Wednesday, 24 March 2010

48 (alternative) hours in Singapore...

Now, of course you can already find at your webbed fingertips mainstream media coverage of 48 hours in Singapore. I'm not going to waste any time on telling you about how amazing Changi Airport is, where the best place to eat chicken rice is or how to get to Singapore Zoo. Here's a quick list of famous mainstream attractions that are 'hit' or 'miss' and a bunch of ideas for alternative places to have on your Singapore radar:


  • Orchard Road - unless you shop at Chanel or LV, this road is filled with slow-walking locals whose main past time is window shopping as they saunter from one air-conditioned mall to the next. Visit at your peril.
  • The Singapore Flyer - Afraid of having to be winched down? Save your $30 and put it towards lunch at Si Chuan Dou Hua at the top of the UOB Plaza. Amazing dim sum, awesome tea service and a superb view of Singapore that comes free with your meal. [Once the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands opens, this will surely add another nail into the Singapore Flyer's coffin.]


1. Club Street

Avoid Clarke Quay at all costs (one giant meat market for men across a full spectrum of miscreants: SAS (Still At School) to POP (Prostitutes Only Please).
2. Dempsey [WARNING: Bring mosquito repellent if you have tasty blood]

The old Army barracks has been transformed into a hive of bars and restaurants. However, quantity does not mean quality. Stick to the following for weekends only (lest you want to be Billy No Mates):

  • Tippling Club. Pull up a chair barside and keep your fingers crossed that Chef Ryan likes the look of your face. Get yourself a Death in The Afternoon, a Smokey Bastard or a bottle of fine wine... and be seriously wowed by the awesome service, delicious bar snacks and divine beverages on offer. Worth every cent.
  • White Rabbit. Set in an old church, with quality house music at weekends played by homegrown talent such as NOMSTA*.
  • House. Famous for its cocktails, this place has a cafe and a bar to choose from, complemented by outdoor seating with a view of the jungle.

3. Other hidden gems

  • Speak Easy, Outram Park - Nestled amongst the shophouses with a great wine list and a gallery upstairs.
  • Blu Jaz, Bugis - Alternative drinking hole offering quality music, three floors of mis-matching furniture and a laidback atmosphere.
  • Klee Bar, Portsdown Road. You pick a fruit. They make a customized cocktail with it. The barmen are quite pretentious really, but the place is undoubtedly romantic with 10 vintage deco seats and a long and low wooden bar. The terrace is surrounded by savannah trees and very quiet... Only a few cars pass by every hour once night has fallen...
  • LOOF, City Hall - If drinking a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel doesn't tickle your fancy, head over the road and chill in this rooftop oasis complete with plastic trees.
  • Orgo, Esplanade - Hidden on the roof of The Esplanade (Durian). Watch the sun set and sip a delicious (if a little pricey) cocktail by renowned Japanese mixologist, Tomoyuki Kitazoe.
  • Canopy Dining, Bishan Park - Chillax to the max whilst feeling like you have left Singapore (OK, so you're half way to Malaysia but it's easy to forget you are in the heartlands until you have to walk out to the main road).
  • Zac Cafe, Arab Quarter - One of a number of good quality Arabic restaurants serving up delicious humus and grilled meats. Finish your meal with a shisha and a wander through the backstreets for an incomparable vibe buzzing with locals and expats in the know.

See & Do

  • Sculpture Square, Bugis - The only space dedicated to 3D artworks is small but perfectly formed. Not open Sundays.
  • La Salle, Bugis - If you want to see what urban wear looks like in Singapore, head down to this iconic building. Often, they have flea markets where students sell their unique hand-crafted items or free talks and seminars. It's one of those rare places in Singapore that feels like it has its own heartbeat.
  • White Canvas Gallery, Tiong Bahru - Set in Singapore's oldest housing estate and next door to awesome French patisserie, Centre PS, is Enrico Furlan's homage to thought-provoking sculptures made from modern materials, such as recycled plastic and silicone. Everyone needs a five metre long red crocodile. Believe.
  • Blackmarket, Arab Quarter - Within a stone's throw of the über-trendy Haji Lane is a shop dedicated to urban chic wear and re-vamped vintage sunglasses. Check out the ceiling - they actually drank all of the Orangina themselves.
  • Strangelets, Tanjong Pagar - Militant craftsmanship at its very best offering unique design items for the pocket or home.
  • The Southern Ridges - Take a bus or taxi to Hort Park and pick up the start of the Treetop Walkway, leading to the highest pedestrian bridge in the country, Henderson Waves. Carry on to Mount Faber and down to the Marang Trail which winds down towards Vivocity (Harbour Front MRT) via some incredibly impressive old Black & Whites. I prefer to do the walk in the reverse of the recommended as then I can reward myself with an ice cream at the end. After two hours of walking, you'll need it.

My dear friend, Thibault De Rocca Sera (a.k.a. "Mr. Chill"), advises that you don't need to head to Indonesia or Thailand if you enjoy being pampered.

  • Spa Botanica, Sentosa. An amazing feeling to have flown to Bali during the time of an afternoon. You are invited to enjoy the full facilities before and after your treatment. Surrounded by lush vegetation, you will most probably enjoy the salad bar between a dip in the mud pool and a nap on the floating mattresses under the waterfall. SGD160 per hour with use of the facilities.
  • Healing Touch Massage, River Valley. The "deep tissue massage" is a must try. The best therapists in Singapore. The obviously experienced therapists "read" your back and muscles, and make you want to hire them permanently. SGD50 per hour.


Avoid the over-sized monsters of the hotel world and check out the following boutique establishments:

  • New Majestic Hotel, Outram Park - Rooms designed by Singaporean emerging artists.
  • Hotel 1929, Outram Park - Beautiful colonial architecture and modern interiors.
  • Gallery Hotel, Clarke Quay - Every boutique room and suite expresses its designer's unique interpretation of space.
  • Naumi Hotel, Bugis - Personalised luxury and a superb rooftop bar and pool.
  • The Scarlet Hotel, Tanjong Pagar - Great location, 100 m away from Club Street and China Town.
  • Quincy Hotel, Orchard Road - Modern chic space near Orchard Road.
  • The Klapsons, Tanjong Pagar - Unique rooms crafted by a leading design house: Sawaya & Moroni. Member of Design Hotels.
  • Wangz Hotel, Tiong Bahru - Complete with awesome rooftop bar with a great view.
  • Hotel Nostalgia, Tiong Bahru - Rooms decked out in bright fabrics and a rooftop mini-pool with adjacent bar in the heart the oldest neighbourhood around.
  • The Club will open on Ann Siang Road in late April this year.

  • HungryGoWhere - foodies congregate here to extol the virtues of a perfectly foamed wasabi mousse or cause death by criticism of an overly surly waitress.

  • Gothere - Unbeatable local knowledge on how to get from point A to point B using all methods of transport, except hoverboard (coming soon, no doubt).

  • Outré - street fashion blog - get the Singapore look.

For the record, the best chicken rice is Tiong Bahru Boneless Chicken Rice (#02-82, Tiong Bahru Market). Word.

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