Been there, done that. With Singapore, if you’ve been living there long enough or visited too often you might feel like you’ve done it all. Once the Night Safaris, Sky-high views and Chinatown wanderings are over it leads to a sort of “Now What?” sentiment. And while there might be an element of truth to that feeling, it’s no secret that Singapore is a city that constantly evolves and how. There are a fair few overlooked things in this city-state that can easily slip under the radar of even the most seasoned Singapore explorers.
It’s not all about the light shows, the beautiful albeit constructed gardens and the mega bucks. Though it is slightly harder to chance upon there is an alternative greener, cheaper and more artsy side to Singapore.
The Kranji Farms: Farms in Singapore? Yes, you heard that right. Located in Singapore’s rural and not often explored North-Western part, the Kranji Countryside Association consists of a number of farms of which 10 farms are currently open to the public. The farms are all known for their variety of organic produce and some of them even run restaurants within their premises. To get there all you need to do is hop aboard the Kranji Express at the Kranji MRT station. $3 SGD will get you an All Day Pass which means you can get off and on the bus whenever you’d like.
For more details visit their website: www.kranjicountryside.com
A picnic spot at Bollywood Veggies, one of the farms on the Kranji Countryside trails
Sungi Boleh Wetland Reserve: Did you ever picture wild crocodiles in Singapore? Well, neither did I. In Sungi Boleh Wetland Reserve, however, if you’re lucky enough, you can spot a couple of estuarine crocs basking in the sunshine by the river. The Wetland Reserve is also one of the stops on the aforementioned Kranji Express which makes it easy enough to get to. There is tremendous biodiversity at the reserve and intrepid explorers will have the chance of seeing everything from monitor lizards to a variety of birds to mud lobsters and more.
Meandering through the Sungi Boleh Wetland Reserve.
At one point we had three fairly monstrous monitor lizards obliviously sunbathing and consequently blocking our path. With the plethora of crocodile warnings that was the last straw two lily-livered explorers needed and our walk cut short, we exited hastily from the reserve. That’s the wild Singapore for you. I hope you have more courage than we did.
Some not so adorable monitor lizards at the Sungi Boleh Wetland Reserve. Photo Credit: SBWR
For details on the variety of trails and guided walks visit: www.sbwr.org.sg
Pulau Ubin: Ever wondered what a “village” in Singapore would be like? Pulau Ubin is probably the closest you can come to old school Singapore. A walk through Ubin will take you back in time to a simpler and less chaotic Singapore. While Chek Jawa, an intertidal flat, is considered the highlight of a Pulau Ubin trip, there is a lot more to do. Time in Ubin is spent walking or biking through its country lanes while exploring its unspoilt beaches, mangroves and ancient temples. Don’t feel like leaving and want to literally set up camp in Pulau Ubin? No problem. The island offers plenty of opportunities to go beach camping.
Pulau Ubin, it’s like taking a step back in time.
www.wildsingapore.comwill give you all the details you need.
Southern Islands: While there are developmental plans in store for the Southern Islands as of now there is still a lot of rugged nature and solitude that visitors to these islands can enjoy. Weekend Getaways to the Southern Islands can include camping in John’s Island, picnicking in the nearby Kusu Island or heading to Sister’s Island – the first ever designated Marine Park in Singapore – for snorkelling. If you feel like a bit of a splurge, then it’s also possible to hire private chartered cruises to take you and your party through the Southern group of Islands.
The wishing well at Kusu Island, part of the Southern Islands group
For more details visit: www.wildsingapore.com
Din Tai Fung. While Din Tai Fong is no secret, it would be extremely sad if you left Singapore without indulging in this very reasonably priced Michelin star awarded restaurant. Din Tai Fung dates back to Taiwan 40 years ago and its famous signature dish is the Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumpling) and heart-warming steamed chicken soup. The melt in your mouth dumpling are steamed to the perfect temperature and contain just the right amount of juiciness. Din Tai Fung branches throughout the world, including Singapore, Thailand, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, USA etc. Want to experience an unforgettable meal at an award winning restaurant without burning a hole in your wallet? Din Tai Fung, it is then.
Perfectly steamed luscious dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Photo Credit: Din Tai Fung
Find out if there is a branch near you: www.dintaifung.com.sg
Marina Barrage Rooftop: Marina Barrage is Singapore’s first reservoir in the pulsating heart of the city. It takes a completely different spin on the conventional nature-themed reservoir by seamlessly tying in natural greenery with a stylish city vibe. The Barrage has a grass covered “Green Roof “that’s estimated to be the size of four football fields. Not only does the Green Roof offer some excellent panoramic views of Singapore’s celebrated skyline but one section of it also looks out on the open sea making it perfect for a windy sea breeze ensconced picnic. The rooftop is also an ideal spot for flying kites and for kids (or adults) to splash around in the dancing fountains on a hot day.
The Green Roof at Marina Barrage, perfect for a city picnic
For more details visit: www.pub.gov.sg/Marina/Pages/greenroof.aspx
Gillman Barracks: This is a contemporary arts cluster in Singapore that is home to 16 international art galleries, three restaurants and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA); all of which are housed in conserved colonial barracks amidst lush greenery. The barracks as the name suggests used to be a military camp in the 1930s. Today, the galleries host regular exhibitions showcasing artists from around the world as well as conducting guided Art and History tours.
For all the details on their current goings on visit their website: www.gillmanbarracks.com
The Aliwal Arts Centre: The Aliwal Arts Centre is a hubbub of 21 artists and arts groups ranging from Theatre Groups, Musicians, and Dancers to Visual and Literary Artists. This artist collective is an important part of the evolving artistic and cultural scenario in Singapore mainly because of the importance they lay on diversity. At the Aliwal Arts Centre, there are artists from different backgrounds with a wide variety of personal artistic journeys using a whole host of different mediums. They also house two excellent eating establishments called Eat Play Love Cafe and A for Arbite. The ambience and the decor along with the food served in both of the restaurants alone makes it worth heading to the Aliwal Arts Centre.
The Aliwal Ars Centre, Singapore – a great spot for lovers of art and performance.
Have you got any offbeat Singapore spots that you love? Feel free to share with me!