Many Sri Lankans who visit Singapore tend to follow a tried-and-tested formula of shopping at the 24-hour Mustafa Centre and enjoying a day out at Sentosa. This is not a bad way to spend a family-friendly holiday in Singapore, but the city has a lot more to offer, particularly if you are travelling on your own or with friends.
Here are some ideas to make your stay in the city go beyond the usual Sri Lankan grain.
The Civic District
Most of Singapore’s museums are located in the central civic district. The Asian Civilisations Museum, National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Art Museum are the “Big Three,” but the ArtScience Museum at the Marina Bay Sands also features fantastic travelling exhibitions. In fact, getting a package ticket so you can enjoy the view from the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark observation deck as well is not a bad idea.
If you are interesting in shopping for electronics, there are two major malls worth visiting. Funan is a short walk from City Hall MRT station, but Sim Lim Square is closer to Bugis MRT station (both stations are on the East-West line). Sim Lim Square is probably the better of the two for bargains, but make sure you do a bit of research before you step in to avoid becoming easy meat for the fairly aggressive salespeople that man most of the storefronts.
The civic district is accessible from City Hall MRT station (on the East-West line). Spend the first half of the day here and the evening at Kampong Glam since it is one stop away on the MRT.
Home to Singapore’s Arab quarter, Kampong Glam is worth a visit since good Middle Eastern cuisine is relatively hard to come by in Colombo. Try out the food at Café le Caire and head to BluJaz for a drink and shisha after. Alternatives include Beirut Grill and Amirah’s Grill, both on Bussorah Street.
For those of you on a budget – there are some decent prata shops in the vicinity that will remind you of Pilawoos. Zam Zam is known for its murtabak, while the Kampong Glam Café can sort out your Malay food fix before you go down to Haji Lane for shisha. In the evenings, most of the shisha cafés in this narrow lane set up carpets and little tables on the walkways in front of the shop houses.
Kampong Glam is a short walk from Bugis MRT station (on the East-West line). Take Exit B.
Few tourists tend to go beyond the city centre, but Singapore’s east coast has a few reasons to make the journey there worthwhile. If you enjoy seafood, the East Coast Seafood Centre at East Coast Park is well worth a visit, housing several famous restaurants such as Long Beach and Jumbo in one location.
From there, a quick cab ride will get you to either Siglap or Katong which has plenty of bars and cafés to settle into for the evening. Two Fat Men has a range of beers on tap and interestingly for a pub, a selection of Thai food on its menu. Bar Bar Black Sheep also breaks the mould with a selection of Indian food on offer in addition to the usual pub staples.
It is best to take a cab to and from East Coast Park.
Although budget flights seem to be close to disappearing, flights on SriLankan are not prohibitively expensive and with hostels in the city centre, a long weekend in Singapore is a lot more affordable than it used to be. Singapore is also the best place to start a shoestring tour of Southeast Asia. Buses can get you to Malaysia, and most Southeast Asian countries are a short (and relatively cheap) budget flight away.
Music lovers should definitely consider visiting Singapore for the annual festivals that feature a range of acts which seldom tour South Asia – Laneway is usually in late January and Mosaic in March. A new independent music festival, Camp Symmetry, is also scheduled for this November. To keep track of concerts and events in Singapore, check out Sistic.
If you plan on saving money by taking public transport, get a Singapore Tourist Pass. You will get unlimited rides on buses and trains for each day you pay for, which saves you from the headache of topping-up the card’s value.
Also, BYOB. Booze in Singapore is expensive and if you want to hit the clubs here, buy your booze from duty-free when you land. That being said, it is worth forking out to try the international and microbrewery beer brands available in Singapore. Erdinger and Kronenbourg are widely available on tap, and for microbreweries, try Brewerkz and Paulaner Brauhaus. Singapore also plays host to the annual Beerfest Asia, which usually happens during the summer.
Images taken from Google Images