The reason for this post: a tourist asked me recently, ‘do you have any recommendations for Singapore; we want to do what a local does…”
I was… erm.. rather stumped by the question and my answer was “gardens by the bay“. The truth is locals don’t really go there unless they are bringing their tourist friends or during special events. Maybe we do go to the botanical gardens to jog but not to the orchid gardens like a tourist.
In addition, recently Time Out pronounced Singapore as “the worst rated city” for culture, and the worst for drinking apart from Dubai. I disagree of course!
Hence, after some research, I have compiled these 6 activities. ( it will be rather unfair to use my own experience, I do visit Gardens by the Bay and I took a Singapore river cruise before, which 99.999999% of population will never do in their lifetime.)
1. Go to a Hawker Centre
I know, the term is such an oxymoron.
There are like hundreds of this around in Singapore and these are probably where you can find the tastiest food.
At a hawker Centre, you get to taste all types of food at really low price. It is also where you can find the World’s cheapest Michelin Star food (at Smith Street’s hawker Centre). Here are some of the famous hawker centres which are closer to the city area:
- Hong Lim food Centre
- Smith Street (in a building on 2nd level, not to be confused with a touristy one near it.)
- Tiong Bahru market
- Amoy Street market
- Maxwell Food Centre
other recommended ones:
- Whampoa Food Centre
- Pek Kio market
But be warned, there is no air-con and the food are so cheap, that you may think it is a scam. (It’s NOT!)
You may be able to cover most of the touristy sights in a week, you won’t be able to finish eating all Singapore-style food in 3 weeks.
2. Enjoy a local style breakfast
There are lots of cafes like Toastbox, Wangz Cafe, Killiney Cafe and Yakun which is present in most malls and serve this.
Singaporeans like to eat toasted bread spread with kaya (a pandan jam; pandan is a scented leaf found in this part of the world) and butter as well as half boiled eggs (think poached eggs but only rawer.)
3. Eat durians
This horny pungent fruit is not the weak hearted but it is an experience which you will never forget!
My suggestion is to go for the cheapest one if this is your first time because you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway! 😱
Eat them fresh by buying from stalls which opens the fruit on the spot (vs those already opened and placed in takeaway containers). It is the experience that counts!
4. Go for supper.
Ok, if you suspect the whole post is about food…. yes, that’s all Singaporeans do!
The most popular supper is prata, which is an Indian pancake served with curry sauce.
This comes in all kinds of favours from the more common savory types like cheese and egg to the exotic like milo and banana. You should also order the tissue prata which is very instagram worthy.
I suggest ordering a Teh Tarik which is milk tea or Teh Halia, their ginger milk tea. This special tea is ‘aerated’ by pouring through the air.
Most of the time, the preparation is done in the kitchen; but if you have a chance, ask the waiter if you can take a look on how this is prepared, you have winner on Instagram!
5. Watch a movie
I had to defend my same kind by having some activities which is not about food!
I can hear you saying: boring…. but that’s what locals do! Singapore has one of the cheapest movie tickets among 1st world countries; especially if you know the promotion to go for. The cheapest is probably like 1-for-1 tickets so one ticket costs less than $5(US$3.50)!
6. Visit a HDB flat
65-70% of Singaporeans stay in HDB flats which are government subsidized flats.
Unfortunately Airbnb is illegal in Singapore so you technically cannot stay in one. So to visit, you will need a friend who stays in one or get a ticket for Singapore International Festival of Art’s Open Homes.
Some of more interesting features include:
- Residents hang their laundry outside making it quite a scene to behold.
- Void deck at the ground floor of these buildings. Residents can have weddings, funerals and parties (usually not at the same time😜) at this open area. This is built so residents can interact and hang out. Some even have provision shops affectionately called “mama shop”.
- some blocks have an underground shelter used during an emergency. During peace time, these are used as shops, childcare, etc.
- rubbish chutes – living in these flat means you don’t need to go downstairs to throw your rubbish!! Some chutes are located in the house, some along the corridor.
Singapore is more interesting than you think if you are willing step out of your comfort zone and try some local stuff.
In my next post, I’ll recommend some quirky things from the beaten track to do in Singapore.