Tommy’s notes on Singapore

Also to refer to – Lo-Fi Singapore at notes by naive

Japanese
Isetan Scotts
350 Orchard Road
Shaw House
Singapore 238868
The supermarket in the basement of this mall is much better for Japanese groceries than the one in Takashimaya, which is just a branch of a local supermarket chain. I also love the mochi balls and bread in the bakery attached.

Meidi-Ya
www.meidi-ya.com.sg
177 River Valley Road
B1-50
Liang Court Shopping Centre
Singapore 179030

This is the other Japanese supermarket I go to, it’s good! Kinokuniya bookshop in the same building.

Takashimaya Children’s Level
Japanese socks and bandannas near Polo Kids

Tai Sing
754, North Bridge Road, Singapore 198700
Shop and distributor of toys, I used to get Jenny and Licca dolls here.

Fabric
People’s Park Food Centre
This is a bit confusing as there are 3 buildings called People’s Park in Chinatown. This is the one with hawker/food stalls on the ground floor, fabric shops on the next one up, and clothing and toiletries on the 3rd.

Chinese
Eu Yan Sang
www.euyansang.com.sg

I’d go to this chain of shops for traditional Chinese herbs and medicine. It’s one of the best things to buy in Singapore because products go through quite stringent testing so you can be sure they are safe.

Chee Seng Double Pagoda sesame oil
www.cheeseng-oil.com

If you like sesame oil, try this brand. It’s available in most supermarkets

Indian
Mustafa
Quite good for Indian spices and cheap as chips things! Lots of fabrics too.

Tekka Centre
Corner of Buffalo, Bukit Timah & Serangoon Road
An old food market that is quite interesting because it is in between Chinatown and Little India. I think you can get/see a lot of produce here.

Malay
Kampong Glam
Historical Arab/Malay area with lots of food places, etc.

Arab Street
The main stretch for fabrics and woven baskets

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A few days in Singapore with small kids
(sent in by Jackie)

Early Mornings (ie before 10.30am)
Very little in Singapore opens until 10.30 or 11am in the morning, but it is a good time to head out and see a few things before it gets too hot.

The botanical gardens are lovely and not far in a cab from where you are staying. Best visited early in the morning before it gets unbearably hot (and a great outing before shops, etc open). Be sure to visit the orchid garden within the botanical gardens. It is spectacular!

Grab a local breakfast – roti prata with curry sauce (about 60cents) and kopi-o (local coffee, if you order takeaway it comes in a plastic bag with a straw) or the ubiquitous kaya toast with half boiled eggs. There is a great kopi tiam (local coffee shop) on Killeney Road (off Orchard Road) called Killeney Coffee Tiam.

Needs a couple of hours, but the Singapore Zoo is fantastic and best visited early in the morning before (open from 9am). Takes about 30mins form the city by taxi. You can rent strollers and walk or catch the train depending on how much time you have/how hot you get. Kids always love the elephant show, but get there early to get a seat and don’t sit in the front two rows because you will get wet!

Head down to East Coast Park and rent a bike or tandem (they have kiddie seats) and go for an early morning spin. Depending on how early you are you will see tai chi and other local arts in practice, Malay families camping and feasting. Thousands of ships, etc.

City Hall / Raffles Hotel
Watch sunset from New Asia Bar on level 71 of Swissotel (City Hall). This is the tallest building in Singapore and you get a great view over Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Happy hour till 9pm (very attractive in Singapore as drinks are expensive). Suggest getting there about 6.30pm to watch sunset about 7pm (while it doesn’t exactly encourage taking kids, becomes a night club later in the night, I have taken my two little ones – 1yr & 2yrs – around this time.

Raffles Hotel (across the road from Swissotel – touristy, but such lovely buildings and courtyards. Avoid the Long Bar (famous for the Singapore Sling) and instead head for Billiard Bar for tea or drink on the balcony, or Empire Cafe for some local eats in nice Singapore “kopi tiam” or coffee shop surrounds (nice way to get the Raffles experience without spending a bomb. Most dishes are around $13-15).

Chinatown
Chinatown is quite sprawling. The main stretch is around Temple Street (you can catch the MRT – train – from Orchard Road). This central area is quite touristy, but wander a street or two either side and there is plenty of “authentic” activity (great eats, Chinese medicine halls, etc).

If you try the dim sum suggestion below and walk up through the back of Chinatown to get there you will definitely see the authentic Chinatown, particularly as you weave your way through the old HBD estate (eg. joss and paper shops selling paper money, cars, houses, etc for burning to appease ancestors spirits, etc).

Also nice to wander over to the opposite side of Chinatown where increasing numbers of old shophouses are being done up to house boutique hotels, trendy bars and trendy shops – around Ann Siang Road, Club Street and Kadayanallur Street. There are also lots of temples and mosques scattered throughout Chinatown.

Visit this site for more info.
Try a foot massage in one of the many foot massage joints (I like Bathculture, 59 Temple Street. A little more spa like than some of the upstairs joints, but they are all good)

There is a huge Indian Temple on Temple Street which is worthwhile having a wander inside

Dim Sum
If you are here on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I highly recommend paying a visit to Red Star, an old fashion 1000 seater “pointy elbow auntie” dim sum joint on the 7th floor of a HBD block in the back of China Town. A bit tricky to find, but well worth it and definitely a local experience. Get there about 10-10.30am to avoid the queue which spirals from 11am onwards (open from 7am). Does dim sum during the week too, minus the large family gatherings.

Red Star Restaurant
Blk 54 Chin Swee Road
#07-23
Singapore 160054
Tel: 6532 5266 / 6532 5103

Delicious handmade la mien noodles and dumplings
Restaurant name: Lan Zhou La Mian
Chef /Owner: Wong Seng Wai
Address: 19, Smith Street, Singapore 058933
Tel : 6327 1286

There is also a night hawker centre at Chinatown on Smith Street (a bit touristy, but atmospheric). A more authentic Chinatown Hawker Centre experience can be had at Maxwell Hawker Centre, very close to the centre of Chinatown.

Find a table, take note of the table number and place a couple of small packets of tissues (indispensable in Singapore for reserving tables and wiping hands and brows) in front of the required number of seats. Wander around and decide what you would like to eat – order and give your table number.

In most cases, the food will be delivered to your table when it’s ready and you pay on delivery. There is always a separate drink stall and a fruit stall (sometimes these are one and the same). After eating it is common to share a plate of chopped fruit.

Lots of touristy, souvenir shops. Good place to pick up cute Chinese PJs or cute cheongsam for kids.

Little India
Great way to spend a couple of hours wandering around. Be sure to wander down the side streets and also take a look inside the Tekka Market (hawker centre at the front, huge wet market at the back and clothes, brass, fabric, etc upstairs). Also take a look in some of the provision and Sari shops. There is one of the few remaining traditional spice grinding shops on Dunlop Street. Try to avoid Sunday as Little India is especially crowded.

Loads of places to eat. Take your pick. Komala Villas restaurant (not the fast food joint) is a staple but again, it’s hard to go wrong. Try Teh Tahrak (pulled tea, so its lovely and frothy), thosai (huge thin crispy lentil pancakes with filling of your choice) or wander down to racecourse road to Apollo Banana Leaf or Muthu and try Fish Head Curry (unique to Singapore). The cheek meat is sweet and delicious.

If you can swing it, check out Mustafas on Serangoon Road. Famous 24hour Indian department store. Particularly fun late at night, but always very crowded and would probably not advise taking small kids. Although you could pay a VERY early morning visit which may be OK crowd wise. Floors and floors of anything and everything. Basement has a big fabric section.

Arab Street
Nice area for a wander. Don’t go on Sunday though as most things in this area shut.

  • Nice atmosphere
  • Largest mosque in Singapore
  • Great Birinyani joints along North Bridge Road
  • Fabric, wicker and rug shops along Arab Street itself
  • Perfumeries where you can choose a pretty blown glass perfume bottle and have your own scent mixed

There is also a little area within this compact district which is an up and coming designer/indie stretch – along Haji Lane and Bali Lane. There is not much of this short of thing in Singapore, but worth checking out.

Orchard Road
Two kilometers of malls with all the usual international brands (at all ends of the market). Hawker Centers in basement of just about every mall.

  • Kinokuniya – great Japanese book store, lvl 3 Ngee Ann City
  • Takashimaya or Tangs – there are loads of department stores along Orchard Road.

These two are the best of the bunch. Great food centre in the basement of Takashimaya if you’re looking for somewhere for local eats in this neighborhood.

Keep your eye out for Charles and Keith – local chain of shoe store with ridiculously cheap shoes which mirror latest European trends. You get what you pay for, but have yet to see anyone leave here empty handed. Usual tally for visitors I have taken there is at least 3 or 4 pairs at $S25-30 each. Record is 15 pairs (that was my mum who has very small feet and so loves shoes shopping in Asia).

Crossroads at The Marriott Hotel is a good spot to sit and watch the world go buy on Orchard Road if you have tired feet, are overheated, etc. On the corner of Orchard and Scotts Road. It is hotel prices but serves nice local food or just grab a drink.

Other food suggestions
Be adventurous and frequent the local hawker centres. It is all good (and cheap). Most dishes are $2-3 (may be slightly more if you are in a touristy area) – the exception being BBQ seafood which may be $10-15/plate.

Drink like the locals – lime juice (yum and so refreshing), long neck Tiger Beer (about $5-6 at a Hawker Centre vs $12+++ per glass of beer at a bar or Western joint). Try Kopi-o or Teh-o (strong local coffee or tea with condensed milk. It may not be your thing but at 60c a pop you should at least try it. For maximum local experience ask for a package and drink it hot from a plastic bag with a straw). Try cold Barley or Iced Lemon Tea, also very refreshing.

Famous Katong Laksa – East Coast Road, Katong. Two stalls opposite each other. Delicious authentic Laksa (I usually order mine without the cockles – very salty and an acquired taste), order some rojak and a couple of otah to go with it! and of course Tiger Beer or lime juice!

Singapore chill crab, black pepper crab and drunken prawns with fried buns and baby kai lan – East Coast Seafood Centre (all good, but usually go to Jumbo as it is right in the seafront) or “No Signboard” on Geylang Road (in the heart of local mecca and red light district)

Satay – Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, Robinson Road/Shenton Way (in CBD). In the evening they close off a side street. Sit outside. All of the satay stalls are good, just up the stairs on the outside edge of the hawker centre is a bbq seafood stall, grab some sambal stingray to go with your satays and top off with Tiger beer or lime juice. Yum!

Chicken Rice – the national dish of Singapore and available from any hawker centre (will all de good). Poached Chicken served on rice that has been cooked in the chicken broth. Great comfort food (not spicy) and especially handy for feeding little ones when you’re out and about

Noodles – so many great noodle dishes in Singapore (Malay, Chinese, Indian). There is no such dish as Singapore Noodles (although I know in Oz it is commonly sold). Try Mee Goreng (my personal favourite – but not Indian Mee Goreng. This is stodgy yellow coloured noodles with a few peas. Malay style Mee Goreng has prawns, vegetables, etc and is spicy and delicious. There’s usually a pic so hard to go wrong). Or Sliced Fish Bee Hoon (very mild flavour and delicious, also handy for little bubs) or wanton mee (wanton noodle soup). Plenty to choose from and hard to go wrong.

Sammys, Dempsey Village – traditional Indian canteen in an old colonial officers club. Very casual and good fun. Not far from Orchard Road, opposite top of Botanical Gardens. There is usually a guy sitting at the top of the stairs and you pay your $2 temporary membership fee. If not, just walk in and sit down. Nice to sit on the balcony at the front. They slap a banana leaf on the table and then come around with big pots of curry under the arm of each waiter. The challenge is to say no, otherwise you will end up with way too much food. Drink with lime juice or Tiger!! Lunch or dinner.

Other things to do
Take a ferry – take the Sisters Island ferry and get out amongst the ships/see Singapore from the water. It is a 1hr 40min round trip (or if you chose you can get off and spend some time on Kusu Island and then continue – you will need to check the timetable first) and is $15pp. Ferry goes from Marina South Pier and most days there is a ferry at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and a later one, but best to check the timetable. Take food and drink as there is nothing available on the boat. On the way back from St John’s Island (the last leg) the ferry is usually empty in the mornings and if you ask the skipper nicely, they will often let the kids drive the boat.

Night Safari – Great way to spend an evening with the kids. Plan to arrive there at about 7-7.30pm. We usually walk the first half and catch the train the second half (view is better in this section on the train, plus kids are usually getting tired by then). By taxi takes about 30mins to get there from downtown.

Electronics
Yes, they are usually a bit cheaper (sometimes, but not always a lot cheaper). You will save at least by virtue of the exchange rate if not more. Shop around at home so you know exactly what you want and then go to:

  • Challenger at Funan IT Mall for computer stuff
  • Paris Silk, Holland village for cameras, etc
  • Apple Store at Wheelock Place Orchard Road for iPods

All of the above are fixed price and come with international warranty. As a visitor it is highly unlikely that you will get a better price by bargaining at Sim Lim Square or Lucky Plaza (in fact you are likely to get ripped off, if not on price then in some other way eg. inclusions, etc)

Ask for a GST refund form, which you then submit at the airport to get 7% GST back

Duty free
Singapore airport is cheapest place in the world (at least in my experience) to buy Duty Free make-up and alcohol.