Living Like a Local in Singapore
Singapore doesn’t have a soul, many travellers often claim – but they couldn’t be more wrong. The island city-state boasts a rich heritage and a diverse culture; one only needs to find the right places to experience them.
Hospitality owner and operator Far East Hospitality has recognized the immense potential of Singapore’s one-of-a-kind culture and melting pot of different ethnicities, mostly evident in the city’s flavorful culinary scene and eye-catching architecture.
To offer their guests a unique Singapore experience during their stay, Far East Hospitality’s Village Hotels and Residences have created a wide range of new activities that allows travellers to discover that Singapore has more to offer than its countless shops and stores on Orchard Road.
“We want to showcase a different side of Singapore, one which is more authentic,” said Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality. “We are trying to encourage tourists from the region, including Indonesia, to come here for the weekend and enjoy these special tours we have created.” He added that in 2016, there has been an increase of Indonesian visitors to Singapore, amounting to 2.2 million. “That’s a very big number, and Indonesia is an important market for us,” he said.
The Live Like a Local tour brings hotel guests to the vibrant Little India neighborhood, where they are greeted by a tapestry of smells, colours and sounds. A guide leads them to the Little India Arcade where they can look for traditional delicacies, fabrics and even adorn their hands with henna art. Of course, besides the Little India Arcade, there is always the infamous Mustafa Centre to go to for a bargain and late-night shopping: people say that there is literally nothing that you can’t buy here. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, located at the busy Serangoon Road, is one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples. Built in 1855 with an eye-catching classic Dravidian architecture displaying numerous status of deities , it remains to this day a hub for social and cultural activities of the Indian community.
A visit to Little India should most certainly include lunch or dinner. The Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant is famous for its tangy fish head curry, a dish that even celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is enamored with. Another area to explore will also have a chance to take a leisurely stroll through Kampong Glam, Singapore’s most thriving and happening neighborhood, with a plethora of quirky cafes and restaurants, unique boutiques and shops, most of which can be found on Haji Lane, Bugis Street and Bussorah Street.
The Malay Heritage Centre traces the history and culture of Singapore Malays as well as their valuable contribution towards nation-building. Built by Sultan Ali some 160 years ago, the former palace now houses permanent and temporary exhibitions that include artefacts, murals and multimedia displays in nine different galleries. Another landmark not to be missed is the impressive Sultan Mosque. Though the current building with its massive golden dome was constructed in the late 1920s, the history of the mosque dates back to the early part of the 19th century when it was first established by the Sultan who wanted to have a mosque near his residence at Kampong Glam. With the growing Muslim population, however, the mosque soon became too small and therefore, the present building was commissioned. The main prayer hall can hold up to 5000 worshippers. In the evening, the “Makan Bus” (Food Bus) takes guests to Geylang in the eastern part of Singapore to sample a local delicacy: frog leg porridge. For some, eating frog legs may be too challenging, while it actually tastes like chicken. Those who can’t bear the thought of eating frogs can of course order perfectly “normal” dishes.
The “Makan Bus” then continues to a lively Hawker Centre, open-air complexes around the city where locals gather for breakfast, lunch and dinner for inexpensive meals at one of the many food stalls whipping up delicious food - one doesn’t need more than S$10 for a three-course meal and a drink to go with it. Live like a Local tours are on offer at Far East Hospitality’s Village Hotel Albert Court, which is conveniently located between the Straits Chinese enclave of Bugis and Little India, and Village Bugis Hotel, where you have Singapore’s famous Kampong Glam and Arab Street literally at your doorstep.
This article was first published in the January 2017 issue of NOW! Jakarta magazine.