When we hear about the Little Red Dot, clean, green and safe are three words that are often used to describe the country. The movie Crazy Rich Asians then put Singapore on the world map the way it’s never been; panoramic scenes of Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, Changi Airport and Chijmes, among other places, only serve to further showcase the island as a thriving, modern and sleek city.
While all that may be true, living in this city is also more than just glitz and glam, with a little hawker fare thrown into the mix. There is plenty of unexpected activities you can experience on this sunny island that is simple, charming and brimming with local flavour. Let’s check out five of them below!
Spend a Day at Pulau Hantu
You could plan a trip to Bintan, Bali or Langkawi to do a spot of snorkelling or diving, or you could go to Pulau Hantu. Pulau Hantu is Malay for Ghost Island. According to legend, ancient Malay warriors fought and died on the island, which is now haunted by their spirits. In truth, the island was actually given its moniker because the middle of the island disappears or is completely submerged whenever it is high tide.
And the island is far from lifeless. It is actually very popular among local diving enthusiast because the water is teeming with ocean life including clownfish, turtles, sea stars and sea horses, bamboo sharks and over 100 coral species. In order to get there, you have to take a ferry for a reasonable fee (or splurge and charter a boat to travel in style).
Spend the day swimming, sailing, snorkelling, fishing or diving. Make sure to pack a picnic and enjoy eating al fresco on this sheltered beach. Fun fact: The island actually consists of two islets, Hantu Besar and Hantu Kecil, which mean Big Ghost and Little Ghost, respectively. Hantu Besar has two lagoons you can swim and a public toilet to boot.
You can even arrange to camp overnight on the island, if that’s your cup of tea. You just need to apply for a permit from Sentosa.
Peek into Hell at Haw Par Villa
When you are done seeking thrills on the amazing fun rides at Universal Studios over at Sentosa, hope back over to the mainland for thrills of a different kind.
Opened since 1937, Haw Par Villa is a bizarre but fascinating theme park that features stories of Chinese mythology and history through colourful statues and sculptures. It is most known for the Ten Courts of Hell depicting sinning humans being punished in graphic detail. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a unique cultural experience like no other.
For that extra spook factor, you can register for the Journeys to Hell Twilight tour, which happens at night. They promise that after the tour, you will not see death and life in the same way again!
Makan with the Orangutans
Many say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I think the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo might agree.
The ‘open concept’ zoo houses more than 2,500 animals. While we know that visiting the zoo isn’t something terribly unexpected, having breakfast with a family of orangutans certainly is! This award-winning dining experience happens at the terrace of Ah Meng Restaurant (the adorable apes make an appearance between 9.30am and 10am) and involves a delicious buffet spread for the humans; rest assured the friendly orangutans will be eating their grub too. Remember to bring your camera!
If dining with the orangutans is a must-do on your visit to the zoo, do note that there is limited seating and bookings should be done prior to your visit to ensure your place.
Nothing Cookie Cutter at Haji Lane
The original hipster street is located in the Bras Basah–Bugis area, within the Kampong Glam heritage trail. It is a wonderful hidden gem tucked away from all the usual hustle and bustle.
This one narrow lane is alive with indie energy, a place to go for interesting and unique items and vintage wares you will not find in one of the many malls spread all over the island. Admire the gorgeous street art that dress up the walls while indulging in delicious snacks, ice-cream and coffees on offer from any one of charming eateries along the street.
The shops close in the late afternoon and then the restaurants are open for business; a great place for a night out with friends.
Immerse in Peranakan Culture
Book a visit to The Intan, a private Peranakan home/museum located on Joo Chiat Terrace. The Tea Tour covers Peranakan culture and history, where you’ll learn in particular about what a traditional Peranakan wedding ceremony entails.
Admire embroidery and intricate beadwork handmade by Nonya women and check out a broad collection of gems, artefacts and antiques that have been collected over the years. You can also book a lunch or dinner tour and enjoy traditional Peranakan food and desserts or kuehs.