The Sands SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands offers amazing views of Singapore’s city skyline. // © 2011 Marina Bay Sands
Where to Stay
Singapore has no shortage of great hotel accommodations to choose from, including the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore. Here are a few other suggested properties your clients may want to consider:
A 30-acre ultra-luxury resort on Sentosa Island, ideal for luxury travelers and those seeking a resort-like getaway
Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel, The Stamford, Singapore
Both of these properties — the Fairmont and Swissotel — are connected to each other. Both are ideal for business travelers (the hotels are connected to the Suntec Convention Centre via underground walkways) and leisure travelers (their ideal location makes sightseeing a breeze).
Marina Bay Sands
I’d consider booking a night at this property just for the chance to swim in its 492-foot-long infinity pool at Sands SkyPark. The entire resort is massive — like a city all its own — and it continues to grow.
For more value-oriented travelers who don’t want to sacrifice style for comfort, the new Moon@23 Dickson hotel in the heart of Little India is a great option.
Shoppers and business travelers should take note of this fairly new, all-inclusive boutique property that is ideally located near Orchard Road.
One of Singapore’s most enduring landmarks and home to the famous Singapore Sling cocktail
Resorts World Sentosa
Resorts World Sentosa houses six different hotel properties: the all-suite Crockfords Tower; design-driven Hotel Michael (inspired by contemporary architect Michael Graves); contemporary Hard Rock Hotel Singapore; the family-friendly Festive Hotel; and two soon-to-open properties, Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas.
This charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Chinatown, features a design inspired by the saffron spice and silk trade.
Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort
This 454-room beachfront property on Sentosa Island’s Siloso Beach recently underwent an extensive $62-million makeover designed to cater to families.
If you’re the kind of traveler who seeks out one-of-a-kind boutique hotel stays, Wanderlust is right up your alley with its inventively design-driven rooms.
The long-held assumption among even the savviest of globetrotters — that you only need to spend a day or two in Singapore — seems to be a notion of the past. As the Lion City continues to welcome new attractions, from massive integrated resorts and world-class restaurants to lush gardens and colossal shopping plazas, you soon discover that there’s more than enough to see, do — and most importantly — eat in this Southeast Asian city-state.
At least, this was the case for me during a trip last fall. For a food-obsessed traveler like myself, Singapore was an endless, moveable feast. After spending a little more than a week there, I left it, still hungry for more experiences and tastes.
Check into the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore
There’s no better place to lay your head than the waterfront Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, which opened in July 2010. The luxury 100-room boutique property is exquisite, not only in its sophisticated design by Andre Fu, but also in its plush accommodations and amenities. Bay View guestrooms, outfitted with their own balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, offer stunning views of Singapore’s newest landmark, the Marina Bay Sands. Because of its location, the hotel serves as an ideal home base for exploring the revitalized Fullerton Heritage precinct, the Central Business District (CBD) and Singapore’s Arts & Cultural precinct, as well as the Marina Bay Sands.
Breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast
One breakfast specialty not to be missed involves Singaporean kaya toast. It consists of ultra-thin slices of toast that are buttered, and then spread with kaya, a green coconut jam made with pandan leaves, eggs, sugar and coconut milk. To eat it the way locals do, order a set that comes with two soft-boiled eggs and a cup of kopi (coffee). Adding as little or as much white pepper and sweet soy sauce to the mixture of runny eggs to your preference, simply dip your buttered jam toast into the eggs and enjoy.
Note: When ordering coffee, your clients may want to specify whether or not they prefer kopi-C (coffee with sweet condensed milk), kopi-C-kosong (coffee with condensed milk and no sugar) or kopi-O-kosong (coffee without any condensed milk or sugar).
Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a chain of kopitiams (coffee shops) found throughout Singapore and one of the chain’s most atmospheric locations can be found not far from the Fullerton Bay, in the heart of the CBD. Another popular chain that serves kaya toast is called Toast Box.
The Merlion and Museum Hopping
From the CBD or the Fullerton Bay, there are a number of museums and sightseeing spots to explore. Walking northward from the hotel, a logical stop involves a walk down One Fullerton toward Singapore’s most famous icon, the Merlion statue. From March 9 through May 15, you can even book a stay inside an installation that will surround the famous statue. This month, the Singapore Art Museum began constructing that temporary hotel installation on the site as part of this year’s Singapore Biennale.
After taking in the views from the marina, you can cross one of three bridges (Cavenagh, Anderson or Esplanade) and find yourself surrounded by colonial buildings, many of which house some of the city’s best museums. The Asian Civilizations Museum, just across the Singapore River, surveys the different histories and cultures that make up Singapore’s uniquely diverse population. The Peranakan Museum, located northwest from the Asian Civilizations Museum, explores the rich culture and communities of Peranakans — descendants of the early Chinese settlers who came to the British Straits settlements and married local Malay and Indonesian women. Other nearby museums include the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.
Lunch at The Blue Ginger
After touring a museum or two, it’s inevitable that you’ll want to stop for lunch. One suggestion is to try Peranakan cuisine firsthand at The Blue Ginger. Must-try dishes include otak otak (spicy fishcakes roasted in banana leaves); kueh pie tee (delicate pastry shells filled with shrimp, bamboo shoots and turnips); beef rendang (a beef stew made with coconut milk and spices); and, for dessert, cendol (shaved ice topped with coconut milk, sugar, red beans and pandan-flavored jelly).
Sightseeing Around the Marina and Singapore River
If you’re a bit tired from museum hopping and taking in a rather filling lunch, spending the afternoon exploring the marina and the Singapore River makes an ideal leisurely respite.
Taking a taxi or the MRT (mass rapid transit), you can easily travel to Marina Bay Sands, the newest fixture in Singapore’s downtown skyline. Here, you can take time to explore the casino floor, go shopping, treat yourself to some afternoon sweets or, if you’re willing to pay admission, experience the impressive Sands SkyPark at the very top of the resort for an amazing view of the city and the soon-to-open Gardens by the Bay park project.
From Marina Bay Sands, you can easily book a ride on the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel. After taking in the sights from above, you might be so inclined to see them from the river. If so, you can easily hail a cab or stop on the MRT over to Clark Quay, where you can book a half-hour Hippo River Tour. The city skyline, when lit up at night, is especially atmospheric.
Dinner at Jumbo Seafood
Just across from Clarke Quay, you’ll find one of many outposts (Riverside Point) of Jumbo Seafood — a beloved homegrown chain of restaurants specializing in one of Singapore’s national dishes — chili crabs. The place is always packed so, if you plan on dining here, be sure to call ahead and make a reservation. Aside from the sweet-and-savory chili crab, you may also want to order some pepper crab as well. Whatever you do, don’t forget to order the mantou (steamed or fried bread) to scoop up all of that chili crab sauce.
Cocktails at Lantern
If you do anything during your stay at the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, you must try to spend some time at its rooftop pool and plush lounge area, Lantern. The views of the marina from the top of the hotel, especially at nighttime, are stunning. Reservations are recommended.
Breakfast at Lau Pa Sat
Before taking in another full day of sights and sounds, you can easily walk to Lau Pa Sat, a covered hawker center within walking distance of the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore. Here, you can pick up more kaya toast and coffee or try other local breakfast specialties. Some favorites include roti prata — Indian-style flatbread served with curry — or nasi lemak, coconut rice with sambal chili, anchovies, roasted peanuts and a hard-boiled egg that is usually wrapped up in a banana leaf.
Every night, from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m., the street adjacent to Lau Pa Sat becomes a nighttime satay street, with dozens of vendors selling satay (marinated, skewered and grilled meats) — a perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold bottle of Tiger beer for a late-night snack.
After breakfast, head westward toward Chinatown. This ethnic enclave is unique because it is still very much a place where Singapore’s ethnic Chinese population lives and works. While some parts of it may seem decidedly touristy, the further you explore it, the more authentic experiences, sights and sounds you will find. Walking through Chinatown, it’s worth a visit to the Chinatown Heritage Centre, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple. You might also want to stop in briefly at the basement-level wet market in the main Chinatown Complex, located right in the heart of the neighborhood. Here, you’ll see all manner of fresh produce, seafood and meats from your standard fare (bok choy and fish) to the exotic (live frogs, anyone?). You can also do some inexpensive souvenir shopping while you’re in Chinatown.
Lunch at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
Just across the street from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is where you will find the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, home to more than 100 different food stalls serving up some of Singapore’s most beloved street food. If you eat just one thing at this bustling hawker center, I highly recommend trying Hainanese chicken rice from the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall. The buttery slices of steamed chicken come with a steaming bowl of chicken broth and fragrant semolina rice. You can add as little or as much sweet soy or chili sauce to your liking, as well. Other dishes you might want to scope out include carrot cake (fried cubes of steamed rice flour with white radish); char kway teow (sti-fried flat rice noodles); fish head curry (much more appetizing than it sounds); laksa (spicy noodle soup); oyster omelet; popiah (a Singaporean take on spring rolls); and rojak (a salad-type dish).
Explore Kampong Glam
After lunch, you could — theoretically — walk off your lunch by heading north toward Kampong Glam, the Muslim quarter of Singapore. However, given the ever oppressive heat and humidity of Singapore’s tropical climate, a better option might be to take the MRT to Bugis Station, or just hail a cab.
Compared to Chinatown, Kampong Glam is much more compact, but it offers a wide variety of different sights and experiences. Must-see stops in Kampong Glam include the Malay Heritage Centre, a stroll down historic Arab Street and seeing the beautiful Sultan Mosque. After taking those attractions in, be sure to walk down Haji Lane, which runs parallel to Arab Street. Haji Lane is home to a number of youthful boutiques and shops, many of which sell handmade wares from local designers.
Explore Little India
From Kampong Glam, just across the Rochor Canal to the West is where you will find yourself in Little India. What I enjoyed doing most while in Little India was wandering through its bustling streets, taking in the sights of colorful shophouses — some of which are even boutique hotel properties now — and the fragrant smells of rich spices. Along the main thoroughfare of Serangoon Road, it’s worth it to make a stop at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple where all are welcome; just be sure to leave your shoes outside the door.
Dinner in Little India
There’s a wide range of restaurants and eateries to be found in Little India, from humble hawker center offerings at the Tekka Centre to cutting-edge European cuisine at Restaurant Andre. André Chiang, the Taiwanese-born chef behind the eponymous eatery, is a master of modern French cuisine. Wherever you wind up eating, however, it’s certain to be an amazing meal.
Taking in the Nightlife
Depending on how you feel, you might want to head back to Kampong Glam’s Haji Lane to relax and smoke a hookah (or sheesha as it is most usually referred to in Singapore). Or, if you’re feeling really energized, you might even want to check out some popular night spots, including the New Asia Bar at the very top of the Swissotel, The Stamford, Singapore; Zouk, Singapore’s most famous nightclub; or The Butter Factory, a hip hop nightclub. Later this year, Marina Bay Sands is expected to open an outpost of the Avalon nightclub, too, in one of its Crystal Pavilions.
Spend the Day and Night on Sentosa Island
You can make a whole day out of an excursion to Sentosa Island, Singapore’s island playground located just beyond the southernmost tip of the city. There are a number of ways to reach the island, from a cable car ride on the top of Mount Faber and a shuttle bus from nearby VivoCity Mall to a newly reopened walkable footbridge. Sentosa specializes in family-friendly attractions that will suit every member of the family.
Children will especially love visiting the Universal Studios Singapore theme park at Resorts World Sentosa, the first of Singapore’s integrated resorts to open last year. Other activities include the Mega Zip Adventure Park for ziplining; the Flying Trapeze at the newly renovated Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort; Skyline Luge Sentosa; and Wave House Sentosa for surfing lessons.
Parents and grandparents might be more inclined to spend the day playing a few rounds of golf at the Sentosa Golf Club or indulging in spa treatments at the ultra-luxurious Capella Singapore resort. Heading to the beach for a day spent on the sand is also an easy option for everyone.
The sprawling campus of Resorts World Sentosa also offers endless dining options from high (Joel Robuchon) to low, as well as a massive shopping complex, too.
Explore Pulau Ubin
Nature enthusiasts, hikers and mountain bikers will want to head for Pulau Ubin, a tiny island located off the northeastern coast of Singapore. Pulau Ubin (Malay for “granite island”) is a prime example of a kampong (traditional village) from Singapore’s earliest days. To get there, you can take a 15-minute bumboat ride from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Because of the heat and humidity, it’s best to head out to Pulau Ubin earlier in the day and to bring lots of insect repellent as well. While on Pulau Ubin, you can sign up for guided biking tours and nature walks with Betel Box, or simply rent your own gear and head out on your own.
Explore East Coast Park
If you’d rather not leave the main island to explore Pulau Ubin, you might want to check out East Coast Park instead. The nearly seven-mile long seafront park is a playground for health and fitness devotees — there’s even a 7½-mile-long cycle track and a nine-mile-long jogging track, as well as outlets for watersports, tennis, bowling and simply relaxing on the beach.
If you plan on sticking around East Coast Park for lunch, you may want to drop into the East Coast Lagoon Food Village hawker center for a casual seafood lunch.
Explore the Ethnic Enclave of Joo Chiat/Katong
After spending time in the great outdoors, you might want to spend some time absorbing the uniquely Peranakan history and culture of the Joo Chiat/Katong enclave located at the junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road. As with the other enclaves, it’s best to explore this neighborhood by foot, taking in all of the unique sights and sounds, and tasting a few of the local Peranakan delicacies, too, from pineapple tarts and sweet rice dumplings to kueh lapis, a delicious — and laborious to assemble — layer cake.
For a more in-depth introduction to Peranakan culture and cuisine, you might want to book a Peranakan Trail tour with Tour East Singapore, which commences at 9 a.m. daily with an 8:30 a.m. pick-up time. During the guided tour, clients visit the Spice Garden, the original site of Singapore’s first Botanic Gardens. They also get a chance to sample Nonya delicacies at the end of their tour, following a walk through Joo Chiat/Katong.
Dinner — and Dessert — in Geylang Serai
Just west of Joo Chiat/Katong is the area known as Geylang Serai or simply, Geylang. Unlike most other parts of Singapore, Geylang is a little bit grittier and seedier (it’s also known as Singapore’s red-light district) but it is still fairly safe in comparison. It’s also one of the best areas for having some memorable late-night meals. Favorite restaurants include the Sin Huat Eating House, which is famous for its crab bee hoon (crab smothered in gravy with noodles, served in a hot pot), and No Signboard Seafood, also famous for its seafood offerings, including pepper crab. Locals often make a late-night supper out of their visits to Geylang, since most eateries are open at all hours of the day, serving up such specialties as dim sum to the more exotic, such as frog leg rice porridge.
And for truly adventurous eaters, Geylang is the perfect place to try fresh durian, fondly referred to by some as the “king of fruits.” Be warned though: it’s certainly not for everyone. The rather pungent, custard-like fruit is notorious for its overpowering smell and taste. One traveler in my group actually referred to that fragrance as “a cross between garbage and garbage.” I, for one, actually became a fan of the king of fruits. However, you just won’t know if you like it (or hate it) unless you at least give it a try. To find a nearby durian seller, just follow your nose.
Brunch at Newton Hawker Centre or Adam Road Food Centre
Stop for brunch at the Newton Circus Hawker Centre, arguably Singapore’s most famous hawker center, for an oyster omelet, or Adam Road Food Centre, which is famous for the Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak stall. Both hawker centers are very easy to get to via MRT: For Newton, you can get off at the Newton MRT station and for Adam Road, the nearest MRT station is at the Botanic Gardens.
Stroll Through the Singapore Botanic Gardens
After brunch, you might consider visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a sprawling public park that is also home to the National Orchid Garden (the orchid is the national flower of Singapore). In the Orchid Garden, you can see more than 60,000 different varieties of unique orchids. Admission to the Botanic Gardens is free but there is a cost to enter the National Orchid Garden.
Lunch and Shopping at Orchard Road
After taking in your fill of Singapore’s great outdoors, it’s time to explore its great indoors, namely in the form of the massive shopping centers found along Orchard Road, Singapore’s equivalent to Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. The best way to explore Orchard Road is to begin your shopping trip at the Far East Plaza, making your way toward 313@Somerset. ION Orchard, not far from the Far East Plaza, is the newest complex on the block. There’s a lively, bustling atmosphere along Orchard Road, with a few buskers out to entertain passersby. If you happen to see a juggler near the Far East Plaza shopping center, be sure to take in one of his performances (he also doubled as my guide during my trip last fall).
Along the way, you can stop in any one of the malls to find an endless number of food courts and eateries. If you’ve never tasted Taiwanese xialongbao (soup dumplings) before, I highly recommend a stop at Din Tai Fung, either at the Paragon or Wisma Atria malls. If you get hungry later in the afternoon, you might want to buy an ice cream sandwich from one of the many ice cream sellers lined along the sidewalk of Orchard Road. To eat it Singaporean style, order a sandwich wrapped in sweet pandan bread for a very literal take on the term ice cream sandwich.
Dinner in the City
There’s no better way to end your last night in Singapore than with a good meal. The options are endless, from hawker centers to fine-dining establishments. Some suggestions might include:
The Candlenut Kitchen
Another great restaurant to try for your last taste of authentic Pernakan cuisine
This rustic French restaurant occupies the lobby space of one of Singapore’s newest — and coolest-looking — boutique hotels, the Wanderlust in Little India.
Ku De Ta
This might be one of the toughest reservations to clinch in the city right now, but a dining experience at Ku De Ta, located atop the Marina Bay Sands in the Sands SkyPark is certain to be memorable, not only for its inventive modern Asian cuisine but its amazing views, too.
My Humble House
This highly atmospheric and artistic restaurant at the Esplanade serves up unique twists on contemporary Chinese cuisine.
If you want to have a taste of all that Singapore’s food culture has to offer, this upscale buffet, located at the Grand Hyatt Singapore near Orchard Road, is a perfect fit.
Wherever you choose to dine, however, you are sure to leave the Lion City both full—and hungry for another return visit.