The Other Side of Singapore
Renowned for being as idealistic as it is idyllic, the lion city still has surprises in store.
Behind all the sunshine and light, there’s also rich heritage and a fascinating melting pot of cultural influences that may have been eclipsed by its saccharine reputation.
Clean. Safe. Great for kids. These are all common descriptions of Singapore, but beneath her squeaky clean exterior, she exudes vibrancy and character aplenty. It’s true that the weather is nearly perfect year-round, greenery is everywhere and its theme parks and cruisy lifestyle make it feel like you’re permanently on holiday. However, behind all the sunshine and light, there’s also rich heritage and a fascinating melting pot of cultural influences that may have been eclipsed by its saccharine reputation.
Glimpse of the Past
While most associate Changi with Singapore’s international airport, it was initially a buzzing hub for British military personnel during colonial times. The little-known Changi Museum is recommended by locals as it provides historical insight and a chance to see the original airbase and hospital, which still remain today. Famous for its coconut plantations, the picturesque surrounds became a fashionable resort fringed by trees and a pristine shoreline in 1845, a popular venue for weekend getaways and al fresco soirees.
The city’s tale unfolds further amidst the hum of lively Chinatown. While the restored pre-war shophouses are worth a wonder, there’s more to see than quirky knickknacks. The four-storey Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is an important religious site and home to a 27-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha. Inspired by Tang Dynasty architecture, highlights include the Ten Thousand Buddhas Pagoda weighing a hefty 420 kilograms, and a Tibetan prayer wheel on the tranquil garden rooftop. While only monks have access to the inner chamber, get to the viewing gallery from 9 a.m. to 12 noon or from 3 to 6 p.m. for a glimpse into their ceremonies, where they chant sutras from prayer books.
For a change of pace, a visit to Singapore would be incomplete without a stroll down Orchard Road, the iconic strip with row upon row of every shop imaginable. It’s a fantastic place to be based and Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore is a recent addition to the iconic avenue that caters to the contemporary traveller. This funky, casual stay is all about making life easy – from the colourful trolleys at check-in so you can wheel straight to your room fuss-free, to the complimentary iced tea and pastry station at signature eatery Makan, where you can grab a bite on your way out.
Convenience is king with an abundance of charging stations, fast and free WiFi and access to PressReader with more than 2,500 international newspapers and magazines available. However, it’s not just about the essentials – there’s plenty of ways to unwind. One of the highlights is the gorgeous rooftop pool, where one could happily spend a morning curled up in a cabana with a book in between dips or gaze at the stunning skyline. There’s also a beautiful deck for yoga or stationary biking right outside the 24-hour gym.
While Orchard Road offers a bounty of retail options, shoppers who prefer independent boutiques should explore Haji Lane tucked away in the Muslim Quarter of the Kampong Glam neighbourhood, sandwiched between Arab Street’s colourful fabric markets. An alley once occupied by pre-war shophouses has been revived, thanks to an influx of local designers, vintage finds and cosy Middle Eastern cafes. Check out Zhai Eco Collection for super comfortable basics made from sustainable bamboo, and Mondays Off for Japanese and Scandinavian-designed homeware, gifts and bags. What the shops lack in high-street gloss, they certainly make up for in personality. Nearby An Siang Road is home to a mix of decorative shops and creative agencies, while bustling Bugis Street Market, famous for its colourful past, is the place for all things cheap and cheerful.
Also legendary is Singapore’s fantastic food. While there’s no shortage of fine dining and the presence of many a celebrity chef, it is really the street food that best captures its multicultural cuisine. One can spend very little and eat like a king. Lau Ler Ling, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore’s communications manager suggests Maxwell Food Centre for Tian Tian’s chicken rice, which she considers to be the best in town. Kim Hua Market used to be filled with fishmongers and butchers, but today, it’s better known for such culinary delights as Ri Xing Xiang Ji’s fried sweet potato dumplings and char kway teow fried noodles at Marina South.
If you’re feasting with a group, Jumbo Seafood Restaurant is always a winner for its lauded chilli crab and accompanying fried mantou buns to mop up the rich buttery sauce, earthy black pepper crab, cereal prawns and crispy baby squid. While the Singapore stereotype may be immaculate, some of its best experiences involve messy tables overflowing with a jumble of delicious dishes, shared amongst good friends.
Showing 1 comment
Singapore really must be a great place, my sister works there & she loves being at the country. Thank you Singapore for all the blessings, you are a God' s sent :)