By Mari De Armas
Whether you’re spending a few hours or a few days in SINGAPORE, you will certainly want to make the most of it. This is a land rich with culture, history and delicious cuisine — and lucky for you, SINGAPORE is small enough.
EAT YOUR WAY AROUND THE CITY
Most Asian cultures are rice- or noodle-focused, but in Singapore they’re both. If you are in Singapore for a few hours and only have time for one meal, go to Old Airport Road Food Centre because it serves the best hawker food in Singapore. You can’t go wrong at any of the stalls, but the star of the show is definitely the lor mee (braised noodles with fish, pork belly, egg, and lots of vinegar) at Xin Mei Xiang Zheng Zong Lor Mee. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had.
If you have a little more time, indulge in a little more food. Get pork rib bee hoon noodles at Beach Road Prawn Noodle. You can also try this at the restaurant’s offshoot in Bugis, called Blanco Court Prawn Noodle, which may be more convenient if you want to check out Haji Lane, popular with visitors for its indie shops and shisha bars. Either way, try to make it to Ce La Vi for the world-class view, especially around sunset. For an unforgettable dinner, brave the lines at Michelin-starred Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice for Singapore’s national dish. And if you’re waking up in the city, start with a breakfast of kaya toast at Chin Mee Chin a nostalgic coffee shop that is a local favorite. Or head to The Coconut Club to savor the nasi lemak, which is a typical breakfast dish of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.
Dinner is a main event in Singapore, and it is certainly not meant to be rushed through. For the full experience, ask for reservations at Nouri, a seasonal fine dining restaurant that brings flavors from around the world together in five- and seven-course tasting menus. Another wonderful dining option is Cheek by Jowl, where Sri Lankan-Australian chef Rishi Naleendra whips up innovative dishes infused with Sri Lankan spices.where the major sites are within reach.
SINGAPOREAN ART AND DESIGN
There is a growing local creative scene that is extraordinary. A wonderful place to start your Singaporean art immersion is at the National Design Centre in Bugis. Every Monday and Thursday, there are guided tours that offer an in-depth overview of the history and heritage of the building, what it stands for today, the community that lives here, and the various programs that take place in the space. Even if you don’t join a tour, you can view an exhibit that highlights how design has evolved and contributed to Singapore’s economy and development. Another must-visit institution is the Parkview Museum on the third floor of Parkview Square, which locals affectionately call Gotham City. The collection consists of unique contemporary works and is free to the public. Conveniently, Atlas Bar on the ground floor makes a great gin cocktail. If that leaves you thirsty for more, grab a drink at Mr. Stork on the rooftop of the Andaz for sunset skyline views.
A LOT OF SHOPPING
Walk down Orchard Road and you will immediately be reminded of London’s Oxford Street or Hong Kong’s Nathan Road. This bustling boulevard is flanked on both sides by local and international department stores, tiny boutiques, offices, spas, beauty salons, hotels, entertainment spots, restaurants, and cafes. One could spend a whole day trawling the stretch starting from Tanglin Mall on Tanglin Road down to Plaza Singapura at the lower end of Orchard Road. Contrasting this experience is Haji Lane, one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. Located in the Arab Quarter, expect quirky designs, unusual materials and bright colors — with so many unique boutiques, you are unlikely to come away empty handed.
For the epicenter of Singapore shopping, head to the Bugis Street Market. This is one of the biggest, cheapest and probably busiest places to come shopping in the whole of Singapore. Fifty years ago, Bugis had quite a different reputation, as it was the center of the city’s red light district. But it has long shaken off its naughty side and become a hub of shopping, fine dining and trendy cafes and bars.
TIONG BAHRU NEIGHBORHOOD
This urban-chic neighborhood is a great place to get a taste of old and new Singapore. Lined with row after row of quaint art deco shops, this hip enclave is jam-packed with some of the city’s hottest food and lifestyle establishments, not forgetting the heritage-rich places that offer a slice of traditional Singapore. Carve out a day here in your itinerary and be richly rewarded with wonderful eats, offbeat shopping and a spot of culture. Be sure to spend some time at the Tiong Bahru Market and browse the fresh vegetables, meats, flowers, and daily essentials on the first floor. At the second-floor hawker center, get chwee kueh (steamed rice cake), wantan mee (Malaysian wonton noodles), or prawn noodles and a soya bean drink or sugar cane juice for a truly local experience. Also explore the book stores on Yong Siak Street and treat yourself to a pistachio flavor ice cream at the Creamier. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to walk around the area’s many back alleys and take a seat at P.S. Cafe Petit or Open Door Policy for Western food and drinks or Ah Chiang’s Porridge for more delicious local fare.
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Mari de Armas is a travel writer specializing in luxury cruising. She is a regular contributor to the official blog of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Luxury Goes Exploring. Read more of her posts at RSSCBlog.com.