Day 1: A dose of adventure
Singapore’s Garden City moniker is in part thanks to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Admire the park’s vast collection of orchids, then take advantage of the cooler morning air to visit the Learning Forest, where you can explore freshwater wetlands, take a walk among wild fruit trees and climb onto the 8m-high Canopy Web.
With your appetite worked up, head downtown for lunch at Labyrinth. The critically acclaimed restaurant is Singapore’s most ardent locavore advocate, with an imaginative, produce-driven menu that’s 80% locally sourced. Be sure to also take a good look at the vintage-style paintings on the wall. Quirky details, such as a hawker with an espuma gun, hint at Labyrinth’s amalgamation of traditional and modern techniques.
Once you’ve had your fill, grab a taxi over to Sentosa. Families can cool off at the Palawan Pirate Ship, a towering water playground complete with water cannons and slides for little marauders. Alternatively, alight at Ola Beach Club where you can lounge around on cabanas, tiki cocktail in hand, or have a go at water activities.
Come early evening, hop back to the mainland via cable car to Mount Faber. The ride offers an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of the foliage-lined coast.
From there, continue onto the Southern Ridges trail. Set against sunset-tinted skies, the Henderson Waves – a 36m-high pedestrian bridge – and its sinuous curves make a perfect backdrop for photos.
Leave the trail at Alexandra Arch, awash by dusk in colour-changing lights, and cab over to Portsdown Road for dinner at Magic Square. It’s host to a year-long pop-up where three up-and-coming young chefs take turns at the helm each month to showcase tasting menus that loosely riff on Singapore’s heritage. There are just 18 seats available at the communal table, so be sure to book ahead.
Day 2: Cultural reckoning
Get an early start and breakfast on tasty savoury kueh (local cakes) and rice dumplings at Amoy Street Food Centre. Alternatively, consider Coffee Break. It brews coffee – kopi in local lingo – old-school style with a “sock” but you can add flavour shots such as sea salt caramel and black sesame.
Once you’re done, make your way towards the heart of Chinatown. The bustling South Bridge Road – a section of which is lined with a Buddhist temple (Buddha Tooth Relic Temple), a mosque (Masjid Jamae) and a Hindu temple (Sri Mariamman Temple) nearly side-by-side – reflects the country’s multicultural fabric.
Spend some time at the Chinatown Heritage Centre, which offers a realistic mock-up of how immigrants lived and worked in shophouses during the early 1990s, before taking a short cab ride over to Beach Road to feast on prawn and pork rib noodle soup at Blanco Court Prawn Mee.
To keep the post-lunch slump at bay, check out Supermama and Scene Shang nearby to pick up locally-made design goods. These include cushion covers adorned with orchid prints reminiscent of those seen on kebayas (traditional blouses) and pastel-hued porcelain items that depict iconic Singapore sights.
Thread through the Kampong Glam precinct to the Malay Heritage Centre to learn more about Singapore’s early Malay settlers. Continue on foot, navigating through the teenage fashion market that is Bugis Village and past the popular Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on Waterloo Street to arrive at Objectifs, a gallery and workshop space dedicated to photography and filmmaking.
Five minutes away by taxi is the snazzy Warehouse Hotel, where you can grab sundowners with tropical leanings at the lobby bar. While you rest your weary feet, admire the industrial-luxe details, such as the wheels and pulleys that make up the central light fixture – a clever nod to the hotel’s past incarnation as a godown.
For dinner, head to The Spot at Marina One, where chef Lee Boon Seng adds Southeast Asian elements to contemporary European plates. Whet your appetite with the salmon carpaccio served with buah long long (a crunchy, sour fruit) vinaigrette, and try the beef short ribs for the accompanying comforting aerated rice porridge.
Finally, seek out Junior, a “hidden” bar with an intriguing proposition. Every six months, the tiny 10-seater overhauls its entire concept, down to the interiors, to fully develop a sense of time and place. Right now, the theme is centred around cocktail haven New Orleans. For a memorable nightcap, order the Truffled Sazerac – smooth with subtle hints of truffle and a bitter chocolate finish.
Day 3: Shopping paradise
When it comes to luxury shopping, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is perhaps the best one-stop destination to hit. There’s everything from high-end fashion boutiques to watch and jewellery brands like Tasaki to homegrown labels including In Good Company. But before you begin, plan your shopping strategy while fuelling up with some hearty breakfast at TWG Tea. Since the formidable ArtScience Museum is nearby, make some time to look at “Wind Walkers: Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests”.
For lunch, consider heading up to Chinoiserie or JustIN. The two restaurants were recently opened by Justin Quek, one of the city’s fine-dining pioneers. Chinoiserie presents Asian delights with haute cuisine finesse. And at JustIN, the emphasis is on Singaporean classics made luxe, such as New Zealand lamb leg satay and wok-fried Hokkien noodles with Maine lobster.
Mix-up retail therapy with a dash of culture at Tiong Bahru, one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore. Download the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure to appreciate the quarter’s cultural and architectural significance while you explore its quirky boutiques. Nip into Nana & Bird for eclectic homegrown and international labels, or BooksActually for literary nourishment.
Another charming area to explore is Holland Village, about a 15-minute drive away. For women’s apparel, step into Our Second Nature for easy, relaxed silhouettes, or Ong Shunmugam, where Asian dresses are reinterpreted with modern aesthetics. If a tea break is in order, pull up a seat at Sunday Folks, which turns out colourful parfaits and waffles topped with freshly churned ice cream.
Zip over from Holland Village to Dover Street Market in Dempsey. At this trendy multi-label boutique opened by Comme des Garçons’ owners, cult streetwear names such as Vetements and Alyx hang alongside luxury marques like Gucci and Céline.
Feast on Peranakan flavours at Indocafé – The White House, set in a charming colonial bungalow. Don’t miss the ayam buah keluak – a chicken stew of sorts, slow-simmered with buah keluak nuts known for their characteristic earthy notes.
Wrap up the night in high spirits at Manhattan. The poster bar for the regional cocktail scene, it’s placed number one for two consecutive years on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list.
This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.