Earlier this fall, Crazy Rich Asians actress Tan Kheng Hua visited Seattle to share all there is to explore and marvel in Singapore. Plus, with direct flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Singapore, we’re wondering why we aren’t planning our own trip to this beautiful island country.
If you’re not convinced yet, you will be after following along with Kheng as she walks us through a day in Singapore — filled with all her favorites sights and experiences.
7 a.m.Wake up and walk to a wet market for breakfast. I love Eunos Market near where I live, though great markets are easy to find throughout Singapore. The wet markets are where you can find fresh meats, vegetables, dried and canned foodstuff, tropical fruits and other grocery items. I would suggest exploring the market before sitting down for a light breakfast of local toast with a generous slab of butter and sugar, with kopi-o (local coffee, black with sugar). The Eunos Market is home to many food stalls and vendors, including a delightful, local biscuits stall where you can buy a variety of traditional biscuits, weighed and priced to sell in amounts you wish. My favourites are chocolate wafers and savoury “butterfly” biscuits. These local varieties are often lighter in taste than store-bought biscuits.
9 a.m. Before heading out, I recommend checking the weather, because Singapore is a tropical country, and heavy showers can hit when you least expect it. You can get the latest local news and weather from either Straits Times or Channel News Asia online. I always feel it is great to get an idea of the community and what is happening in a country when you are visiting.
10 a.m. If you are of the ilk, Singapore has a huge supply of excellent yoga establishments, offering top-notch guided yoga classes, typically taught in English. I would suggest Yoga Lab. They have a few outlets: Find one near you, and find out what yoga is like in Singapore. Mats, towels, and (usually shower facilities and lockers) are available. It always helps jet lag and general well-being to stretch a little after long flights. Despite the fact that Singapore is hot year round, hot yoga is very popular, and I love a hot hatha yoga class.
1 p.m. Lunch! I have been vegetarian for more than a year now, and I would suggest Herbivore in Fortune Centre for a gorgeous, healthy, kind, and excellent vegetarian Japanese lunch. Trust me, you WILL NOT miss the sashimi. They do incredible things with tempeh and tofu. After lunch, walk around Fortune Centre. There you will find many shops offering all things vegan and vegetarian — Asian style.
2 p.m. While you are in the Civic Centre of Singapore — an area known for its historical buildings, memorials, and parks — take a look at the incredible architecture of The School of the Arts (SOTA). The future leaders of Singapore’s creative industries are likely to come from here, and the architecture, by renowned local architects WOHA, provide such an intriguing and creatively imagined building to house these budding artists.
4 p.m. I highly recommend an EZ Link transit pass for easy access to Singapore’s excellent public transport system, comprising a well-stretched and far-reaching network of bus and underground options. Take one of these options to visit Tiong Bahru, a hip and culturally rich neighbourhood, where you can stroll around and visit quaint gift and clothing shops as well as Singapore’s legendary bookshop, Books Actually. If, like me, you love to read literature from the country you are visiting, then this is the place for you. This bookstore houses the best collection of Singapore writing. Take your time in this unique place (mind their cat!), and don’t forget to leave with one or two of their in-house Math Paper Press books. It is a wonderful way to find the soul of our country.
5:30 p.m. Coffee and cake before dinner at Plain Vanilla in Tiong Bahru, if you’re craving Western-style cakes and cupcakes. Or for half the price, cross the road to Tiong Bahru Plaza and go to Bengawan Solo nonya kueh shop and cafe. There, order local coffee — this time, try a kopi-c, meaning, local coffee with evaporated milk and sugar — and order Bengawan Solo’s famous lapis sagu (rainbow layered cake), classic kueh lapis (spiced baked multi-layered cake) and ondeh ondeh (pandan flavoured rice balls with palm sugar filling).
6 to 7:30 p.m. What’s a trip to Singapore without a quick look at one of our malls? Tiong Bahru Plaza is a neighborhood mall that, without the glitz and flamboyance. Some Singapore brand shops here to check out include: Backpackers Gallery (all sorts of bag needs), Eu Yan Sang (local traditional Chinese medicine and health goods), Challenger (all your tech needs) and Watsons (all your cosmetic and pharmaceutical needs). If you’re a supermarket fan like me, you can learn a lot about my country with a quick stroll through NTUC Fairprice Finest in the basement. This is one of our largest anchor supermarkets
8 p.m. Dinner at Candlenut, please. Chef Malcolm Lee does an exquisite array of Peranakan food, but with his own special touch of something new and current. Make a reservation beforehand, because this Michelin-starred restaurant is a favorite with locals and visitors alike.
10 p.m. No, don’t sleep yet. I would go stroll by the Singapore River, around the Fullerton Hotel, before turning in. My country is an island, and its port had a great hand in making it what it is. Here you can see The Merlion, the iconic statue of the official mascot of Singapore, depicted as a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish. The Merlion’s body symbolizes Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village and, its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay. The port area is of great historical and cultural significance to Singapore. We are a city made on the sweat and toil of immigrants wanting a better life for themselves and their families. We were and always will be, a true, global country.
When You Visit
Jewel Changi Airport:
- Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) was named “the world’s best airport” for the seventh consecutive year by Skytrax in 2019 and is at the forefront of innovation, aiming to make the travel experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Changi recently opened Jewel, making it one of the greenest (literally) airports in the world. Jewel is home to Instagram-worthy attractions such as the Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, and Forest Valley.
- Raffles Singapore: Originally opened in 1887, Raffles Hotel Singapore is the flagship property of Raffles Hotels & Resorts and is one of the few remaining 19th century hotels in the world.
- Six Senses Duxton: The Six Senses Duxton hotel is located in Tanjong Pagar, which is Singapore’s central district and Chinatown. This boutique hotel used to be a series of old trading houses that have now been restored and transformed into what Duxton is today.
- Capitol Kempinski: The Capitol Kempinski luxury hotel is located “in the heart of the cultural district” in Singapore. It consists of 157 rooms, and a plethora of amenities, like an arcade, a theater, and its own piazza. There are more than five restaurants specializing in Thai, Italian, Spanish, and German cuisine, as well as two bars.
- Fullerton Bay: The Fullerton Bay Hotel is a small, but contemporary, take on the Fullerton Hotel, located right on the Marina Bay waterfront.
- ATLAS: This award-winning cocktail bar is a celebration of the beverage traditions of the 1920s, through its menu and décor. The result is something unique in Asia, a speakeasy that brings guests back to the Jazz Age. Not to be missed: Atlas’s gin collection, which is one of the largest in the world.
- Employees Only: Starting in downtown New York City, Employees Only has only grown with its reputation as the industry standard for cocktail bars since its opening in December 2004. Employees Only Singapore has been awarded tremendously in the bar industry, with eight consecutive appearances on Drinks International’s “World’s 50 Best Bars” list.
- The Old Man Singapore: Singapore’s cocktail scene continues to remain hot, with the Ernest Hemingway-themed bar. Ranked No. 1 in Asia’s Best Bars 2019 and No. 10 on the World’s 50 Best Bars, The Old Man Singapore serves original Hong Kong cocktails in an innovative atmosphere.
- Botanic Gardens: Established in 1859, the gardens area spread over 60 acres of land and are a favorite spot for dining, jogging, and enjoying nature for visitors and locals alike.
- Gardens by the Bay: Located next to Marina Reservoir, this multi-award-winning horticultural destination offers breath-taking waterfront views. Bay South Garden is the largest of the gardens. Inspired by an orchid, the design resembles Singapore’s national flower, Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. There visitors can find the iconic massive Supertrees — tree-shaped vertical gardens that range from nine to 16 stories tall.
- Cultural Enclave Tour of Kampong Glam: Explore one of the trendiest areas of Singapore, with an eclectic blend of history and culture, Kampong Glam really is glam. Kampong Glam has its origins as a thriving port town and is Singapore’s oldest urban quarter. Places of interest may be the Malay Heritage Centre, the Sultan Mosque, Haji Lane and Arab Street.
- Cultural Enclave Tour of Little India: Little India once had a racecourse, cattle herders and brick kilns. But while these places and people are gone, time stands still in pockets of this historic district. Olden-day trades sit next to newer businesses: flower-garland vendors, modern eateries, boutique hotels, as well as arts group. A buzzing historic area that shows off the best of Singapore’s Indian community, Little India has it.