How should one explore the world? Or a tiny tropical island like Singapore?
Author Keri Smith, who has written books on creative inspiration for adult life, has a few ideas. Her advice is simple: Know that everything is interesting. Alter your course often, and notice the stories going on around you.
To get the most out of your stay in the Lion City, you will have to boldly venture beyond the tourist-trodden world of shopping centres, cinemas, and cultural hotspots. Let the team at PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road guide you to refreshingly original Singapore attractions, doing things which you probably never imagined doing in this modern Southeast Asian metropolis.
It’s an unlikely sight in Singapore: a weekly gathering of locals (mostly seniors) for the sole purpose of boogieing the night away. You will find this “silver” pop-up dance party along New Bridge Road (near the myCK department store), and it is possibly one of the most heartwarming things to see in Singapore.
Drop in on a Saturday or Sunday night (from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m.), and you may encounter memorable characters such as 64-year-old Hero Loh, who taught himself the Cuban cha-cha dance. But the unsung hero of the night is busker Jack Tan, who sustains the impromptu dance floor with an impressive repertoire of English, Mandarin, and Cantonese hits.
Tan performs with a wind synthesiser, a versatile instrument that can mimic the sounds of other instruments such as the piano or violin. “I just want my music to touch people’s hearts,” he said in a Straits Times interview several years ago.
Don’t miss this chance to revel in spontaneity and soul, Singapore style. Tourists are very much welcome to join in the festivities, and this is one traveller’s verdict: “It was great fun. Everyone’s so happy and joyful.”
Get directions to myCK at New Bridge Road
Singapore is less of a concrete jungle than one might assume, as almost 30 per cent of its urban spaces are covered by greenery. What’s more, it is possible to escape to the countryside in this tiny city-state—the Kranji Countryside, that is.
There are numerous farms at the Kranji Countryside, but Bollywood Veggies is an attention grabber for its unusual moniker alone. Quirky and unapologetic, the farm “embodies energy, entertainment, and enlightenment,” says its irrepressible 68-year-old owner Ivy Singh-Lim.
The planet-friendly farm is run as sustainably as possible, with no pesticides or fertilisers used on site. It also has an inclusive hiring policy, providing less educated or differently abled workers a chance to earn a decent living.
Once there, you can explore the sprawling compound of the farm at your leisure—brightly coloured signs will guide you along the way. After which, pop into the adjoining Poison Ivy Bistro to savour a delicious farm-to-table meal. Lucky diners will have the pleasure of chatting with self-professed “gentle warrior” Singh-Lim about everything from farm life to politics, but be prepared to receive an earful if you rub this ageless Amazonian the wrong way.
In her own words: “I’m a powerful and brave woman, and nobody tells me what to do. If you can’t understand that, too bad for you!”
Get directions to Bollywood Veggies
Have you ever thought about pulverising your belongings in a fit of frustration? Well, you can now vent your anger safely at The Fragment Room, minus the repercussions and guilt of destroying something you need.
This could be one of the coolest things to do in Singapore, considering its reputation for being a clean-living city. Here’s what happens inside Singapore’s first-ever rage room: with your protective gear on, you will get to release all tension by smashing items such as plates, vases, and even old TV sets that don’t belong to you. You will also get to pick your choice of bat (wood or metal), and to cement the mood, you can create a hard-hitting playlist to soundtrack your session.
If you are concerned about environmental waste, rest assured that the breakables are salvaged discarded items, and that efforts will be made to recycle the debris. So go ahead and let fly—once you’ve had a taste of “Unhappy Hour” at The Fragment Room, drowning your sorrows during happy hour may become a thing of the past.
Get directions to The Fragment Room
Looking for meaningful things to do in Singapore while meeting locals dedicated to making a difference? Spend a morning volunteering with Willing Hearts, a 365-day soup kitchen that prepares and distributes 5,000 meals a day to those in need, including the elderly, low-income families, and migrant workers.
All you need to volunteer at Willing Hearts is “a warm smile, two helping hands, an open and willing heart, and one simple question, ‘How can I be of help today?’”
First-time volunteers are encouraged to read the Willing Hearts “survival guide” before signing up for a shift. Another tip is to arrive a little earlier, such as by 7:00 a.m. (or even 5:00 a.m., when extra support is especially needed), so that you can learn the ropes without getting caught in the mid-morning frenzy.
“There's a certain buzz to the place. You may be strangers standing beside each other, but you figure out what role you can play, and you work at it,” says a mother who has volunteered there with her two children. “A natural instinct is to weave yourself into this engine that runs, tireless and thankless, for an idea that you're doing something good.”
Get directions to Willing Hearts
“You can spend five lifetimes exploring nature, and there would still be more to learn," says wildlife consultant and freelance nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai. And if you’re in Singapore, you’re in the right place to discover nature, because you can “get from a five-star hotel to a rainforest in 20 minutes.”
Although Singapore’s National Parks Board has ready resources to help you identify flora and fauna (Flora & Fauna Web, Trees.sg) and trail maps for self-guided walks, nothing beats having a passionate nature lover show you a world that you never knew existed, living and breathing right before your eyes.
To explore the most beautiful places in Singapore, you can contact Rajathurai through his website to arrange a guided nature walk at a location of your choice. If you are travelling with children (or consider yourself young at heart), a family-friendly nature guide is local zoologist and author Dr. Leong Tzi Ming, who can be reached by e-mail.