Trip tips: Singapore

Among the ranks of Asia’s powerhouse players, Singapore is often depicted as the squeaky clean poster girl for gleaming glass modernity, priggish protocol and no-fuss efficiency.

But don’t judge this slick city-state by its cover: it also boasts divergent cultural heritage, knockout cuisine, a burgeoning bar scene and a heart-stopping skyline at night. This once small-town kitty cat has transformed over the years into a buzzing metropolis well worthy of its moniker, the Lion City.

Although there are a few curiosity-piquing newer hotels (such as the Philippe Starck-struck South Beach and Hotel Vagabond), for now nothing beats marina-side darling Fullerton Bay Hotel (

Ensure you snag one of their elegant, teched-out pads with a balcony and waterfront outlook, which is particularly spectacular as the Singapore horizon sparkles to life. The rooftop pool and Andre Fu-imagined Lantern bar are also in prime position for drinking in that view. Book ahead for a sunset kickback on one of the coveted front row daybeds.

To get a real taste of local history, skip along to the Peranakan Museum (, a pastel-pretty manse offering a crash course in Baba/Nyonya life with intriguing artefacts, antiques and photos.

Whether indulging in a five-star feast or rolling up your sleeves for hawker fare, the choice in Singapore is positively diet-destroying. As you’ll no doubt learn, Peranakan identity originates from the 16th century intermarriage of Chinese merchants and women from the Malacca Straits. This cultural coupling spawned an aromatic, punchy cuisine – still unique to the region today – combining Chinese cooking methods with indigenous ingredients such as coconut milk, galangal, tamarind and lemon grass.

Blue Ginger ( is a delectable initiation into exactly that. A 10-minute cab hop away and set across a funkily converted shop house, the tongue-tingling fare ranges from robust beef rendang and smoky squid curry to banana leaf-enveloped fish cakes. Service can be slow, but it’s friendly.

While once there was a dearth of decent drinking dens (and an abundance of expat boozers and generic hotel lounges), the scene is fast gaining global recognition, with a couple of establishments sneaking onto The World’s 50 Best Bars list last year.

Leading the new wave is 28 Hongkong Street (, an unsigned, dim-lit lair of both classic and cutting-edge pours. Feeling fancy? Ask for The Office, a clandestine in-house cubby for only eight lucky patrons.

The plush and deeply seductive Manhattan Bar (, inside the Regent Hotel, is a more formal affair; or for the youth vibe, Potato Head Folk ( is an artsy triumvirate of burger joint Three Buns, chinoiserie-dappled Studio 1939, and breezy Rooftop Garden, swilling the best rum cocktails in town.

Whether indulging in a five-star feast or rolling up your sleeves for hawker fare, the choice in Singapore is positively diet-destroying. The lack of air-conditioning and stark strip lighting aren’t exactly forgiving, but hawker centers really are the best way to sample local food. Pack your wet wipes and make a beeline for the stalls with the longest queues.

The old-fashioned cast iron Lau Pa Sat is aesthetically attractive (which also makes it a tourist trap), Chinatown Complex is basic but tasty and Maxwell Food Centre is well-positioned for post-Club Street munchies. However, do check out the East Coast Lagoon Food Village for its heavenly chow and beach views. Go early.

Chicken rice and surf-fresh shellfish are also a must – not to mention a national favourite. Five Star grills only free-range chooks while No Signboard Seafood fires up a mean chili crab. Choose the original, rustic and less touristy Geylang branch for the latter.

If haute floats your boat, pop over to vibey pea-green Tippling Club, where Ryan Clift wows with global sups and craft sips; or splurge on an unforgettable eight-course prix fixe – complete with eye-watering price tag – at Restaurant André.

Source: Times of
By: Reuters/



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