Your Finnair Guide: Unforgettable experiences in Singapore
Beyond the skyscrapers and bustling shopping streets, there are a plethora of sights and activities in Singapore that will make you fall in love even more with the Lion City. Jennifer Elizabeth, a Product Manager at Finnair, will take you to her favourite spots that showcase Singapore’s rich cultural heritage, diverse cuisine and pockets of enthralling nature.
Explore Keong Saik – a neighbourhood where traditional meets modern
Situated a stone’s throw away from Chinatown, the hip neighbourhood of Keong Saik is where you can witness a seamless medley of the traditional and modern aspect of Singapore’s cultural heritage. Once a red-light district, today it presents rows of conserved shophouses, which are homes to local eateries, hip bars and world-class restaurants.
As you enter the neighbourhood, you will be captivated by the stark contrast of traditional shophouses against a backdrop of Central Business District’s skyscrapers. You also do not want to miss beautiful street art in the alleyways and street corners. See if you can spot them.
From Michelin-starred restaurants, rooftop bars, bakeries and cafes, you can find countless culinary options and hang out spots in the area. However, you do not want to miss Kok Sen Restaurant, a Singapore Michelin Bib Gourmand zi char, which refers to home-style Chinese dishes cooked to order and eaten communally. The concept is to order a few dishes to be shared with your friends or family at the table.
Visit a kopitiam – eat breakfast like a local
The word kopitiam, which means coffee shop, reflects the diverse culture of Singapore: kopi is a Malay term for coffee and tiam a Hokkien term for shop. Breakfast at a kopitiam is one of the authentic ways to experience a slice of the local Singaporean lifestyle. Aside from being a place for people to eat and drink, you will see a sight of locals chit chatting or reading their newspaper in the morning.
You can easily find kopitiams in every neighbourhood in Singapore, from the traditional ones in open-air food courts (or hawker centres) to the modern ones in air-conditioned shops and shopping malls. However, if it’s your first time visiting a kopitiam, you might want to get the full experience at a traditional one, such as Tong Ah Eating House, which is located in the Keong Saik neighbourhood.
The locals would usually order the traditional kaya toast along with soft-boiled egg that is usually seasoned with dark soy sauce and white pepper. When it comes to the beverages, you might want to familiarise yourself with the kopitiam lingo such as kopi o kosong which means unsweetened black coffee or kopi c which means coffee with sugar and evaporated milk among others.
Discover Katong and Joo Chiat – immerse yourself in Peranakan culture and architecture
Characterised by the melding of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian traditions, the Peranakan culture is a substantial part of Singapore’s rich cultural heritage. Head to Singapore’s first heritage town of Katong and Joo Chiat, both located in proximity of each other that give you a complete sensory experience of Peranakan culture.
Stroll along to the picturesque Koon Seng Road to enjoy (and take a snap or two of) the view of revived Peranakan shophouses with colourful facades and traditional ceramic tiles. You can continue walking around Joo Chiat Road to discover many more conserved Peranakan shophouses and eye-catching street art along the way.
Towards the end of Joo Chiat road, you will find East Coast road where Rumah Bebe, a Peranakan heritage boutique is situated. Upon entering the shop, you will see colourful displays of beadwork, Nyonya kebayas (traditional Peranakan outfit) and porcelains while traditional music plays in the background. Feeling crafty? You can also take beading classes here to experience making the traditional handicrafts of Peranakan women. To conclude your adventure, enjoy their daily specials of Peranakan delicacies such as kueh bingka and pineapple tarts.
Enjoy Singapore Botanic Gardens in your own way – a quick escape from the city scene
Despite being known for its skyscrapers, Singapore aims to be a ‘City in Nature’ and you can easily spot gardens and parks, as well as other greeneries incorporated into its urban landscape even around the busy Central Business District. One of the gardens that is in proximity of the bustling shopping street of Orchard Road is Singapore Botanic Gardens, the only tropical garden that belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is so much to explore and see in the Gardens and various ways to spend your time there, from having a picnic near Symphony Lake (if you’re lucky, you might even catch a musical performance there), jogging, or just casually strolling around the different gardens to your liking. You can easily spend hours exploring the various parts of the Gardens or if you do not have much time on your hands, make sure to visit the National Orchid Garden, which boasts the world’s largest orchid display of over 1,000 species.
Get a dose of vitamin sea at East Coast Park – the park that has “Recreation for All”
Head to East Coast Park to enjoy some outdoor activities accompanied by a scenic coastline view. With the theme “Recreation for All”, the park has an activity for everyone. You can relax by the beach and then rent a bike and cycle along a 15-kilometre stretch of beach and even cycle all the way to the renowned Gardens by the Bay!
In the mood for an exhilarating water adventure? You can try wakeboarding at the Singapore Wake Park to experience all the fun. If you are feeling peckish after all the activities, having some local delicacies at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village will be a perfect way to end your day.
Singapore as your gateway to Southeast Asia
Aside from the exciting spots and rich cultural heritage, Singapore is also a great connection point to explore other countries within Southeast Asia. Your trip can be the starting point of your Southeast Asia adventure!
Your Finnair Guide series showcases different Finnair destinations through the eyes of Finnairians. Join us to discover unique and not-so-obvious areas, places, sights and experiences that are worth a visit – those that locals also enjoy.