In less than 200 years, Singapore has been transformed from a backwater to one of the world’s “economic miracles”, keeping the convenience of a compact city with one of the world’s most modern infrastructures. Singapore is renowned for its cleanliness, a habit enforced by tough penalties for littering and the good habits of its multi-ethnic citizens. Here, you’ll enjoy the most incredible selection of food, available almost anytime and anywhere, from inexpensive street food and hawker stalls to luxurious and extravagant fine dining.
The easiest way to arrive into the city centre from the airport is by taxi, which is quite affordable (a ride takes approximately 25 min and costs around 15 S$ ~ 20 S$) and the most convenient if you have luggage.
11am: Start your exploration with a visit to Little India and Kampong Glam. Both provide some of the best insights into Singapore’s Indian and Malay communities respectively. The name “Kampong Glam” is derived from the words “kampong” (village) and “gelam”, a type of tree that once grew in the area. The architecture is dominated by Art Deco style shophouses alongside grander colonial buildings with a Middle Eastern influence.
The area still remains an important focal point of Muslim life, with two prominent landmarks: the Istana Kampong Glam (the former residence of Sultan Hussein and his descendants) and the Sultan Mosque. The famous Arab Street provides fascinating insights into the Muslim way of life brought by the Arabs in the 19th century. Bargain hunters are drawn here by a collection of quaint shops selling basketware, leather products, fishing tackle, jewellery, precious and semi-precious gemstones, brass, perfumes, and goods made from straw, cane, and rattan.
Close by, Little India arouses the senses of the visitor with all the colours, sights, and sounds characteristic of India. Little India Arcade is a collection of conserved shophouses on what was once a Hindu burial ground. You can spend hours here enchanted by shops selling everything from colourful fabrics for saris to religious artefacts and garlands used as offerings in Hindu religious ceremonies. You’ll even find Indian music cassettes and videotapes, along with an array of handicrafts and souvenirs, plus fresh vegetables and spices for Indian cooking. Little India begins from Tekka Centre at Serangoon Road and stretches out on both sides into the side streets. Here you can watch how a betel nut concoction is prepared; see flowers being woven into garlands and henna applied in intricate patterns.
1.15pm: Stop for lunch at Greyhound Cafe at 290 Orchard Road. Originally from Thailand, the first Singapore branch offers Asian-Western fusion food in a quirky European cafe ambiance, with mysterious scribbles and drawings on the walls. The menu and the staff are playful, and the dishes imaginative. Try the white chocolate sabayon with fresh fruits. The patrons here are mostly stylish youngsters and expats from creative fields.
3pm: Check-in time for Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong. Then head to Chinatown, which is especially crowded on weekends, and wander through a colourful network of streets and alleyways. Here, Chinese merchants ply their trade in old pre-war shophouses rich in nostalgia. Take in the sights and sounds of Chinatown, from its noisy coffee shops to medical halls, calligraphers, clay makers, trishaw riders and old temples. Many bargains are on offer, with wide selections from embroidered kimonos to T-shirts, traditional crafts, pottery and excellent choices of antiques.
5pm: Just a short walk away, Club Street hosts numerous buzzing clubs, international restaurants, and therapeutic massage shops. Here, at 47C East Chinatown, Michael Ma’s first IndoChine outlet opened in late 1999, beginning a series of successful and innovative contemporary Asian lifestyle restaurants and bars. IndoChine Club Street hosts five venues in one place, with a restaurant offering a refined and authentic menu from the shores of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in elegant setting. Bar SàVanh is one of the hippest bars in Asia, with an award-winning interior design featuring a tranquil three-storey waterfall, a lush koi pond and the sweet fragrance of jasmine incense.
8pm: Unwind at Boat Quay, home to numerous bars, cafés, and restaurants offering a bewildering variety of cuisines. You can dine outside for impressive views of the Singapore River and grand buildings, including Parliament House and the Victoria Theatre on the opposite bank.
River taxi services are available between Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, another newly developed area eyed by young entrepreneurs in the early 1990s, who converted dilapidated 19th-century warehouses into a precinct of shops, pubs, floating restaurants, riverboat excursions and craft stalls.
10pm: Party at Club Attica, for its an outdoor bar and chilled-out mood. On the first floor, local DJs play more hip-hop and international charts and the small dance floor gets filled fast by passionate Singaporeans. On the upper level, more international DJs are often invited to play an eclectic mix of House, Trance or Drum & Bass. Separate VIP areas offer an array of superb finger food and excellent cocktails.