What do you think of when you think of Singapore? Skyscrapers? Malls? Pristine streets? The weird hotel that looks like it has a boat on top? (That’s Marina Bay Sands.) Well it has all of those things, but there is so much more to this city of mine. Remember, it’s a whole country masked as a city, so if you want something that’s off-the-beaten-path and offers a real taste of Southeast Asia, Singapore will not disappoint. Here are five of my favorite places to visit in this fascinating country…
1. Haw Par Villa
Talk about ‘alternative’… This unusual Chinese mythology theme park was built in 1937 by the Aw brothers who made their fortune selling the now world-famous ointment ‘Tiger Balm’. It features more than 1000 statues and dioramas dramatizing Chinese legends and folklore, including a couple of really gruesome ones. Now a little dilapidated, it makes for a fascinating (and sometimes creepy!) free day out.
2. Tiong Bahru
This charming district is one of the oldest in the city and has recently gained a nod as the city’s ‘hipster’ hangout, but has thankfully not become touristy (yet!). Much of the housing here was built by the government in the 1930s and has a beautiful art deco style. You can still find many local families living here, so the area has a great sense of community. The fantastic Tiong Bahru Market houses one of the best hawker centers in town, and there are lots of cute, arty cafes and shops to explore too.
3. Haji Lane
Just next to the famous ‘Arab Street’, Haji Lane is a haven of independent, creative shops and cafes with some of the city’s only vintage stores. Nearby you’ll also find the excellent Objectives Centre for Film and Photography. They have a small exhibition space that houses fascinating photography exhibitions about Singapore, and run photography and film classes so you can get involved as well.
4. Jungle Beer Brewery
(Strictly 18+ only!) If you’re a fan of great quality beer and are keen to taste a local brew, the Jungle Beer Brewery is a local micro-brewery that makes some of the tastiest beer I’ve had anywhere in the world! Seriously, it’s delicious. They do a monthly ‘tour evening’, but will happily arrange private visits if you have a large enough group. The brewery is contained in one large room, with a lounge and pool table upstairs for you to hang out and taste their six sumptuous creations.
5. Pulau Ubin Island
Cheap and perfect for a day trip, this island off the Northeastern coast of Singapore is full of cycling trails, and you can hop off the boat and choose from loads of places that hire bikes at great prices, before setting off to explore the beautiful island (you might even spot a monkey or a wild boar or two.)