It’s no secret, Singapore is a Dionysian food orgy; a city-state intent on satisfying every Eastern-food fantasy and hunger fetish. The perfectly manicured streets are littered with restaurants and hawker markets, that sell everything from fish head curry, to oyster omelette, to Middle Eastern coffee. Couturing has even compiled a list of Singapore’s Top 5 Need to Try Dishes.
But once you’ve eaten your own body weight in mee goreng, what then? I admit that this is when I start to fall a little out of love with Singapore, when I can’t help but wanting to find things that are a bit more cultural. So, dear reader, I’ve compiled a list of ways for you to spend your money and nourish your brain in Singapore, without feeling like a cog in this well-oiled fiscal machine.
If you’ve had enough of the expanse of the famous Orchard Road filled with malls and chain stores and want something a bit different, head to trendy areas like Tiong Bahru and Haji Lane. These outdoor shopping precincts are set amongst traditional pre-war buildings and relish creativity, craftsmanship and style.
Strangelets: Sells quirky and handcrafted gifts, jewellery and pottery. 7 Yong Siak Street.
Soon Lee: Womens’ fashion store that stocks some of Asia’s best and most contemporary designers. 73 Haji Lane.
Hounds of Baskervilles: The hippest barber in town. 24 Bali Lane.
Arts and Culture
Over a cup of matcha tea, I met with the editor of one of Singapore’s preeminent literary journals, and rather despondently he told me that, “Singapore is a very wealthy country that reveres money and status, and unfortunately the arts’ industry is very poor.” Despite the editor’s sober remarks, I did manage to find a couple of exciting creative hubs that are fostering something deeper than mergers and acquisitions.
Singapore Art Museum: This was the first art museum in Singapore and was established in 1996. Today it showcases contemporary work from around Singapore and South-East Asia. I visited during the After Utopia exhibition, which explored the phantasmal nature of idealised society. It was a refreshingly political exhibition for a city-state known for it’s censorship – or as it’s referred to in Singapore, as ‘out-of-bounds discussion’. 71 Bras Basah Road.
Books Actually: A beautiful bookstore that specialises in fiction and literature. It even has its own publishing house, Math Paper Press, and resident cats. 9 Yong Siak Street
If you have an appetite for the less refined, something a little grungy and even a touch sleazy, travel east to Geylang. This red-light district, steeped in history, is home to some of the cities best eateries, bars and clubs.
The Tuckshop: A contemporary English-style pub that serves craft beers from around the world. 403 Guillemard Road.
Eminent Frog Porridge: Choose a live bullfrog from a glass cage and enjoy it in a hearty porridge. 323 Geylang Road.
Kustoms 7 Tattoos: A tattoo parlour that specialises in custom designed artwork. 440 Joo Chiat Place.