Barnabé Monnot

Year 4 PhD candidate in Singapore, research in algorithmic game theory and large systems with a data-driven approach.

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Random walks in Singapore

After four years of roaming around Singapore, I have collected a few addresses by neighbourhoods. I suggest you put markers on Google Maps for all these points, to see how they can be made into walks and where to stop to eat. Each neighbourhood is usually accessible by MRT and a lot of them are in the same area, so can easily be walked from one to the other.

It is often found online and in tour guides that Singapore is great for a 3 day trip. I don’t disagree with that statement necessarily, but it is great for a 4 day trip too. And a 5 day trip. And a 6 day… well you know where this is going. I honestly think, if you like to walk and see some nature and some cityscape, that you can spend a week and be continually busy with neighbourhoods and parks that are varied and unique in their own rights. So here are the places you can see depending on how much time you have:

  • 1 day: Marina Bay, City Hall, Chinatown, Botanic Gardens
  • 2 days: + Bugis, Little India, Orchard
  • 3 days: + Telok Ayer (especially Pinnacle viewpoint), ECP
  • 4 days: + MacRitchie, Clarke Quay
  • 5 days: + Katong, West Coast Park
  • 6 days: + Kranji, Pulau Ubin
  • 7 days: + Tiong Bahru, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Legend

  • S: Around $10 pp
  • SS: Between $10 and $20 pp
  • SSS: Around $30 pp

Hints

  • You will need an EZLink card to go around. You can buy one for $5 at the airport MRT station and top up when needed. Public transports are cheap.
  • The only (currently) ride-hailing company is Grab. You can sign up here.
  • In Singapore, level 1 = ground floor (or rez-de-chaussée). Confusing at first but remember it as I use this convention for my notes here.
  • Hawker centres are spaces where you have tons of different small restaurants, which typically prepare only a few different dishes each. They are very cheap and some have great food (even Michelin-recommended ones). So everyone can find a food they like and bring it back to the table, which are in the middle between all the different stalls.

Katong walk (my area!)

I am putting this walk first because it is not often found in guides and I like to go around my own neighbourhood! But beyond that, there are actually lots to see there, including some Peranakan heritage houses, food and goodies.

  • Start: Paya Lebar MRT
  • Geylang Serai Community Centre (CC) / Geylang Serai food centre: The CC just opened, designed to look like typical Indonesian architecture. Right next to it is the Geylang Serai food centre, on the second floor, to start the day with a nice kopi or teh.
  • Joo Chiat Road: Walk down the road with shophouses and Vietnamese restaurants.
  • Koon Seng Rd: Colourful shophouses
  • East Coast Rd: Restaurants and cafés. Gift idea!! Check out Kim Choo, in two shophouses along the road, with lots of Peranakan goodies and food. You can take for yourself the little pandan kueh which are delicious.

Places to eat

  • Guan Hoe Soon: Typical peranakan food fare (SS)
  • Makisan: Quick maki fix (S)
  • Sandwich Saigon: Good viet place (SS)
  • Heavenly Wang (on East Coast Rd): Good tea and toast for a breakfast in a pretty space (S)
  • Chin Mee Chin Confectionary: Great breakfast place for kopi/teh and kaya toast (S)
  • Birds of Paradise: Best ice cream in town, with thyme-scented cones and natural flavours (like lychee raspberry or white chrisanteum, perfect for hot days!) (S)

Marina Bay

  • Start: Bayfront MRT
  • Walk out to the Gardens by the Bay, visit the Flower dome and Cloud forest (SS) and the super trees in the park. Great point of views to see Marina Bay Sands (MBS)
  • Walk back to MBS, big mall. Some people like to go to Celavi to catch the view from there, but it’s grossly overpriced. You can pretend you are going up for a drink, enjoy the view, and go down before the waiter catches you though.
  • Optional, if an exhibition is interesting for you: Art & Science Museum (https://www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html) (SS). It is somehow prettier from the outside than from the inside, where the galleries could have used the odd shapes of the lotus-like building but don’t really.
  • Walk above the helix bridge to join the other side towards Esplanade (“the Durians”: concert and theatre halls).
  • Keep walking around the bay to see the Merlion (tourist 100%) and the Fullerton hotel.

Places to eat

  • Din Tai Fung (inside MBS mall, B1): Mindblowing chinese food, some of the best in town (SS)
  • Satay by the Bay: Hawker centre inside Gardens by the Bay, food is not great but good point for some refreshments (S)
  • Lau Pa Sat: Old market transformed in food court, past Fullerton inside the city centre, nice spot though the food is variable, but all tastes are there (Indian, Chinese, Western, Korean, Japanese…) (S)

East Coast Park (ECP): Bicycle day!

East Coast Park is a 10km coastal park that connects basically from the airport to the city centre (Gardens by the Bay). It has a long bicycle path which is amazingly pretty to cycle on, right by the ocean.

  • Start: Go Cycle (https://goo.gl/maps/P3iKWMjqd4J2) or 1-2 Cycle (https://goo.gl/maps/TADPboq9rAQ2) to rent a bicycle. You can also start from any entry point in the park and look for one of the floating bicycles, e.g. Mobike or Ofo.
  • Once you have the bike, go East to the East Coast Lagoon food centre (https://goo.gl/maps/Q6vMtspFTjy), which has great seafood and local fare (e.g. sambal stingray (spicy!), bee hoon (noodle with dried fish and vegetables) or popiah (crepe roll with peanuts, delicious!) and sugar cane juice).
  • Go West towards the city centre to connect to Marina Barrage, which is in Gardens by The Bay and has a great viewpoint on the city (if you climb upstairs).
  • Total time: around 4 hours? Recommended to do in the morning to avoid the hot afternoons. Can do e.g. bicycle in ECP in the morning, come back to 1-2 cycle and start on the Katong walk with an ice cream in Birds of Paradise (very close to the cycle rental place).

Bugis/Arab Street

  • Start: Bugis MRT
  • Walk between Bali Lane/Haji Lane (hipster trendy area) to the Mosque and Arab Street, nice shophouses and shops and restaurants
  • Golden Mile Complex: Brutalist building home to many Thai restaurants and an alternative movie theatre, The Projector (in Golden Mile Tower). Recommend to catch an evening movie there (see theprojector.sg for times) to see the interiors of the renovated ancient movie halls, with beanbags and a glass of wine or beer!
  • National Library Building / National Design Centre: nice spaces that sometimes have things happening, you can walk in and see.
  • Bugis +/Bugis junction/Bugis street: not particularly interesting malls and markets, but they have what you need if you are looking to buy some quick food or refreshments.

Places to eat

  • Bumbu: Amazing thai-indonesian food, recommend to book and ask for table upstairs, restaurant in an old shophouse right inside the Arab quarter. Try the beef rendang or the ginger fish or the sambal brinjal (spicy aubergines) (SS).
  • Beerthai: Thai restaurant inside Golden Mile Complex, nice Thai milk tea and curries. (S)
  • The Great Escape: Bar outside of the Projector, in the 5th floor parking lot, nice view of the Concourse (building next to Golden mile) and cool place to have a drink :) (SS)

Little India

  • Start Little India MRT or Farrer Park
  • This is really worth just walking around and taking in the (relative) mess here.
  • Mustafa Centre: The most amazeballs place, think Bon Marché of Delhi, it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and it has everything in a thousand copies. Shoes, meds, food, fans, TVs, sports, toys. Just walk around but stay close because it’s easy to get lost. Gift idea!! Looking for something to bring back home? Check out their tea section in the Supermarket area (if you can ever find it, on level 2), there are really nice wooden boxes with good tea from the area. The spice section is the most exhaustive in town, so worth checking out if you are looking for South Asian tastes.

Places to eat

  • So many places! We like Murugan Idli Shop (https://goo.gl/maps/TkaQKLSKqH52) for a filling breakfast. Try the idli and dosas (masala dosa = dosa with potato, sort of a large rice-flour based crepe with potato filling). Served with chutneys of varying spice levels. (S)
  • Mustard on Race Course Rd has good Bengali food, which is interesting for French people because they use a lot of mustard and it’s a familiar taste for us, yet the dishes are polar opposites of our own, so it’s pretty nice. (SS)
  • Swee Choon Tim Sum: not a big fan of Indian food? What is even Indian food, so many variations! But either way, this is a nice steamed buns place (chinese food), which is very famous so it can be crowded, but the line typically moves fast, especially if you are not a large group (S)
  • MTR: More Indian food, really nice dishes, not too spicy. Bonus: the chef learned pastry in France and brought some of that back with him, try the desserts for a French-tinged Indian classic sweets. (S)
  • Tekka Centre: More classic hawker centre food, with lots of Sri Lankan food places and biryanis.

City Hall

  • Start: City Hall MRT
  • National Gallery: Beautiful museum opened recently, old court house and city hall blended into one building, great permanent exhibition and temporary ones. Don’t miss the rooftop for a view of the bay above the Padang.
  • Peranakan Museum: Also amazing small museum devoted to the Peranakan (mixed Chinese and Malay people who had a big influence on Singapore). Very pretty collection and well-kept museum.
  • Fort Canning Park: High park to climb to find pretty views of the city, nice old trees and an old fort at the top.
  • National Museum: Also nice, not as recommended as the first two, but pretty building to see.
  • Asian Civilisation Museum: Newly opened museum with varied exhibitions and a riverside café.

I don’t have a great place to eat there but if you look at the map you are super close to Clarke Quay or Bugis or even Little India so you can easily go to one of these. There is also a Din Tai Fung in the Raffles City mall, basement, so if you missed the MBS one you can catch up here!

Clarke Quay

  • Start: Clarke Quay MRT
  • This is the riverside with loads of overpriced expat-bait restaurants. The main Clarke Quay area (with the big steel and glass trees covering the shop houses) is even worse and fake and plastic. But it’s in every guide so… don’t waste time there :)
  • If you are looking for a nice walk follow the river upstream to Roberston Quay, which is quieter and prettier. Not much more to see but it’s a nice evening walk.
  • Park Royal on Pickering: New hotel that is famous for its vegetal walls, nice architecture.

Places to eat

  • Miss Lok: Blade Runner style hotpot place, with a nice concept and food (SS)
  • 28 Hong Kong Street: Hidden bar with cool cocktails and great rap music (if you are into that) (SS)

Chinatown

  • Start: Chinatown MRT
  • The Temple St/Pagoda St/Mosque St feel a bit plastic but have nice shophouses. You can quickly go through it and see if you like it. Inexplicably, a Tintin shop is to be found here, and is actually nice.
  • Chinese Heritage Museum: which I hear is nice, but I have not been there yet.
  • People’s Park Complex: Famous brutalist building (green and yellow) that might or might not be destroyed.
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple: Very big temple, not super old but quite pretty. I don’t know much about it.

Places to eat

  • Chinatown Food Centre: Near Smith street, in the second floor of a building, huge food court with lots of food, some very recognised (even a 1-star Michelin, the cheapest in the world, is tucked in there) (S)

Telok Ayer

  • Start: Chinatown or Tanjong Pagar
  • Lots of shophouses and cool neighbourhood.
  • The Pinnacle: Largest public housing project in the world, and you can (and should!) climb to the top to see the view. How to: you need to go to Block 1G, 1st floor and find a little office where you will pay S6 (either cash or with your EZLink card). Then you can take the lift to the 50th floor and walk on the buildings and see the view. Absolutely recommended, cheapest and nicest way to see the city from the top.
  • Walk along Keong Saik Rd, lots of restaurants and pretty shophouses.
  • Thian Hock Keng temple and surroundings are great too, very pretty.
  • Ann Siang Hill: Walk up the hill for a nice view and connect to the bars around Keong Saik.

Places to eat

  • Potato Head: 4 levels, including rooftop bar, with great burgers and cocktails (SS) Very nice for end of the day drinks after sunset.
  • Kok Sen: right next to Potato Head, it’s a Zi Char place, type of Hokkien Chinese food with large portions and good food! (S)
  • My Awesome Café: Who doesn’t miss French food?? I do :) they have a nice space in a converted shophouse, refreshing juices and drinks and great bread and sandwiches (SS)
  • The Blue Ginger: Delicious Peranakan food, but more proper restaurant, so you probably need to book (SSS)
  • Guzman y Gomez: Tucked in the basement of the Tanjong Pagar MRT, cheap and nice burritos (S). I know, it’s not very local, but great for a quick cheap fix.
  • Maxwell Food Centre: Famous hawker centre (which is why half the people there are tourists) but if you ask me it’s not actually a very good one… Prefer the East Coast Lagoon or Old Airport rd or Chinatown one. (S)
  • Amoy Food Centre: Another hawker centre with good curry puffs and a Michelin-recommended beef noodle soup. Crowded at lunch on weekdays and not open on weekends, so pick a late afternoon time or early morning to get there. (S)

Orchard/Dhoby Ghaut

  • Difficult to avoid this one, it is the Champs-Elysées/Fifth Avenue/Oxford Street of Singapore. Big malls, lots of people on the weekend, overpriced restaurants, but hey, it’s a classic. Also an Apple Store that just opened, designed by Foster and Partners with nice indoor vegetation.
  • Kinokuniya at Takashimaya: In the 4th floor of Takashimaya you will find this big bookstore which has tons of comics, books, souvenirs and others.
  • Botanic Gardens: UNESCO world heritage garden, 150 years old garden with amazing flora and an orchid garden. Highly recommended if you are into plants (I am!)

Places to eat

  • Where not to? There is food everywhere, but it’s mostly mall fare, so the usual franchises. For cuisine from the Philippines, try one of the restaurants inside Lucky Plaza.
  • PS Café at Harding Road (SSS for food, S to SS for afternoon tea): OK this one is a bit further, probably worth grabbing a taxi from Orchard or the area to get there. It is in an old army camp renovated with restaurants in different barracks. The food at PS is not groundbreaking but the space is really nice, if you ask to be outdoors. I love their Chai Latte so it’s great for an afternoon tea and cake too. I transformed into a British old lady in Singapore… Walking around the barracks is fun too.

Tiong Bahru

The hipster neighbourhood of Singapore! Low rise buildings and cool shops and cafés. Ideal for a brunch or a relaxed morning walk.

  • Start: Tiong Bahru Market (not actually too close to Tiong Bahru MRT)
  • The Tiong Bahru Market has a very nice Pau place (the big buns filled with pork or red bean. As a vegetarian I recommend the red bean!) and lots of other good food.
  • Walking around Moh Guan Terrace towards Yong Siak St you will find plenty of nice-looking buildings and little shops with alternative Singapore literature (Singlit) and clothes.

Places to eat

  • Tiong Bahru Bakery is famous for pastries and nice breakfasts, full of westerners on a weekend morning of course. (S)
  • PS Café Petit has a nice space and a pretty decent menu (SS)
  • Plain Vanilla bakery is the Magnolia Bakery of Singapore, they were even in a Visa commercial recently. Their cupcakes are not all that but they are ok, and good for some sweet fix on the way. (S)
  • Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice: some local food in there, it is a bit spicy but tasty and cheap. Can be a bit crowded at times (S).

Kranji

  • Start: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, so much easier to reach by cab (otherwise MRT + shuttle). The shuttle connects all the places but only comes every 30 minutes or so. If you do grab a cab or Grab it is sometimes cheaper and faster. Seeing everything in the area should take you the morning.
  • The reserve is a really nice natural park where you can see mangroves, mudskippers (the biological link between fishes and land-based animals) and birds like kingfishers and herons. Also monitor lizards and bats! For the nature-inclined people, it is a very atypic ecosystem (muddy!) in a well-maintained reserve, worth checking out.
  • Bollywood Veggies: Restaurant and farm opened by an “urban warrior” who wants Singaporeans to connect with their crops and nature. Sort of an alternative space where you can walk around a big plot of every conceivable tropical veggies and fruits, very educational. There is also a delicious restaurant with big platters of Indonesian-Singaporan-Malay food.

West Coast Park

The West Coast equivalent to ECP (but still, East side best side!).

  • Start at Henderson Waves, literally under the bridge (by bus or cab or walk from Telok Blangah MRT). Climb up the stairs on the East side of the sidewalk to climb up to the bridge. The view is great and the bridge is really pretty.
  • Keep going towards the West and you will find a long network of steel pathways above the trees, really pretty too. Keep going towards Southern Ridges.
  • You can come down and check out Gillman Barracks, old army barracks converted into art galleries. But you will already be sweaty and it’s not usually super fun unless there is an event so no need to spend time there ;)
  • If you are motivated, keep going to Hort Park, another botanic garden with nice spaces.
  • A bit further, reachable by bus or cab, is the weirdest thing you will see in your life, but it’s also completely optional. It is Haw Par Villa and it has dioramas of the 10 courts of Chinese hell, depicted in full gore with blood and plaster. The founder of Tiger Balm designed the villa to communicate Chinese values and traditions and it’s super kitsch and frankly disturbing at the same time. It makes no sense at all. Also there is a turtle pond. It’s so weird.
  • Even further is NUS, the National University of Singapore. The campus is nice, they have old and new buildings, parks, a natural history museum and lots of good places to eat, because it’s a student campus. Definitely optional though.

Sentosa

I don’t know anything about it. It is in every guide and it’s tourist paradise and it has a Universal Studios, but it’s the worst Universal Studios on the planet, which is saying much because Universal Studios is also the worst among all theme parks (change my mind!). There is to my knowledge one decent rollercoaster, when it is open because it keeps breaking down. People somehow like to go to Sentosa, for reasons I cannot wrap my head around: it’s ugly, fake, the restaurants are beyond terrible and super expensive, it has massive resorts, it is difficult to reach… I heard the aquarium is nice and that’s potentially the only reason why you would go there, but I don’t care for fishes too much (though I like turtles and manta rays.) The rest of the island is “how can we design “fun” activities to extract as much cash from tourists as possible?”

Other nuggets

  • Pulau Ubin: This is a fun one! Board a ferry (or a kayak) to this untouched (almost) island where you can rent crappy mountain bicycles and roll around a big patch of nature and mangroves. Bring plenty of water. You can stay a couple of hours at least.
  • Singapore zoo: If you are into zoos, it is very likely one of the best. No real “cages” but they make it feel that the animals can roam around seamlessly (which is not true of course, but you can see monkeys there and red pandas (if they still have those)). It is not easily reachable and a bit pricey so you will be excused if you prefer to skip it.
  • MacRitchie reservoir: A really nice trail to walk around in nature, which leads you to the Treetop Walk, a long suspended bridge above the canopy that is… scary! You can start the trail from here (https://goo.gl/maps/ADt77bEZbTC2) and leave by the Windsor Nature Park, with a bit of luck you will see monkeys!! (more so in the morning). Don’t get too close and close your bags though ;)
  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: A very nice park too, though if you are here for a short time it may be preferable to spend a half-day in MacRitchie instead. It has the highest point of Singapore, at 160 metres or so, not a very exhausting climb. Once it fully opens it will connect to the Rail corridor, which should make for a nice promenade.
  • Jurong Bird Park: I actually preferred it to the zoo, but then again I like birds better than land animals… always keep your heads up to check if a massive bird will drop a river of poop on you, it came too close for comfort for a friend of mine. You can also feed and have the little colourful ones come on your fingers and arms and it’s cute.
  • Chinese/Japanese gardens at Jurong Lake: Optional, nice lakeside walk and turtle museum.

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