The meeting’s over. You’ve got a little time to explore. It’s your chance to get out of that hotel room, get off the beaten path, and experience the culture, the flavor, and the people.
Walking through Singapore, you’ll hear four official languages (English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil), and one unofficial patois known as “Singlish”. You’ll smell the delicious aroma of some of the best food in Asia. And you can travel between the 63 islands that make up the Lion City. What you can’t do is spit, litter, chew gum, or jaywalk in one of the world’s cleanest and most orderly cities – they’re all illegal and punishable with fines.
We’ve pulled together some unique activities and places in Singapore, the ones most travelers don’t have a chance to experience. Next time you’re in town with a few free hours, check out our list and go home with your best stories ever.
* Visit the home of Tiger Balm.
The Haw Par Mansion and its private gardens are a fantastic mythological theme park, built by in 1937 by the developer of that super-strong muscle rub, Tiger Balm. The gardens are populated with more than a thousand statues and dozens of large dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese folklore and Confucian themes, including the truly gruesome Ten Courts of Hell, set into the 60-meter-long tail of a dragon.
* Gift shop at a family-owned workshop.
Bring back presents they’ll never forget from this little shop, where the Yeo family handcrafts effigies and paper accessories for Buddhist and Taoist funerals. For three generations, they’ve been turning out auspicious paper creations that make perfect gifts. You’ll find them at 15 Upper Circular Road – and this is one place that superstitious locals definitely avoid.
* Chow down in a hawker center.
Eat like the locals do at a hawker center, which is a grouping of open-air food stalls. They’re not hard to find, but we recommend the Maxwell Road Hawker Center in the heart of Chinatown. At its over 100 stalls, you can munch on everything from dumplings and chilli crab to finger foods like oyster fritters and bean balls – a complete lunch for two with dessert and drinks for under $10.
* Go for the birds.
The Jurong Bird Park is home to more than 8,000 birds and the world’s largest walk-in aviary – a great place to take a morning stroll in a beautiful, natural setting, too. Walk the trails to an African waterfall that’s 30 meters high, a South American rainforest, the Lory Loft, and the world’s first nocturnal bird house.
* Relax with a Singapore Sling at Raffles.
The world’s first Singapore Sling was first concocted in 1915 at the Long Bar of the famed Raffles Hotel. Invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, the gin-based treat is still served at Raffles, and though the price tag is high ($24), it’s worth it to sink back into the cane and bamboo chairs under palm ceiling fans, and enjoy this classic tropical drink. Ask the bartender to make you the shaken version.
Photo attribution: sirexkat