Day 1 Morning:
Forget Universal Studios. Haw Par Villa is Singapore’s original theme park. Once known as Tiger Balm Gardens, this celebration of all things kitsch was built in the 1930s with Chinese mythology as its theme.
If your favourite part of a fairground is the haunted house or chamber of horrors, you’ll have a ball here in the grisly Ten Courts of Hell.
Sprawling VivoCity is a popular lunchtime pit stop and fairly close to Haw Par Villa. But if you’re not too hungry and ready to move on, venture east to Chinatown – a hub for Singapore street food. Steaming bowls of broth, bobbing with tofu and fish balls are a Smith Street staple. Chinatown Complex Food Centre will give you a fantastic hawker experience. While the say-it-like-it-is dish of fish head curry brings lunching locals to Little India.
Come to Little India for street food – and stay for street art. Singapore has a blossoming scene with lots of vibrant, Instagram-worthy murals around Tekka Market. Another good starting point is Blackbook Studio, a graffiti store and hotspot for local artists. Wander Chinatown or Kampong Glam and you’ll eventually stumble upon some incredible outdoor artworks. If the weather doesn’t play ball, there’s plenty of creativity indoors – in just as edgy spaces. Try the warehouse housing the Singapore Tyler Print Institute and the galleries in the old Gillman army barracks.
Treat your tastebuds to a workout. At Nox, dinner is served in the dark, designed to heighten diners’ sense of taste. Even smartphones are banned, in case you’re tempted to sneak a peek at what you’re eating. Or if you haven’t had your fill of market fare, get a yakitori fix at Singapore’s East Coast Lagoon Food Village that comes alive at night. Bugis Street is another safe bet for satay and souvenir hunters alike.
Not ready for your boutique hotel bed just yet? Slip on your dancing shoes and head south to St James Power Station. It might not sound all that appealing, but this run-down station now fuels the city’s night owls, with trend-setting music and dance floors open until the early hours.
Day 2 Morning:
Providing you didn’t dance until dawn, rise early and escape the urban jungle for the real thing: Pulau Ubin. This eastern island is threaded with cycling routes that run through old rubber plantations, around mangroves and past wooden kampung villages.
Simply rent a bike after hopping off the boat. If you can spare at least half a day here, even better.
After all that pedal power, time to take things down a notch. In Singapore you’ll have your pick of urban spas. But for relaxation with added wow factor, step away from the seen-it-all-before saunas. Both PortaSpa wellness centres are as tech-focussed as they are tranquil – think ‘oxygen therapy’ and ‘ultrasonic bubbles foot massage’. You can also find traditional Japanese onsen in the city, such as Zen-like Ikeda Spa that overflows with eastern charm.
Finish your whirlwind stay in Singapore with style. Restaurant André has been making waves in the Michelin Guide, spearheaded by Taiwanese but Gallic-trained André Chaing. The décor is just as enticing as the menu, with the restaurant housed in a 1930s heritage shop house. If you’re a plan-in-advance traveller, get on the guest list for The Tippling Club. Just don’t eat right beforehand – a waistline-widening 20+ courses await.