Ask any locals on what to do and where to go in Singapore and you are likely to hear suggestions about eating the famous Katong Laksa, getting the skyline view atop Marina Bay Sands, check out the animals in the Singapore Zoo or take a walk through the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Singapore Botanic Gardens. Indeed, they are Singapore’s pride and joy not just in the local scene but also on the world stage. Oh, and did we mention the hawker centres with their affordable yet delicious fare, along with a few Michelin-starred hawker stalls?
Whether you are an adventurous globetrotter with an appetite for things beyond shopping and sightseeing in the city or someone looking to settle down in this nation and is curious to know how to enjoy things like locals born and bred here, you’ll be stoked to know there is more to Singapore than these. Whatever that may be, we have got a list of things to do and sights to see that are not commonly found on mainstream travel or living guides. If you want to live like the locals, you got to listen to the locals.
Kayak Through a Tropical Mangrove Swamp
Move from the city jungle to a real mangrove swamp. Hop into a kayak and explore relatively untouched natural sanctuaries in Khatib Bongsu in the North or off mainland Singapore in Pulau Ubin, an island in the East. The kayak through the meandering swamp rivers past mangroves gives you a chance to understand and appreciate wildlife that inhabits the island, from the big lizards and monkeys to exotic birds and if you are lucky, a wild dugong!
The Istana’s Open House
Surrounded by a tall fence with its gates guarded by armed soldiers and police officers is the Istana. Meaning “The Palace” in Malay, the 150-year-old Istana is the official office and residence of the President of the Republic of Singapore that also receives and entertains state guests. It is also the office of the Prime Minister. Five times a year, the Istana grounds are open to the public to enjoy its well-kept gardens and British colonial-era architecture. While entering the Istana grounds is free, there is a $2 charge for entry into the main building. For those looking for more than just photo moments, there is a guided walk of the Istana gardens and main building!
Check Out Our Own Fishery Port
While not an exact replica or a fishery port of the same scale (pun not intended), the Senoko Fishery Port is where some of Singapore’s freshest fish can be found. Whether they are overly-enthusiastic home cooks, restaurant chefs and owners or seafood merchants, the port bustles with activity in the wee hours of the morning with people jousting for the best catch at the best price. Because the fish comes directly from the supply line, the prices are much lower as compared to elsewhere.
Dine While Cruising Down the Singapore River
What better way to celebrate a special occasion than to dine on a boat floating down Singapore’s longest and most iconic river? While there are many boats that cruise along the river, Float @ The Bay is not quite the usual nor is it some rustic sampan, but it is actually a classy and elegant small cruise that serves a premium four-course dinner aboard. Moreover, you can settle for some after-dinner drinks at their onboard bar while the city lights surround you.
Fishing Getaways without Going Away
While Singapore is a crowded little island with nary a spot to properly fish at, “kelongs”, the Malay word for fish farms, should be your choice spots for the best catch. Take a rustic bumboat ride to the 5000 square-feet Smith Marine, a unique floating restaurant off Pulau Ubin. You will be provided with a fishing rod and some bait to catch your fish, which you can ask the restaurant to cook your dinner with, or just take it home if you have better recipes.
Eat In Secret
For an insider’s scoop into dining scenes away from prying eyes, enjoy scrumptious and restaurant-grade Bengali cuisine and feel just like home at Khana Commune, a not-so-secret-anymore secret dining room that hosts supper clubs. Book a table for up to 18 people at a time and enjoy a different menu every dinner!
Lift Off on a Water Jetpack at Sentosa
Yes, we know Sentosa is not a non-mainstream destination. But a water jetpack is surely a non-mainstream activity! Ola Beach Club on Sentosa’s Siloso Beach not only offers good food and drinks by the beach, but they offer a holistic watersports lineup that includes stand-up paddle boards, banana boats, kayaking and the crazy water jetpack! Strap on to some “otherworldly” contraption that sends you up the air using just water jet pressure like Buzz Lightyear and Ironman.
Climb Rocks at Dairy Farm
No, Dairy Farm is neither a farm nor does it have cows. Instead, this corner of Singapore is known for its rock faces that make you feel like you are not in Singapore. But what’s more is that the rock faces in this nature reserve, which was once a quarry, has rock-climbing activities available! If indoor artificial rock-climbing does not jive with you, then its regularly-maintained outdoor climbing area with bolted climbing facilities and clear climbing routes is for you. If you are a beginner, sign up with the veterans of the Dairy Farm Climbing group who can provide you with courses and equipment rental services.