Street Mural
Oriental Chinese Restaurant
Jothi Store & Flower Shop
Festive Dresses
Golden-domed Sultan Mosque
Middle eastern cuisine near Arab Street
Lau Pa Sat
Satay Street
National Gallery
Statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
The Merlion
Flower Dome
The view from the Cloud Forest
Night lights
The Jewel Fountain
The Jewel Fountain
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Places to go for arts, culture, food, and flavours

A holiday in Singapore

Relaxed restrictions, available seats with loyalty points and the opportunity to travel with ease provided the incentives necessary for a short vacation to Singapore.

Easy Entry to Singapore

I took up an offer to use loyalty points for a regional flight to Singapore. Economy straight there, Business Class via Kuala Lumpur on the way back. The airline’s booking process provided the information necessary to navigate the document requirements for both entering Singapore and returning to Hong Kong. I completed the process well before my flights and both hard printed and saved a digital copy on my phone. This avoided delays at the check-in and boarding gate counters and the immigration arrivals were relatively easy and hassle-free.

Getting to the hotel in Singapore was easy, as taxis accept credit cards. I stayed at a hotel in Chinatown, which was within walking distance of the Singapore River and Marina Bay.

Sir Stamford Raffles and the Jackson Plan

During this trip, I learned that Singapore was a planned city. In 1822 Sir Stamford Raffles commissioned the Jackson Plan, which organised the city according to two principles. The first was land use, either residential, commercial or civic. The second was segregation by race and so to this day, central Singapore still has a Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, where the local Malay communities live.

Singapore Chinatown

My first stop was Chinatown with brunch at the Oriental Chinese Restaurant on New Bridge Road. At first, I thought it was a tourist trap, but the meal turned out to be a highlight of the trip and included string beans with dried shrimp, eggplants with hot pepper, fried dumplings, hot and sour soup, a steamed flower bun and Calamansi lime juice tea. To my palate, the spiciness came from Szechuan peppers. The food was delicious, filling, and good value.

With a full belly, it was time to properly explore Chinatown. The city has embraced the traditional three-storey shophouses, and there are continual efforts to maintain structural integrity and keep them colourfully painted. Alleys have impressive street murals, and sculptures abound. The only drawback is the heat, which required frequent stops in shops.

Little India Singapore

Little India is just two stops from Chinatown on the MRT. The subway station exits towards the Arcade, an emporium of tapestries, treats and anything else that would appeal to someone from India. Tourists were there snapping pictures, but locals were the ones buying. Across the street is the Jothi Store and Flower Shop, where I joined the other photo-taking tourists.

Kampong Glam & Arab Street

Then it was off to Kampong Glam around Arab Street and the centre for Singapore’s Muslim community. There were multicoloured shophouses and restaurants aplenty, and the architecture that attracts the most attention remains the golden-domed Sultan Mosque. The area is bustling with restaurants serving middle eastern cuisine and shops selling curios, fabrics and other imported goods.

Lau Pa Sat & Satay Street

The best way to see a city is by walking. After a whole day roaming Singapore, my sore feet were begging for a rest, which was confirmed by the 11,000 plus steps recorded on my watch. For dinner, I headed to the expansive Lau Pa Sat hawker centre in the heart of Singapore’s downtown core. Originally a wet market, it is now a gourmand’s delight offering a bonanza of flavours at local prices. Everything from Singaporean laksa to Italian-styled pizza is available. Their biggest draw is the nightly “Satay Street” whereby on an adjacent road, traffic is stopped, and the street cordoned off, then briskly filled with tables, chairs and diners for smoky and saucy plates of meat satays and jugs of cold beer.

The National Gallery Singapore

The National Gallery Singapore is housed within two former civic buildings of Singapore: the former City Hall building and the former Supreme Court building. Renovations took ten years and cost SGD 374 million. Complete exploration of the gallery is not possible in one day, but I did my best. That said, most of my time was invested in viewing the Chua Mia Tee – Directing the Real show both for the impressive artwork and for the history told by the artwork.

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

The big activity for my last full day was to see the Gardens by the Bay. I’m not a flower person, but the Supertrees intrigued me. While there, I also paid to see the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Both these domed conservatories offer hours of fun for horticulturists and photographers. I appreciated the beauty and calming influence of the multitude of flowers and foliage.

Singapore Changi Airport Jewel

Before my return flight, I made time to wander around Changi airport. After checking in, I walked back to the adjacent glass and steel domed structure called the Jewel. Inside is a six-storey waterfall and garden encircled by a luxury shopping mall. It is an impressive combination of architecture and gardening.

Visiting Singapore provided a welcome change of place and pace to relax. I am thankful that I can once again take quick holidays.

Text & Photos Martin Wray