late night shopping every night though, because all shops stay open til 9pm!
- Be sure to do a bit of back-tracking. Areas such as Clarke Quay and Marina Bay can offer completely different experiences with the setting of the sun.
Must see attractions:
- Sentosa Island - Located just half a kilometre off the southern coast, Sentosa is the adventure capital of Singapore. Attractions range from the Butterfly Park and Fort Siloso to Wavehouse, Maritime Experiential Museum and Universal Studios. It’s easy to spend your entire trip just enjoying the activities on Sentosa.
- Singapore Flyer - Singapore Flyer is a giant ferris-wheel that occupies a commanding location next to the Marina Bay Sands, and offers gorgeous views of the city and surrounds. There’s also a popular dining precinct on the ground level.
- Gardens by the Bay - This 54-hectare oasis feels like a real life version of Avatar’s Pandora. From the imposing canopy of steel trees to the giant glass conservatories, it’s completely out of this world.
- iFly - Wanted to go skydiving but you’re afraid of heights? Fear not, this is where iFly comes in. This indoor attraction allows you to experience the thrill of weightlessness without the danger.