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Stopping Off In Singapore For 48 Hours

Singapore‘s food scene is unlike any other. From hawkers handing family recipes down the generations, and restaurants from relatively unknown regions of South-East Asia, to experimental addresses peddling molecular gastronomy or focusing purely on desserts, its diverse culture (a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, Western) is best savoured through its food.

And, with the city-state’s 50th anniversary of independence this year, now’s the time to stop over.

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Touch Down

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Singapore Airlines provides direct flights to Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Qantas can also be caught from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, while Jetstar flies from Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and Cairns. Changi Airport is 20 kilometres east of the city centre. The journey to the city centre takes about half an hour either on the East-West MRT (metro) line or by taxi.

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Get Your Bearings

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The island of Singapore lies off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, with the population clustered in the south.

The central districts are clearly delineated, with the Singapore River cutting through them: the colonial district to the north is where you’ll find Raffles Hotel, named after the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles.

The financial district lies around Raffles Place, south of the river. Orchard Road, lined with shopping malls, is west of the colonial district, while Little India and Kampong Glam, the Islamic quarter, sit above it.

Singapore’s financial district shines at dawn. Picture: Getty Images

Chinatown and Telok Ayer – once the seafront, before the days of land reclamation – lie south-west of the financial district. East of Telok Ayer, on reclaimed land, is Marina Bay with the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the monumental Gardens by the Bay beside it.

To the south is Singapore’s State of Fun: the island of Sentosa, home to family-friendly attractions, resorts, man-made beaches and Universal Studios.

The main visitors’ centre is at the junction of Orchard and Cairnhill roads. Buy a Singapore Tourist Pass here for S$10 ($A9.40) a  day, S$16 ($A15) for two and S$20 ($A18.75) for three. It provides a boat and bus tour plus unlimited access to public transport. The cheap, efficient MTR network is supplemented by buses to every corner of the island.

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Check In

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The new Sofitel So Singapore at 35 Robinson Road has transformed a heritage building into a luxury Karl Lagerfeld-designed hotel, complete with gilt-tiled rooftop pool. The deliciously outre rooms start at S$348 ($A325) a night, not including breakfast.

It started life as a British military barracks, but the Hotel Fort Canning at 11 Canning Walk has sloughed off its utilitarian past with sleek, modern rooms – some with private gardens. Doubles start at S$259 ($A243), excluding breakfast.

No two rooms are the same at The Sultan, 101 Jalan Sultan, a shophouse conversion occupying one of Kampong Glam’s most beautiful buildings. Double rooms from $S140 ($131), including breakfast.


Short on cash? Singapore On A Budget – Top Free Attractions

Have the kids in tow? Singapore For Families


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Day 1

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Take a view

The Skypark at Marina Bay Sands, at 10 Bayfront Avenue, dominates the city skyline with the Singapore River on one side and the Singapore Strait on the other. It offers unbeatable views from its 200-metre eyrie. Entry costs S$23 ($A21). You could return at night to the Ku De Ta’s Sky Bar, right beside it, which charges no entry fee.

Get a commanding view of the city from the Skypark. Picture: Getty Images

Take a ride

Hop on a River Explorer commuter bumboat at the Bayfront North jetty, beside Marina Bay Sands. Boats ply the Singapore River daily from 7am to 11pm, up to every 10 minutes; tickets cost S$4 ($A3.75). Alight at Raffles Landing for a pleasant, three-block walk through the colonial district to the City Hall MRT. Take the East-West line to Bugis, one stop away.

Lunch on the run

Opposite the gold-domed Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam, Rumah Makan Minang at 18 Kandahar Street serves superb Minangkerbau (West Sumatran) food at its open-air tables. A mixed plate costs around S$5 ($A4.70).

Window shopping

Behind the fabric stalls of Arab Street, Haji Lane is crammed with independent shops – a welcome break from Singapore’s anodyne malls. Most sell clothes, but Mondays Off, at No 76 has a great selection of locally made products, from posters designed in-house to cushions and cacti terrariums. Nearby, Sifr Aromatics, at 48 Arab Street, is a modern take on Kampong Glam’s perfumeries, using traditional ingredients to make innovative blends.

An aperitif

There’s no menu at Bar Stories, at 55/57A Haji Lane. Instead, choose a spirit and a flavour (sweet, sour, salty or spicy), flag up any allergies you may have, and then they’ll invent something to your taste.

Over in Chinatown, The Library, 47 Keong Saik Road is a cocktail bar that is entered via a secret door within a tailor’s shop. To enter, you’ll either need the weekly password (announced on the Facebook page of its sister restaurant The Study), or just tell the doorman a good joke. Drinks at both these bars cost around S$22 ($A20.60).

Make your way through Chinatown for an aperitif. Picture: Getty Images

Dining with the locals

Candlenut, at 331 New Bridge Road is a Peranakan restaurant that blends traditional and modern: think beef rendang done as a sous vide, and buah keluak – the signature Peranakan dish – as a dessert. Mains cost around S$16 ($A15).

Just across the street is the Majestic Restaurant, at 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road, one of the best modern Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown, despite its low-key location in a hotel (the New Majestic). A six-course tasting menu costs S$68 ($A64).

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Day 2

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Sunday morning: go to temple

You’ll find three places of worship on Chinatown’s South Bridge Road. The eau de nil-coloured Jamae Mosque is at No 218; the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, is at No 244; and the enormous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, at No 288 doubles as a museum. Open 7am-7pm, free.

Out to brunch

Tong Ah at 35 Keong Saik Road (11am-2.30pm and 5-10pm daily) is the place for kaya toast: thin, toasted sandwiches slathered in home-made coconut jam, with a knob of cold butter in the middle. Kopi (sweetened coffee, filtered through cotton socks) and toast costs S$3 ($A2.80).

Take a hike

Start at Ann Sian Hill. Turn right on Ann Siang Road, a sliver of old-style Singapore. You emerge in an alley behind Amoy Street – once there, turn left.

On the right is Telek Ayer Green, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Many of the Hokkien Chinese first arrived here; the Thian Hock Keng temple, to your right, was built for them.

Dragons keep watch at the Thian Hock Keng temple. Picture: Getty Images

To the left of the green is the Nagore Durgha Shrine, which doubles as Singapore’s Indian Muslim Heritage Centre. Wander among Telok Ayer Street’s shophouses and temples, and end at Tanjong Pagar park.

Cultural afternoon

Sample the melting pot culture via the food hawker stalls. The MTR makes it easy to ‘hawker hop’. Try Ah Tai Chicken Rice at the Maxwell Food Centre, Fishball Story at the Golden Mile Food Centre, at 505 Beach Road, and Alhambra Padang Satay at Glutton’s Bay.

Icing on the cake

The 2am Dessert Bar at 21a Lorong Liput opens daily except Monday to 2am; it opens for business from 11am at weekends, 3pm other days. It has experimental puddings, such as mustard meringue, for around S$18 ($A16.90).

 

This article was written by Julia Buckley from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.