Singapore rather has the reputation as a boring city – the main descriptive that I heard in the weeks leading up to my first visit was: “boring”, “stale”, “creatively barren” (this rather pretentious turn of phrase was, of course, from creatives).
Singapore isn’t like Hong Kong or New York City – it isn’t about the hustle; about barely struggling to survive, cramming yourself in a box of an apartment before you feel so claustrophobic you get a bottle of wine and head to the roof to stare out at the skyline, feeling overwhelmed at your own insignificance – marvelling at the sheer scale. Singapore isn’t about rising from absolute obscurity to renown. It seems to be a well-adjusted city, filled with relatively well-adjusted people. It’s only mediocre if you’re given to extremes – which, more and more – I find that I am not. It’s a city of quiet weekend brunches, outfit-of-the-day Instagram sessions, yoga classes – and that’s fine.
So – fun fact – despite this being my first trip in Singapore exceeding 6 hours, this isn’t actually my first time writing a guide to Singapore. How – you ask? Remember that time I wrote an entire magazine about Singapore without even having been to Singapore? I was so curious to see how my actual experience would match up to what I’d written about, and if the Spottly influencers knew their shit.
Here’s what I did over four insane days in Singapore:
• Took a swim in my friend’s pool. A trip to Singapore, like Bangkok, often includes the perks of condo life – lounging by the outdoor infinity pool while reading Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan’s scintillating tell-all about the Singapore elite.
• Went to a fashion event at 1- Altitude – located on the 61st floor of a tower in Raffles Place, this was my first experience of a Singapore fashion media event – free flow drinks, thanks – Altitude seemed a bit touristy and the music was horrible beyond words – but ya can’t argue with a 360-degree view. Then we went for Thursday night at KYO, a hip-hop club very much like my second home Chess in Taipei.
Plain Vanilla Bakery via: Cereal
• Lunch of chicken rice in Tiong Bahru – a quiet little neighborhood anchored by a hawker center, Tiong Bahru Market. I found out about this adorable little site where you can explore all the different stalls of the market from the comfort of your computer beforehand – as well as get some recommendations. Tons of little cafes – we stopped at The Orange Thimble for a latte, and next door Tiong Bahru Bakery has their famed squid ink buns and matcha croissants. A trend that I saw not once, but twice – and loved: a modern dining concept nestled not next to – but within – a traditional eatery. Ah Bong’s Italian is marked by a small sign – and by diners slurping creations like pesto pasta at rickety metal tables. Next time I want to go along Yong Siak and hit all the recommended cafes, as well as bookstore Books Actually (again, all recommended in the guide I wrote….) The neighborhood is generally an Instagrammer’s haven – white walls and subtle foilage in abundance.
• Went to another Instagram hotspot at the Pinnacle @ Duxton, a massive housing project with a sky bridge that the public can access for a small fee. Next time, would set aside a bit more time there and sun-bathe with a view.
• Took a walk around Emerald Hill, with more famous residences, in a variety of pastel hues. Incredibly calm and quiet, for being located next to the commercial center of Orchard St (although, how could it compare to the chaos of Hong Kong?)
• A fashion event for Pedder on Scott’s – a shoe emporium opening at Scott’s Square, with The Coffee Academics – felt like I was back in Hong Kong. Free flow champagne and hella canapes; people watching galore. Good shit.
• Attended yet another opening: THE CLUB, a boutique hotel on Club St – which I felt was Singapore’s tamer Lan Kwai Fong, with a range of slightly tacky bars with outside seating. While The Club won’t win any awards for naming creativity, the opening was a wonder: each F&B outlet located inside was serving non-stop food and drank: a whiskey room, lychee martinis at the downstairs bar, Peruvian BBQ at the rooftop, gin & tonics at the hotel’s main eatery.
• More of Singapore nightife: Suite26, a club/bar duo located in complex South Beach, and then to clubbing staple BANG BANG [which I have to admit is a pretty good name for a club]. Did some research and apparently both spots are part of the same F&B group – the more I researched different outlets and chased down their websites, the more I found that a few large groups can be found behind nearly every F&B/nightlife outlet in the city.
Photo via Potato Head Folk
• Brunch is a hallowed institution in Singapore, way more than Taipei and Hong Kong – we sat for a good few hungover hours at Artichoke, over dishes like lamb shakshouka and grilled cauliflower pitas, and orange blossom ice cream.
• Dinner was at Potato Head Folk, which occupies a three-story level on Keong Saik Rd – a whole area full of [mainly upscale] dining concepts mixed in amongst local eats; after burgers and drinks at the rooftop tiki bar at Potato Head, we took a stroll around Keong Saik and spotted The Library [inside is a speakeasy called The Study, both by Jason Atherton] Burnt Ends [Andre Chiang’s new dining concept] and tons of other spots I’d go to for a date night dinner. A bit of an anomaly: Afterglow, a healthy raw eatery.
Had a hell of a night in this church.
• More of Singapore nightlife – espresso martinis at CHJIMES – which is – still slightly weirded out by this – a complex of clubs and bars inside of a church? There was a wedding during the time people were coming in to go clubbing? People went straight from a wedding in the church to go clubbing? We opted to skip church and headed to RAKES, a relatively new after-hours club – after having drinks at sister bar RAVEN.
• Room service pad thai and tomato soup at the Shangri-La. That’s all I’m going to reveal about that experience.
On the list for next time: cafe-bar-shop Maison Ikkoku, via Cereal
• Struggled up for brunch again, this time at cafe-bar SYMMETRY, with my friend’s lovely roommates, who love the huge breakfasts there. Singaporeans dig brunch.
• Head over to famed hawker center Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer) for dinner, end up having Costa Rican food and seafood laksa. I already miss the food in Singapore – the variety and the amount of cuisines to try: as well as sugarcane and lemon juice.
• Trail through the Marina Bay Sands Mall on the way to Gardens By the Bay. We didn’t have time to check out the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome – but we caught the light show at the Supertree Grove. Gardens was almost too perfect – a bit like a botanical Disneyland. Not sure if I necessarily liked that, but will definitely go back to the Cloud Forest (hopefully on a day with less tourists). Next time would also like to visit the ArtScience Museum – which was having a slightly disturbing exhibit on deep-sea creatures.
• Second dinner of chili prawns and mango sticky rice a Makansutra Gluttons’ Bay, a cleaned-up outdoor food court across from MBS. Outdoor dining and drinking was one of the things I loved the most about Singapore – despite the haze settling over the city from Malaysia.
• Next time, would like to visit Sentosa & have dinner and drinks at Tanjong Beach Club – but the haze was too bad on Sunday to make going worthwhile.
• I wanted to explore a bit around Chinatown and Little India to take photos – so fascinating that Singapore has all these very defined enclaves – and perhaps have a drinks & food at Arab Street.
I could see that if I had stayed a few days longer – in addition to killing my long-suffering friend, I also would probably would have run out of things to see – besides cafes and eateries. Singapore, I’ll be back – maybe for a while longer next time.
Feature photo via @franzn