It’s been awhile since I’ve actually talked about Singapore, mostly because I’ve spent most of 2016 travelling outside of Singapore, so I haven’t been as caught up on exploring my own home country as much. I do talk a lot about Singapore though – it’s the one standard question everyone asks as a traveller “where are you from?”, which ultimately leads into a whole spiel about what Singapore is like as a home.
Expedia recently put together a hidden gems guide to Singapore which they’ve asked me to share – the recommendations are a mix of well-known and offbeat, and it got me thinking about my own hidden gems recommendations beyond the typical things you see recommended on the tourism websites and in guidebooks. Here’s a list of own hidden gems that I would recommend to any overseas friends visiting Singapore and want to experience Singapore like a local.
THINGS TO DO
My touristy thing to do in Singapore is to walk around Marina Bay area in the evening, and to check out Tiong Bahru or Kampong Glam for something a little more hipster, but an offbeat thing to do would be to go street art hunting, check out some of our weirder spots like Haw Par Villa, or go au naturel to Kranji Countryside or Pulau Ubin for an often unseen side of city state Singapore.
East Coast Park is not the prettiest beach or park, but it definitely has lots of space for your kids to run around in. I recently checked out the newly reopened Singapore Wake Park and they do have a few kid-friendly stations if any young ‘uns want to try cableski – I liked the adjoining cafe where worn out families can chill out after a hectic time in the water. Also available at East Coast Park – sandcastle building, rollerblading, cycling, playgrounds… get your kid off the ipad and out in the sun!
Or I just visited the Singapore Philatelic Museum, and instead of a boring exhibition peering at tiny stamps, I found myself pressed for time as I wandered around the gallery learning about the history of Singapore and topics like Shakespeare, travel and even animals through philately. It’s designed to be very kid friendly with touchable exhibits presented in interesting and simple ways, so worth spending a few hours educating and entertaining your kid.
I have to admit that I’m usually a bit skeptical about cafes in Singapore – I’ve found that while the drinks can be good, the food rarely manages to impress me. Here’s a list compiled from more cafe-going readers on good cafes in Singapore, but I’ve always been fond of Food for Thought at Botanic Gardens though, as well as Arbite in Serangoon Gardens. Tom’s Palette at Shaw Towers is a home-made ice cream place that’s a long time favourite of mine and Creamier has amazing waffles and orange-chocolate ice cream!
The Expedia list has mostly fine dining recommendations for you, but I think the best way you can treat yourself is to have yourself a hearty meal at a seafood joint or a zhi char restaurant.
A favourite seafood joint of mine is Mellben Seafood (original outlet in the heartlands of Ang Mo Kio) for their amazing crab bee hoon soup, renowned among Singaporeans but perhaps not as much with the tourists who pick more centrally located spots and fancier set ups like Jumbo Seafood. Ban Leong Wah Hoe at Casuarina Drive is a nice mix of seafood and zhi char.
If you want variety and cheap good grub, definitely can’t go wrong with our local hawker centres. My favourite non-touristy rec would be Old Airport Road Food Centre.
The quintessential Singaporean nightlife spot to hang out at is Zouk – this grand old dame has outlasted all the newer, flashier clubs that have come and gone in recent years, and its annual ZoukOut party at Sentosa’s Siloso beach is also a staple of the year-end festivities. I used to frequent the hip/hop room Phuture in earlier days, and Wine Bar when I wanted somewhere a bit more chill, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been back. Zouk will be moving to new premises in Clarke Quay soon though, so it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up .
If not, my hidden gem nightlight spot in Singapore is at Emerald Hill – not the newest and hippest perhaps, but less touristy and a little more quaint compared to downtown nightlife spots like Boat Quay and the Marina Bay area. Head to Ice Cold Beer and make sure you order their stellar chicken wings and No. 5 Pizza, it’s a spot where you can’t go wrong! If you want live local music, any of the Timbre outlets is always a safe bet, though I’m fond of the Dhoby Ghaut one as it’s the original one.
What are your hidden Singapore gems that you recommend to your visitors? Share them here!
This post was sponsored by Expedia – Looking for hidden gems of Singapore? Check out their new interactive guide here.