All you need to know to make the most out of Singapore by sleeping like a star and eating like a local.
By Laurence Civil
Located one degree north of the equator, the Republic of Singapore consists of 63 islands, with the main one being known as Singapore Island. Since 1996 Singapore has been realising its vision to become a Garden City by creating a city in a garden. The English name Singapore is derived from the Malay word “Singapura,” which means Lion City, hence the origin of the republic’s nickname.
Due to its geographical location, Singapore is one of the world’s major commercial hubs and its fourth biggest financial center; it has one of the five busiest ports; the third highest per capita income in the world; and is internationally highly regarded for her education, healthcare, government transparency, and economic competitiveness. One of Singapore’s more recent wealth accolades was being recognized as the world’s most expensive city, but that was more in the context of property prices. Let us show you how even a tourist on a budget can have fun in Singapore.
(1 Beach Road, Singapore, +65 6337 1886, email@example.com)
Having opened the Eastern & Oriental in Penang, the Armenian Sarkies brothers took over an old 10-bedroom bungalow on the corner of Beach and Bras Basah roads and opened Raffles on December 1, 1887, and named it after Singapore’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles. Joseph Conrad, then the a seaman plying the Eastern seas, was believed to be one of their earliest guests; on a round-the-world trip, the young Rudyard Kipling dined at the hotel and wrote the immortal words “Feed at Raffles.” In 1899, the familiar main building was completed and boasted to be the first place in Singapore with electric lights, fans, and a French chef.
The Singapore Sling was created before 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender, as a long drink masked to look like a fruit punch because at that time women weren’t meant to be seen drinking alcohol in public. It’s said you haven’t visited Singapore if you haven’t had a Singapore Sling at Raffle’s Long Bar.
In 1987 the Singapore government recognized the hotel as National Monument, and a stay here gives guests the chance to enjoy the feel of Singapore’s colonial past.
Hotel Fort Canning
(11 Canning Walk, Singapore, +65 6559 6770, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fort Canning Park is one of Singapore’s most historic landmarks. In the Golden Age it was where the Malay kings ruled from its peak overlooking the island. The military building, in which the hotel is, was built in 1926 as the administration building of the British Far East Command HQ. After independence, in 1965, the building was taken over by the Singapore Armed Forces;
in 1970, it was used by the Singapore Command & Staff College (SCSC); and in 1976, the SCSC moved out of the building. It remained unoccupied until 1995, where it housed Fort Canning Country Club.
In November 2002, the present owners took over the premises and launched a premium members-only town club called The Legends Fort Canning Park. The restored heritage building reopened in July 2011 as Hotel Fort Canning, along with the stunning Glass House. The conservation building was styled by award-winning DP Architects. A unique feature is that the former terraces were encased in picture windows to be the bathrooms, with a standalone bathtub center stage, offering panoramic views of the park or city skyline. Staying here offers a unique stay in an exquisite former British military building.
Parkroyal on Pickering
(3 Upper Pickering Street, Singapore,
+65 6809 8888, www.parkroyalhotels.com/en/hotels-resorts/singapore/pickering.html)
Centrally located between Chinatown and the Singapore River, Parkroyal on Pickering is a few minutes’ walk from Clarke Quay MRT and comfortable walking distance from both Clarke and Boat Quay’s nightlife. Designed by the award-winning architectural firm, WOHA, this was Singapore’s first hotel-in-a-garden: the initial step forward to achieving the national vision of a city-in-a-garden.
The hotel’s foliage robe mirrors the green area of Hong Lim Park. And being green has both environmental and practical benefits: 15,000 square meters of lofty four-story tall sky-gardens, reflecting pools, waterfalls, planter terraces, and cascading vertical greenery all reduce energy consumption for cooling guests. The roof terraces offer a lush landscaped recreational area for guests, while insulation the upper story of the building from direct heat gain. Lush tropical foliage accounts for more than two hundred percent of the hotel’s total land area, unprecedented numbers in a built-up city center. Its careful design has created the right balance for a resort-style hotel in an urban setting.
Marina Bay Sands
(10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore,
+65 6688 8868, www.marinabaysands.com)
Marina Bay Sands was one of two winning proposals for Singapore’s first integrated resorts (hotels with casinos for those sensitive to gambling), the other being the Resorts World Sentosa, which incorporates Universal Studios Theme Park. Singapore has no problem with foreigners gambling; they just try to dissuade locals from entering the gaming floor by charging SGD 100.
Marina Bay Sands was developed by Las Vegas Sands (LVS). Costing USD 5.7 billion, it is the world’s most expensive building. Opened in 2010, the complex is home to a hotel, convention and exhibition facilities, theatres, entertainment venues, retailers, and restaurants. For tourists, a stay here isn’t complete without a Facebook selfie in the pool, with the Singapore skyline—Singapore’s answer to Dubai’s Burj Al Arab—in the background.
Moshe Safdie’s design was inspired by the form of a deck of cards although the more cynical refer to it dismissively as “Titanic in the Sky.” Love it or hate it, Marina Bay Sands is an icon of Singapore’s modern tourism.
Eat Like a Local
To get insight into how locals eat, we invited Caleb Leong Yeowan, a graduation year fashion design student at Lasalle College of the Arts, to share his recommendations:
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
(201 Keppel Road, Singapore,
Tel +65 6272 8822/8988)
Walking distance from Vivocity and St. James Power Station, it has become a favorite spot for a multi-generation family gathering. The vast array of dim sum options that is only available in the day, is delicately created and monitored by their Hong Kong Master Chef, Chef Chan Sung Og.
Timbre @ The Arts House
(1 Old Parliament Lane 01–04, Singapore, +65 6336 3386)
Situated along the Singapore River, opposite the bustling Boat Quay area, Timbre offers Western cuisine inspired by the Asian palate. Their half-and-half pizza allows guests to create their own pizzas with two flavors from the menu. A personal recommendation is roasted duck pizza, with the sweetness of the tender duck meat balanced by the saltiness of the hoisin sauce; try it with Hawaiian BBQ on the other half. Timbre is an advocate in supporting the Singapore’s arts scene by only hiring local bands.
Food for Thought @ National Museum of Singapore
(93 Stamford Road 01–04/05, Singapore)
A new wing added on to the existing colonial architecture shows how the past and present can co-exist in a similar space, and like the architecture, the menu is a unique fusion of old and new. Try their crispy (curry flavored) chicken cutlet, served with equally spicy chili fries;
Asian-flavored man tou (their take on the gourmet burger/sandwiches) like the spicy braised pork belly, or sambal prawn & spice ikan bilis; or their pancakes with no maple syrup, Malay kwehs, and desserts.
Ding Tai Fung
(Full listing at www.dintaifung.com.sg)
A Taiwanese franchise offering affordably priced savory Chinese cuisine. Despite the number of outlets, they aim to offer consistent quality of food and service. Their signature xiao long bao can be seen from making to plating with a minimum of 18 folds. A family-friendly restaurant—expect to queue early for a table at lunchtime.
Ya Kun Kaya and Toast
(Full listing at www.yakun.com)
Their menu remains unchanged from the first store at Telok Ayer Basin. While others toast bread, they remain loyal to the tradition of grilling it, while spreading a layer of their famous kaya: salty butter, plus two half-boiled eggs (still slightly runny to mid) with a dash of pepper and a few drops of dark soya stirred together to create a liquid. Ya Kun also serves a variation of fragrant coffee and tea. If you have fallen in love with the kaya, you can also get yourself a bottle to take home.
Spize @ River Valley
(409 River Valley Road, Singapore,
+65 6734 9194)
Just a stone’s throw from Clarke Quay, the menu at Spize is reflects Singapore’s multi-ethnic cuisine. From a simple Chinese dish of baby kailan with oyster sauce, or a Malay mee goreng. If you crave Indian, you can choose from a range of prata from the normal plain to a sweet dessert prata or a tissue prata! Or perhaps just regular burger and chips, or a selection tangy, spicy Thai food.
(41 Bukhit Pasoh Road, Singapore, +65 6534 8880,
Should you fancy a culinary indulgence, maybe consider recently awarded 6th place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants—the highest-placed restaurant in Singapore. The key characteristics of Taiwan-born Andre Chiang’s gastronomy are: unique, texture, memory, pure, terroir, salt, south, and artisan. Through his dishes, Chiang explores the role these characteristics play in his food, and in gastronomy as a whole, whether it be in the grilled Taiwanese baby corn for “artisan”; lobster, potato gnocchi, and caviar for “texture”; or foie gras jelly with truffles for “memory”. Each dish could equally come under the name “simple,” with none containing more than a handful of ingredients in order not to drown each other out. Accompanying wines are of the natural variety and have been sourced from little-known artisanal vineyards.