For such a small country, there are surprisingly many locales of interest in Singapore.
Yes, we may never have the majesty of Mt Fuji in our backyard, nor be able to hop on a train (the real type, complete with bentos and whistles) to find a village taken over by cats, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have adventures to call our own on this tiny island.
All it takes is a little willingness to explore.
In spite of our rapid pace of urbanisation (or perhaps because of it), we decided that it was important to acknowledge and preserve our history. Our colonial past – with its multi-faceted character – became a focusing lens through which we view our future.
Singapore is a melting pot not only in name, but in heart and spirit. Alongside the Malay natives, Chinese and Indian migrants settled and grew roots into the land.
Work, trade and a brief wartime occupation provided further opportunities for the races to grow together, culminating in the easy interaction and co-mingling enjoyed by all Singaporeans today.
For the restless among us, all these leaves plenty to explore – from different cuisines, each delicious in their own way, to colourful festivals and celebrations that happen year round, to distinctive architecture styles that provide glimpses into hopes and dreams.
Kampong Glam/Beach Road
Kampong Glam was set aside for Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah and his, I kid you not, 600 families. There were also a host of Bugis, Arabs, Javanese, and Boyanese who took up residence in the area.
Today, it’s still a hub for the Muslim community, but there have been significant infusions of Turkish and Mediterranean influences in the area.
As a result, the downtown enclave – conveniently located next to the Arts District – has taken on a sort of Far Eastern bohemian vibe, with the colourful threads of Islam-infused cultures coming together to weave an enchanting tapestry.
Where to Stay
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The POD @ Beach Road is perhaps the most unique hotel experience out of all.
The rooms adopt a capsule-like structure, with minimalistic designs, providing fuss-free living. There are mixed rooms, male-only, and female-only rooms so you can pick whichever makes you more comfortable. They even have a Ladies-only floor to ensure your stay is worry-free.
It’s one thing to stay in a hotel room with different designs and inflexions, it’s another to sleep in a pod. Just the experience of sleeping in a capsule-like environment is worth a try.
Eat and Drink
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is located in a rather nondescript coffee shop, and if you weren’t specifically finding it, you probably would just dismiss it as just another typical coffee shop. Alas, the snaking, hour-long queue gives it away.
Yes, the queue can stretch to an hour long, but I suppose that’s only natural for the only other 1-Michelin-star hawker in Singapore.
With springy, al dente noodles, well-marinated minced meat, and tender liver slices, this is one heck of a noodle bowl. Oh, not forgetting the fried sole fish which takes the flavour profile to a whole new level. But be warned, the vinegar is overpoweringly strong in this one.
So if you don’t like vinegar, this bowl isn’t for you, Michelin starred or not.
See and Do
Ah Haji Lane, the hipster enclave of Singapore.
Littered all over the area are cafes, boutique shops, bars and restaurants that scream hip and indie. The art murals you see just add to the hip factor of the neighbourhood.
It’s easy to see why droves of people spend their entire day in Haji Lane – if it’s not having a photoshoot with the murals, it’s sipping a cuppa joe in one of the many cafes.
Just a stone’s throw away, The Bencoolen provides a shopping experience you won’t readily find in glitzier spots like Orchard Road or Marina Square.
Watch collectors will be delighted by the impressive range on display at the various independently run shops, whose languid atmosphere hide a spirited bargain waiting to be struck.
If you’re looking for the latest Casios and G-Shocks, head for the basement for some of the best prices on the island.