Sanchez Barry is the next contributor in my series ‘Where The Locals Go.’ Sanchez is from Singapore and writes for Expat Life
Singapore is a city, a country, an all-in-one. It’s a melting pot of culture that mainly comes from the South East Asia region. Its population comprises of mainly Chinese, Malay and Indian people that have been here for generations, forming our own unique Singaporean culture.
Every destination has a local hotspot. What is the local hot spot in your area and would you please describe the atmosphere? Why do locals go there?
As Singapore has such a diverse culture, there is no one spot that all locals go to, but a few. Haji Lane/Arab Street is a great place. Lots of different cultures intertwine here. During the day, you’ll see boutique hipster shops, Arabic textile shops and great Indian, Arabic and Mediterranean food. As it creeps closer to night, the nightlife begins with jazz bars, hipster pubs and sometimes street performances.
Your friend is flying into town for the first time and wants to experience the local food scene, where would you take him/her? What are some of the dishes you would recommend? How is the ambience?
Hawker centres are great for this as they bring together different local delights together. Maxwell food centre, Gluttons by the Bay and Singapore Food Treats come to mind. For Indian food, try Little India.
At these places you can try many different local dishes – Hokkien Mee (stir-fried prawn noodles), Chicken Rice, Laksa (noodles in a thick gravy-like soup, and Orh Luak (oyster omelettes).
Travelers enjoy learning about the local art scene when they arrive in new locations. Are there local artists (musicians, painters, poetry writers, etc.) in your area that perform or feature their work? Where can travellers go for these experiences?
There is a cluster of museums close to each other, all perpetuating the local art scene. Singapore Art Museum, the National Gallery and Singapore National Museum can be found close together. Local art and literature are often exhibited in the museums, especially the Singapore Art Museum.
For local acts such as musicians and plays, head over to the Esplanade theatre, where you can even watch performances for free at the outdoor theatre.
What are some of the more popular festivals in town? Are they held annually, several times a year, once a month? What time of the year do they take place? Where can travellers go to find out more information?
For music, Laneway and Baybeats are festivals are held once a year. Laneway (during January/February) is a paid indie music festival where bands from all over the world come to perform. Baybeats (held during August) is another music fest where local and international artists come together and perform for free.
Singapore Art Week is one of the biggest celebrations of art in Singapore. Supported and hosted by many different venues and both international and local artists, travellers can immerse themselves in all forms of art. Musical performances, art pieces, and theatrical performances can be found during Art Week.
The information for all of these can be found online, as they all have their own websites full of information.
If travellers want to experience recreational activities during their stay, what can they do and where can they go?
Gardens by the Bay is a great place to just relax and take a scenic stroll with nature right near the heart of the city. Marina Barrage is a great place nearby as well. It’s a commonplace for locals to partake in recreational activities like picnics, flying kites, water sports like kayaking or dragon boating or just chilling out with family or friends.
Many travellers pick destinations that offer volunteerism / eco-tourism / activism / volunteer opportunities. What types of opportunities exist in your area?
As we’re a city-state, most of the volunteer work here revolve around helping people, we don’t have eco-tourism activities otherwise. Singapore has numerous organisations that offer volunteer work, so I’d just list out the one that are close to my heart. The Institute of Mental Health patients live a very recluse life, cut off from most of the rest of Singapore, volunteering to do activities or just keep them company.
I know travellers like certain forms of transportation. Some like to walk and/or bike while others prefer to get around at a quicker pace. What is the best way for travellers to get around town?
The best way to get around Singapore for anyone is the public transportation system. With the combination of trains and buses, you can get to practically anywhere in Singapore.
If you’re going to the central of Singapore, it is possible to explore most of it on foot, just remember to keep hydrated as Singapore is both humid and hot. Singapore’s very well mapped on Google and Apple Maps as well, so it’s quite easy to find your way around with just a smartphone. For those who like to bike there are bike-sharing services like ofo and oBike, so you can pick up a bike nearly anywhere to cycle from place to place.
For those who want to get away for a day for some peace and quiet, yet still take in the scenery, where are some areas that travellers can go to “get away from it all” and still enjoy the outdoors?
Macritchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Hill are great places for the casual hiker. Lush greenery and easy trails are available at both locations. These trails are not difficult and do not require any extra equipment. Especially on weekdays, these areas are close to empty.
Travelers can get a sense of culture by observing their surroundings and people watch. Where can travelers go in your area to engage in this popular activity?
Going to any heartland neighbourhood food court in Singapore is a good start to observe the locals. You’ll see the bustling lunch crowd move quickly and the slow pace of the retirees enjoying their afternoon coffee. The steps outside ION shopping centre at Orchard Road is another good place to people watch, you can see people from all walks of life – people shopping designer goods at Ion, people taking a smoke break or just sitting around and relaxing.
Thank you Sanchez for contributing to ‘Where The Locals Go.’
Cover photo of Supertree Grove by Carlotta Rebonato