We spent a few days in this very clean city, yep it’s true I didn’t see a bit of litter all weekend, didn’t have to use a bathroom that wasn’t clean or enter an establishment that wasn’t immaculate. I loved this about Singapore, the shiny, sleek city is a stark comparison to other parts of South East Asia.
That said it still had a soul and a deep rooted feel of culture, the cleanliness isn’t the only thing that defines it, its heritage is omnipresent. Turn a corner and an ancient ritual is underway, or stumble upon a café that has had a loyal following for many years and embodies the way food is integral to life. Singapore’s shiny, clean city has a great depth of culture if you explore.
Where to sleep
Our friends came out from the UK to see where we live and explore a bit of SEA. We all stayed in a lovely Airbnb, in Tiong Bahru. The apartment was a great pied-à-terre for the weekend and in the most amazing area. Tiong Bahru ticked all my boxes for a city break;
- Architecture (preferably art deco ✓)
- cafés/bars/restaurants ✓
- Traditional market with food court ✓✓
- and independent shops selling gorgeous wares ✓
There are lots of lovely hotels, I’d love to stay at in Singapore, but they are not in Tiong Bahru and I’m not sure I could ever stay in another area. It’s very easy to get to places from there and is a relaxed place to just hang out. Here are some places I found to stay in Tiong Bahru.
Where to eat
Trying to live life the Malaysian way I’m a sucker for a food market/court. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, this is where you’ll find lots of hawker stalls, and as close to authentic local food you can get, all under one roof. Tiong Bahru Food Market was our first port of call, once we’d dropped off our bags and had a wander. A brilliant selection of food stalls, well worth a visit.
Chilli crab is apparently what you should try whilst in Singapore. So we did the research picked out a place, only to arrive and find it to be very expensive (crab is expensive, but this was extreme!) and the service was non-existent. A quick look on the Internet led us to Jumbo The Riverwalk instead, which was close by and had good reviews. I expected it to be good, but wow it was amazing, I’d fly back to Singapore for the chilli crab alone. They served it with sweet steamed little buns, which took the dish from great to amazing.
Zafferano was our final night destination. We wanted to visit a restaurant with a view and some fine dining, because, why not every now and then, and Zafferano was just that. The view was spectacular; the food was excellent and service was impeccable, it is definitely a place for a special occasion or if you fancy a splurge. There is also a bar, which feels more like a club after a certain time of the night.
Where to drink
It’s a well know fact it’s expensive to drink alcohol in Singapore, if that’s your thing. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my thing, so my weekend wasn’t cheap, But it was fun. There are some great places to part with your cash, in trade for a great drink though, so all is well.
It’s a cliché but the Marina Bay Sands bar is amazing, I could so see what all the hype was about. We got a table, with an excellent view of the Gardens by the Bay, for one drink and ended up staying a few hours and watching the lights from below come on. The cocktails are amazing, but the people watching is worth the price alone.
PS. Cafe Petit is a lovely neighbourhood wine shop/bar. Reasonable prices, lovely interior, including the most spectacular display of lilies I’ve ever seen. Friendly staff, happy to talk you through the many, many, bottles of wine they have and a great atmosphere – what more could you want. They also, serve coffee and beer, for the non-wine fans and have great bar style food to eat in or take away. Love this place.
Tiong Bahru Bakery needs to be in both sections really as the food is exceptional, but the coffee is why it’s in this section. Really, really good coffee, the kind that leaves you wanting to order a takeaway to go too. They have a few outlets, we made it to two in our short time in Singapore (a very good sign) and both were excellent.
The LoKal was in the right place at the right time, we were tired and needed refreshment and there it was offering us their version of the Singapore sling. Now I don’t remember having one before, but most people say they are too sweet, but not this one. This was a little bit spicy with a hint of caramelised orange – yum. We tried a snack, savoury muffins, which were delicious, but had just eaten, so had to forgo the fabulous looking menu. One to return to next time I think.
Where to adventure
Gardens by the Bay was first on the list, we had limited time here so had to opt for only the OCBC Skyway. I’d have loved to have gone to the other areas as the whole area was beautiful.. Next time I would go for a good half a day to look around all the areas. It really is spectacular to see the ‘trees’ both from the ground and from within them. I’d recommend going later in the day and staying whilst the lights are coming on. We observed this from the Marina Bay Sands bar, but I imagine that close up they are incredible.
Singapore City Gallery is a free attraction and a nice way to understand how the city has evolved and grown. Some lovely images, stories and art in the building and an amazing 3D model which, can be viewed from above. I liked being able to spot the places we’d been and the way the ground floor exhibition was laid out.
Everyone says you have to go to Singapore Zoo, as it’s the best zoo in the world. Now I am quite conflicted on zoos, I believe some of them are excellent in terms of research and conservation, but I’m not sure how I feel about animals in captivity. All of this said I loved it, lots of the animals are free to roam in large spaces, some are not in enclosed areas and it seems like they do take good care of them
It was wonderful being so close to some of my favourite animals; I was like a big kid. The park is massive though, so wear comfortable shoes, there’s a lot of walking (unless you buy a bus ticket, so you can get on and off at different areas) wear sunscreen, it’s hot, and drink lots of water. My favourite area was the fragile forest, full of wonderful birds, bats and squirrels, and could easily be missed for some of the more popular areas.
The city architecture is varied and contrasts old with new excellently. The skyline of the business district, the old colonial style buildings and shophouses mix throughout the city and appear to blend seamlessly together, making Singapore an architectural feast. As a lover of all things building related I loved just wandering the streets spotting design and snapping pictures of my favourite vistas.
I’ll be back soon Singapore!
So Singapore, some people love it, and some not so much, some move there and some tell you not to bother even visiting. I fall on the love side, but probably not enough to up sticks and move there, just yet, maybe after another visit though?
See other places I’ve been here… Travel