Thursday, 6 August 2020

13 secret spots in Singapore that will surprise you

SMITH MARINE FLOATING KELONG RESTAURANT
Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant

1. Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant

For a fresh seafood dinner out at sea, book your table (and a 10-minute return bumboat ride) at Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant. A short stroll on the decks of this modern kelong (aquaculture farm) located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore lets you see how flower crabs, lobsters, sea bass, grouper and other seafood are farmed. You can even try fishing for your own dinner; the chefs will cook up your catch in a variety of styles. As the sun goes down, enjoy the sea breeze as you tuck into garlic lobster, sambal (chilli paste) mussels, steamed squid and of course, Singapore’s signature chilli crab.

Nearest MRT station: Tanah Merah

SOEK SENG 1954 BICYCLE CAFE
Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe

2. Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe

A little-known cafe out in lifestyle enclave Seletar Aerospace View in north-eastern Singapore, Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe serves up uncomplicated yet satisfying fare. Popular choices include the katsu don, Japanese rice in a piping hot stone bowl topped with slices of chicken, caramelised onions and runny egg; and the hearty double cheese chicken burger. The cafe also beckons hipsters looking for their next Instagram photoshoot location, teams of motorcycle cruisers making a pit-stop, and those with a penchant for vintage vehicles – pieces from the owner’s personal collection are displayed here. The biggest draw, however, is dining alfresco and watching private planes take off and land on the runways of the neighbouring Seletar Airport.

Nearest LRT station: Thanggam (from Sengkang MRT station)

3. Raintr33 Hotel

If you’re looking for a lush, peaceful spot in Singapore to have a family staycation, this boutique hotel housed in beautifully restored former colonial military buildings in quiet Changi is our pick. Its guest rooms feature bathrooms with lovely rainshowers and private balconies looking out onto greenery. All the charming details you’d find in an elegant British bungalow in Singapore circa 1930 – like blinds, rattan chairs and shutters – are included (with fresh updates, of course), so being here is like a sojourn into another era. There’s also a bar-bistro with seats spread out on a verandah – perfect for mid-afternoon mimosas. The hotel sits near the peaceful Changi Chapel and Museum and underrated Changi Beach Park, in case you want to have a stroll.

Nearest MRT station: Tanah Merah

PARKVIEW MUSEUM SHARK EXHIBITION
Parkview Museum’s Shark Exhibition

4. The Parkview Museum

Occupying 1,400 sq m on the third floor of the iconic Art Deco-style Parkview Square just two blocks from Bugis MRT station, The Parkview Museum is a private gallery showcasing contemporary art. One of the most striking features of the column-free expanse is its six-metre-high ceiling; the cavernous space currently holds the museum’s maiden exhibition entitled On Sharks and Humanity (till September 9). More than 30 thought-provoking artworks – some almost reaching the ceiling – highlight the importance of ocean conservation. The free exhibit is open to the public daily.

Nearest MRT station: Bugis

Bollywood Veggies
A sign at Bollywood Veggies

5. Bollywood Veggies

Occupying a sizeable plot of land in the sprawling Kranji Countryside is the organic farm bearing pineapples, bananas, starfruit, eggplants and more. Tour the farm, learn about local culinary history at the Food Museum, then tuck into a delicious meal featuring fresh produce at the fabulous farm-to-table Poison Ivy bistro. Don’t miss the Jackfruit Lemak stew, which features chunks of sweet fruit immersed in creamy coconut gravy. You can also learn how to whip up tantalising local dishes at the on-site cooking school.

Nearest MRT station: Kranji

Watch a video of what goes on at the Kranji countryside at the weekends…

6. Deck

Stacked together like Lego bricks in the middle of the city are 19 shipping containers housing three galleries – including a new one called the Print Room – an artist’s studio and more. Drop by to check out works by local shutterbugs, peruse photography tomes for inspiration at its library, or kick back with a cuppa at an undeniably hip cafe. Keep an eye out for a line-up of exhibitions and events held there.

Nearest MRT stations: Rochor, Dhoby Ghaut

7. Bincho @ Hua Bee

Oh, the joy of contradictions. By day, bowls of bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) are tossed up in this 70-year-old kopitiam (coffee shop). It happens to be where local indie movie Mee Pok Man was shot. At night, the modest little space in the hipster Tiong Bahru neighbourhood is transformed into an ultra-cool yakitori (grilled skewers) bar. Another surprise awaits in the back of the premises: a fashionably frowzy, dimly-lit cocktail bar that resembles an underground bunker.

Nearest MRT station: Tiong Bahru

PEARL'S HILL CITY PARK
The tranquil oasis of Pearl’s Hill City Park

8. Pearl’s Hill City Park

Just behind the hustle and bustle of the Chinatown district lies this nine-hectare belt of greenery perched atop a 45m-tall knoll. Visitors must climb flights of stairs to get to the summit, where they’ll find the tranquil oasis of Pearl’s Hill Reservoir. This fortress-like structure was built in 1898 to supply drinking water to Chinatown, which it still does today. Along the way, relax under the shade of mature tembusu trees and breathe in the sweet perfume from the pink and white blooms of frangipani trees. On your way back down toward Eu Tong Sen Street, a little exploring will uncover more relics from colonial times – like a cannon sitting alongside a five-storey blue building. This is one of a pair of Neo-Classical-style conservation buildings built in 1935 – the Upper and Lower Barracks that once housed the Straits Settlements Police’s Sikh contingent.

Nearest MRT station: Outram Park

9. Wessex Estate

Once home to British officers, this elegant enclave of black-and-white colonial buildings is where a community of local artists now live, muse and create. You can tour their studios  at the annual ArtWalk @ Wessex or make appointments with individual artists to have a gander around their workspaces at other times. Check out Dick Lim’s detailed works on canvas at d’Art Studio and Joyce Loo’s clay sculptures at JoyClay Studio & Gallery.

Nearest MRT station: Commonwealth

GARDENASIA SINGAPORE VILLA
Gardenasia’s villas

10. Gardenasia

A surprising sanctuary ensconced in the Kranji Countryside, Gardenasia comprises a farm, bistro and remodelled black-and-white British colonial villas spread over two hectares of picture-perfect greenery. A relaxing farmstay at one of the English-, oriental- or contemporary-style villas lets you step back in time, with their classic carved wooden furniture and exposed timber roof beams. Rustic at first glance, the interiors are fitted with luxurious marble-tiled bathrooms and modern audio-visual systems. Wander amid herb gardens and fruit trees, before tucking into dishes created with freshly harvested ingredients at Bistro by Gardenasia. Try their pan-roasted lamb to accompany salad with ingredients of your choice, washed down with farm-fresh roselle or cactus drinks.

Nearest MRT station: Kranji

11. Lloyd’s Inn

There’s a chic hidden oasis in a residential area just a stone’s throw from the bustling Orchard strip. With 34 minimalistic rooms attached to semi-outdoor bathrooms, this boutique hotel, which also has a dipping pool and a garden patio, has a distinct resort-like atmosphere. Its exposed concrete body lends the whole place a raw, organic vibe.

Nearest MRT station: Somerset

Ann Siang Hill Park
A narrow passage at Ann Siang Hill Park

12. Ann Siang Hill Park

The ever-hip Ann Siang area is known for its cool bars and eateries tucked inside heritage shophouses, but not many people have ambled through Ann Siang Hill Park. The lush trail begins at Telok Ayer Green and ends at Club Street, passing by historic landmarks such as Thian Hock Keng temple. Try to spot yellow rain, nutmeg and cinnamon trees along the meandering path.

Nearest MRT station: Telok Ayer

13. Kampong Lorong Buang Kok

For a taste of life as it was in the ’60s (before the advent of multi-storey carparks and air-conditioned malls), head to Singapore’s last surviving kampung (village). Located off Gerald Drive in Yio Chu Kang, some 20 families live in this sleepy hamlet of zinc-roofed houses connected by dirt paths. Here, chickens roam freely amid gardens lined with chilli, lime and hibiscus plants. Pay a small token to visit some of the rustic homes.

Nearest MRT station: Serangoon

Get ready to explore Singapore on your next holiday with these useful tips

– TEXT BY CARA YAP & MANDY LIM BEITLER

PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, THE PARKVIEW MUSEUM, SOEK SENG 1954 BICYCLE CAFE, GARDENASIA, NPARKS

This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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