Singapore for vacation? Yes, here’s why.
It’s summertime, the time for vacation. No family duty like in winter holidays, no business trip in a busy season. It’s a leisurely time just for yourself. Sooner or later you’ll face the major dilemma of pinning a country, state, city or town in mind. This summer, we present you Singapore.
You may ask, “Singapore? Isn’t it an airport city for a layover, or a financial hub that you go to an Asian Pacific regional meeting for your corporation?” Now hear us out: With many ethnicity and cultures jammed into this one easily explorable city-state, Singapore rings the smart choice for the genuinely curious type.
Roaming around the streets of Singapore is like finding yourself in different cornered themed rooms. It feels like you’re looking through an exhibition covering the entire city. Its multi-racial, multi-cultural badge is meant to spark conversations and birth stories from all roots in between the locals, expats, tourists. Singapore is small yet can be a big elegant mess.
Saturday Lunch: Eat at local hawker centres lah!
By now, you may have heard that a humble hawker stall got a prestigious Michelin star. That’s the level of street food we’re talking here. Almost every block and shopping centres has a place for hawker centres so you’re free to choose how near or far you’d go for their iconic chicken rice set!
You may head to Bugis Street Market for the fresh juice bars first. It’s a must-have anyway being under the sun in heat. There’s also a mall next door opposite the market, Bugis Junction, for those who can’t take the summer heat. Inside you have a wide range of food courts and restaurants to choose from. But if you want a more substantial, large hawker centre that serves full packed meals, go visit Chinatown complex market & food centre. It’s a food square with plenty of choices for a feast. Serving Singapore’s chicken rice, India’s roti canai and curry, Indonesia’s satay, Peranakan ’s laksa, Malay’s nasi lemak, Chinese’ dim sum, noodles and more.
Art district: What the creative do now
Under the radar, beyond all the business talk, the creative scene in Singapore is more vibrant than ever. It has various museums, galleries, art and film houses to visit. While majority go to the massive established ones such as National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, The Arts House, or Arts & Science Museum, our favorite landmark discoveries were the next following ones located on a two-way street in downtown stretching from Rochor Road to Bras Basah Road.
Inside Waterloo street, you’ll spot Centre 42, a bungalow performance art theater house for the Singapore stage. They put up exhibits, shows, plays, open-mics even practices for the writers and artists community. It’s a non-profit group so almost everything is free or pay what you want.
Few blocks on the other end you’ll find The Objectifs, an art space dedicated to photography and film. At first look, one wouldn’t believe it’s a gallery for it’s literally in a chapel. But feel free to come in the bright yellow property and see what exhibit’s going on. Their main HQ is just on the corner outside beside it where a handful of local magazines, zines, cds, dvds from renowned artists lies. At the back, there’s a hidden bar you can grab some light refreshments and chill.
Get cultured in the Instagrammable way
Moving on with your day let’s take the heritage trail site inside Kampong Glam. It’s ideal to take a look here while the sun’s out for a clearer picture of colours and details amongst shophouses. Kampong Glam is a rich heritage enclave that appeals a lot to Malaysia and Indonesia. Inside you’ll see the Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre as well. If you’re keen for a mid-day snack, try Kampong Glam Cafe. Their name is pretty self-explanatory and it’s packed day to night.
Head to Haji Lane when it starts to get lit in the afternoon. Surrounded with aesthetically pleasing alleyways, wall graffitis, this most hipster-esque lane contradicts being a mainstream spot. The first half of alley is filled with heaps of clothing boutiques, tattoo houses, bookstores, and other vintage finds. At the far end, you’ll find cafes’ and bars with street artists painting on walls and buskers playing around the area. This remains a strong personality of the city.
Oh did I mention The Projector? Just in case you’ve had enough of roaming but still keen for the creative hideouts, this cinema at the historic Golden Theatre brings together a great selection of indie films to see, one-of-a-kind events special themed nights, and versatile spaces for live DJs and bands.
Dinner: Discover a radical underground road
Far from the crowded districts, at Blair Road, you can check out the Peranakan shophouses architecture around. It is a nice quaint conservation heritage area far from the fast-paced life in the metro. For a lovely dinner, there lies a hidden gem called Little Part 1 Café: an indie cafe that has been serving comfort food for years now.
Full of old houses painted in either bright bold or pastel colours, the café surely does match the area with a very intimate vibe. Their playlist of indie and underground tunes playing adds up to the whole vibe. Start with their massive range of craft beers on tap. For your meal? As unusual as it sounds, their bestseller is the mix of breakfast and dinner: a grilled steak, a thick cut piece of sourdough bread with crispy fried egg running its yolk to a mountain of golden fries combo.
Nightlife, blinding skyscrapers!
We expect the film Crazy Rich Asians to show you the most glittering party life in Singapore, but feel free to roam around with little research. In many cosmopolitan cities, you check the central in daytime, and go for the quirky side in the evening. In Singapore, you can do opposite. Once you go back to central for the rest of your night, you have time to cover the main tourist spots for full experience.
Drop by Orchard, the main shopping districts with high-end brands. If you want to go lowkey, stop by Chinatown or Little India stations for a rather local feel. The best part of Singapore’s night scene is at Marina. You have two options for their lights show, one that takes place outside Marina Bay Shoppes over Singapore river with skyscrapers on background or one in Gardens By The Bay on a massive grass field with giant man made trees surrounding you.
Then go out and take in everything around you. Pass by the iconic Helix bridge, peak into Esplanade theaters, they usually do concerts playing late through the night, spot the signature Merlion Park. Want to skip all these and just party? Clarke Quay & Riverside ‘s nightlife has the answer for your daily dose of boost wrapping up the night!
Sleep: Sleek on every level
Everyone knows Raffles. So how about taking a tour of the lobby there but skipping the room? For the luxury hotel, we recommend Andaz Singapore. Andaz is a lifestyle brand of Hyatt, and Hyatt hotels are known to elevate the business hotels to the most sophisticated, not just luxurious, style. This one is located in the hearts of Singapore’s central business district and the building looks like a mighty honeycomb. It’s paired with the stunning city views from your room and 360 degrees sight of downtown Singapore at their rooftop bar. That’s what resonates with the coolest image of Singapore, the professional with a style.
If you don’t feel like venturing out for food, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Autie’s Wok & Steam, is more than good enough. It’s one of the best Chinese restaurants in Singapore anyway.
Do you want more down-to-earth style? Bussorah street isn’t only a popular conservation and cultural enclaves but also underscores for affordable, restored shophouse heritage accommodation. So if you’re with just a carry-on, more inclined to mingle with others, then sleep in Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel at Kampong Glam. This new property captures the atypical experience of a boutique hotel and the community feeling of a posh hostel. True to its city, even inside the capsule is sleek as Concorde.
If you like the quirky but cozy feeling of Little Part Cafe, its main branch on Jasmine Road has a beautiful apartment upstairs. With Mona Lisa and Van Gogh here and there, it’s like a habitat of artsy cousin you never had.
Sunday Morning: Leaves beauty, subtlety, and awe
Every place in Singapore is strategically easy to explore by train or bus. While you can’t squeeze in everything in a day or two, you can take an excursion trip that can normally take days in other regions. We’re talking about Sentosa island here. Or go the opposite way and spend more time at Changi airport itself. See what makes the world’s best airport.
That’s the beauty of this city. You think you know Singapore, but it is undiscovered, layered, and ready to be explored. If you want to snooze your curiosity, check the TripAdvisor and visit the most visited cities. If you’re genuinely curious, check in Singapore.
April Magazine partnered with Andaz Singapore, Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel, and Little Part Cafe for this article. Don’t worry, we apply the same standard and honesty (and fun, if applicable) for all our articles.