Beat’s guide to Singapore

Beat’s guide to Singapore

Supertree Grove, Singapore
Photo: Mike Enerio
Words by Leland Tan

A small metropolis with heaps to offer.

More than 13 times smaller than Melbourne, the island-country of Singapore packs an astonishing punch as a continental heavyweight and worldwide juggernaut. Turning 54-years-old in 2019, the metropolis is revered for its endless summers, unparalleled cultural fusion, five-dollar meals and magnificent beats. Here’s a handy guide to Singapore, the little city that rarely sleeps.

Some spitfire rules to get you started

Just like Japan, Hong Kong, and the sunshine state of California, littering can see you slapped with pocket-emptying fines here. It takes a special kind of douchebag to step into another country and pollute the streets, anyway, so just don’t do it. Smoking cigarettes also comes with a set of rules worth considering before you light up.

To tip or not? It’s totally up to you. While a mandatory service charge is already included in prices and receipts, money is a universal language here, so don’t be shy to share the wealth. Speaking of dough, most hawker centres (you aren’t doing Singapore right without a step into one) do not accept payment by cards, so carry cash when hitting them up.

Choosing your accommodation

The Fullerton Hotel or Marina Bay Sands both offer epic views of the cityscape round the clock and overlook the Singapore River. For those wanting to immerse themselves in the city’s rugged, downtown energy, head to The Scarlet; well nestled in the bustle of Chinatown with local delights and public transport at your literal doorstep. Hop on a bus from jazzy Ann Siang Hill or Keong Saik Road around the CBD’s peripherals, or take the train from Chinatown to Little India for a quick temple visit and spice run.

Getting around

Home to the fastest walkers in the world (6.15km per hour on average, to be precise), the concrete jungle prides itself on manoeuvring from place to place on foot. Its small size means establishments are easily accessible and never further than a pebble’s throw away. Be sure to don your summer get-up and comfortable shoes and hydrate, even when you’re not thirsting – it’s humid and hotter than Satan’s butthole absolutely everywhere. Whilst public transport isn’t pricey, taking in the sights and sounds by foot provides a genuine feel of the city.

Many locals love some good banter with travellers and will unapologetically converse in their lightning-quick sing-songy Singlish (English with a Singaporean twang) while you stare, confused at what the fuck has just been said. Singlish is a first language (Singaporeans are taught Cambridge English in schools) so if you need to, either ask the other party to repeat or slow down what they’ve said to absorb. Don’t worry, you’ll come to love and understand our quirky accents in no time.

For the connoisseur

Beat the heat momentarily with a decade old delight: dollar ice cream from the elusive motorbiking ice cream uncles perched along Orchard Road – if you can catch them before they screech off into sunset. Or grab some locally brewed bevvies and chit-chat with the beer aunties for a taste of that Asian tough love, if you’re so inclined. Avoid the Singapore Sling, though – pit-stop pints of local lager, Tiger, at coffee shops are where it’s truly at. Secret Mermaid, No. 5 Emerald Hill, The Great Escape and Operation Dagger are also top-notch hidden gems that offer a taste of local cocktails and even handcrafted gin by local distillery Brass Lion.

East Coast Lagoon Food Village is a local indie favourite for many, and for good reason. While Lau Pa Sat, Newton Hawker Centre and Maxwell at Outram are the go-to hawkers for tourists and those living in the city, just 20 minutes eastwards to East Coast Park affords a panoramic dining view of the beach, the Singapore Straits and the South China Sea. Watch as the sunset paints the sky redder than a chilli crab while you heartily chow down on satay (meat on skewers) and sambal chilli stingray, coconut in hand.

For those less keen on the beach, check out Annalakshmi for an Indian all-vegetarian menu, Eng’s Wanton Mee on 287 Tanjong Katong, Jaggi’s for its silky-smooth butter chicken, Coconut Club for the East-Asian signature Nasi Lemak, or Kok Sen Restaurant for home-cooked Chinese dishes perfected over decades.

Where to party

Kilo Lounge, Zouk Singapore, Headquarters, and newly opened Marquee are all centrally located and command strong crowds on party nights. International headliners, guest DJs, emo nights and sold out shows every week mean there’s definitely something for everyone.

Absorbing the culture

Located in Singapore’s contemporary art hub Gillman BarracksARNDT Singapore has been owned and run by art dealer Matthias Arndt since 2013. It was formed following the success of sister gallery ARNDT Berlin’s frequent exhibitions in Asia.

Singapore’s rapidly ageing population also holds many tales about its time as a British colony and submission under Japanese rule, for those who are willing to listen. War museums in areas like Changi or Bras Besah are aplenty.

Looking for more Asian travel destinations? Check out Beat’ guide to Shanghai.