Singapore has a reputation for being a land of shopping malls, air-conditioned condos and frankly, being a little too sterile to be enjoyable. However, there is a buzz to Singapore right now and a prosperity that is undeniable. There are new buildings going up all over town and the number of Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s on the streets is impressive. Retail is pumping with a strong selection of brands being purchased by locals and visitors alike.
Perhaps more pleasing was the discovery of the Tiong Bahru and Tanjong Pagar neighbourhoods in which cafes, bars and design stores are all housed in a low rise, older parts of town. Make sure you eat like a local at the various hawker centres. Look for the popular stands as the locals know what is best. Below is a rough itinerary for two days of fun in Singapore.
Breakfast in Yong Siak Street (Tiong Bahru) at either Forty Hands or Plain Vanilla, before taking a stroll around the area. Be sure to stop in at design store Strangelets, the two bookstores next door or if you are there a little later in the day, the wine bar PS Cafe Petit around the corner.
Next, take a taxi and explore the super impressive $1b Gardens by the Bay development.
After walking around the cloud and flower domes, head for lunch at the Maxwell Food Centre [1 Kadayanallur Street] for a Fuzhou Oyster Cake (stall 5) and a delicious plate of chicken rice from Tian Tian Hainanese (stalls 10/11).
Following these exertions, lounge by the pool at your hotel, have a nap and get ready for an evening out at Robertson Quay (a riverside area full of bars and restaurants). Drink mojitos al fresco before moving on to eat chili crab at the slightly touristy (still worth it) Red House Seafood. Make sure to also try their cereal prawns.
Breakfast at PS Cafe [28b Harding Road, Tanglin] where we also had one of the best coffees of the trip. Other good options include Common Man Roasters [22 Martin Road] and Department of Caffeine [15 Duxton Road]. Then stroll a few minutes up the road to Dempsey Hill to see the renovated army barracks which now house art galleries, restaurants and shops.
Next, embrace being a tourist and head straight to Raffles Hotel for a cooling Singapore Sling which celebrates its 100th year. I love this place, in particular the internal grassed courtyard.
Lastly, spend an afternoon shopping on Orchard Road. The malls here have everything you are probably looking for from cosmetics to luxury goods. Honestly, there is no shortage of shopping opportunities in Singapore and will only be limited to your budget and level of interest.
With shopping bags in tow, head to the basement of the Paragon Mall for dinner at the ever reliable Din Tai Fung or to Paradise Dynasty (pictured bottom) at ION Orchard before making your way to the airport.
A final note on getting around in Singapore. Taxis are cheap and plentiful (look for the green light), with the MTR (train) even cheaper. With the exception of the taxi queues at the malls on Orchard Road (leave yourself some extra time), Singapore is an easy place to move about.