Who says Singapore is all skyscrapers and shopping malls? There’s a lot more to our island home if you go out and explore. Here are 10 worthy ways to experience Singapore, each significant in its own right and just in time to celebrate our nation’s 50th birthday milestone!
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Go for late night dim sum in the back alleys of Jalan Besar. This may not be the most glamorous joint, but it sure is nostalgic with its bright white lights and tiled walls. Attracting crowds from all walks of life (including international and local celebrities), this dim sum destination serves up unpretentious, tasty, hot food that is frequently praised in the media. The signature deep-fried mee sua kueh is excellent after a night out drinking, but still visit even when you’re sober as it’s a worthwhile experience.
2) Biscuit King
Ahh, who remembers childhood memories of snacking on UFO crackers, jam-filled biscuits, Hiro cakes and haw flakes, playing Old Maid and Donkey card games with the family and battling for ‘country erasers’ with classmates when the teacher wasn’t paying attention? Consider visiting Biscuit King for a blast from the past. The store stocks old-school snacks and games that will have you reliving those fun times in no time.
Where: 130 Casuarina Road, Singapore 579518. Open every day except for Mondays.
3) Mama Shops
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Before the time of sparkling clean supermarket aisles stocked with products from across the globe, locals obtained their groceries and snacks from mama shops, which were usually owned by Indian men called mamaks (hence the name). These shops were also a favourite after-school stopover for kids looking for a snack (Twisties and ice lollies, anyone?).
These days, mama shops are a rare find. You could stumble upon the smaller ones in the void decks of older housing estates, such as Redhill, or the rare bigger store that’s managed to survive, despite the competition from chain supermarkets, like the one at Penang Road.
Inside, you’ll find the same things as before – groceries, snacks, household goods and knick-knacks. However, barcode scanners might be missing. Instead, you’ll find the owners using a calculator to total up the cost on old-school sticker price tags. It’s as if you’ve time travelled…
4) Kampong Lorong Buangkok
Yes, an actual kampong in Singapore still exists off Yio Chu Kang Road. Follow Gerald Drive till you see a handwritten sign that points you in the direction of Kampong Lorong Buangkok. You’ll feel as if you’ve entered a time warp when you see the old houses with zinc roofs, open spaces and dogs and chickens roaming free. The zone has been marked for development at an unspecified future date, so don’t delay your visit. Just be sure to respect the privacy of the residents who have lived here for generations as you explore this unique piece of Singaporean history.
5) Reflections at Bukit Chandu
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Bukit Chandu, which means Opium Hill in Malay, marks the area where the Battle of Pasir Panjang took place. It was the Malay Regiment’s last stand against the Japanese army, who attempted to infiltrate the area. Unfortunately, the battle was lost as the Malays were vastly outnumbered.
Now, the area is home to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, which is a World War II interpretive centre. Housed in a restored colonial bungalow, it pays tribute to the heroes of the past. Plan a day trip here to experience a slice of Singapore’s heritage that has led to the country’s present-day success. The bungalow itself is a must-visit for architectural and photography enthusiasts.
You’ll find Reflections at Bukit Chandu at 31-K Pepys Road Singapore 118458. It’s closed on Mondays (except for public holidays) and admission is free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
6) National Gallery Singapore
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Two of Singapore’s most monumental buildings, the former Supreme Court and City Hall, are currently being refurbished to transform into the National Gallery Singapore.
Locals already began documenting the gallery on social media during the Naked Museum Building History Tour (#nakedmuseumsg), where participants explored the museum in its ‘naked’ splendour before any artworks were installed. The museum is opening in October 2015 and will house the world’s largest collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, dating from the 19th century to the present.
7. Punggol Waterway Park
Punggol has transformed into a waterfront town, thanks to the construction of Punggol Waterway, the longest man-made waterway in Singapore. It provides water to the Punggol housing estates, as well as serves as a park for residents.
The park is shaping up to become a destination unto itself, with four zones marking its different sections: Nature Cove, Heritage Zone, Green Gallery and Recreation Zone. The beautiful scenery itself is an unexpected surprise amidst our concrete jungle. Jog, cycle or rollerblade along the promenade and you might spot birds such as the black-naped oriole, rose-ringed parakeet and white-throated kingfisher. A water playground also makes for splashing good fun for the kids.
Take the LRT from Punggol MRT Station to Damai LRT Station. Walk towards Punggol Road and you will find a path heading to the waterway.
8. ChangiPoint Coastal Walk
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Changi Point Coastal Walk is an undisturbed must-visit and offers a welcome break from other commercialised beaches. It offers stunning views of the coast that aren’t dotted with trading or fishing ships, unlike most of the views from the mainland.
This popular Singaporean destination has somehow managed to remain quiet despite its undeniable beauty. Located at Changi Point, the boardwalk is split into six sections: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and, probably the most romantic of all, Sunset Walk.
As the country presses on with its rapid urbanisation, a visit here every once in a while will remind you to stop and take a look at the beauty around you, as clichéd as that sounds.
9) A Restored Chinatown Shophouse
Consider this: instead of another staycation in the heart of the CBD, spend a weekend in Hotel 1929, which is actually a conserved shophouse that was built in 1929.
Here you’ll stay alongside trendy new bars and cafes in the hip Keong Saik Road area. A Hindu temple nearby adds character and Chinatown is literally at your doorstep – how’s that for a uniquely modern yet nostalgic Singaporean fix?
10) Live on a Farm
The only one of its kind in Singapore, D’Kranji has dedicated one hectare of its land to showcasing tropical fruits and plants that flourish in our climate. A shuttle bus ride away from Kranji MRT, the farm is located alongside a row of resort villas, where you can experience a quiet, relaxing stay – yes, it’s possible to get away from the bustling city and have a staycation at an actual farm without using your passport!
There’s a beer garden, seafood restaurant and spa at the resort, as well as the Swiftlet Garden Museum (swiftlets are the bird species responsible for producing edible bird’s nests). While there are nearby farms to explore, too, the best thing to do here is sit back and enjoy the peaceful stillness.
Image Credits: Creative Commons 2.0 License