Anna Chittenden relocated from the UK to Singapore in 2014 and now shares secrets to the best destinations in Asia on her blog, The Lost Guides. She took us on a virtual, jam-packed tour of food (of course), shopping, and outdoorsiness in her new home country.
SINGAPORE – When I first arrived in Singapore, I immediately felt that I had moved to the most modern of cities. Then I found (and fell in love with) my current neighborhood, Tiong Bahru, one of the country's oldest housing estates. Before WWII, this was where the affluent citizens lived. Today you'll find a sprinkling of expats who feel at home in the low-rise Art Deco apartments and appreciate the kampung (Malay for "village") community feel. I'll start my day here and show you some of my favorites spots around this tiny island.
BEGIN THE DAY AT THE MARKET
Singapore is a country famous for its street food, and Tiong Bahru Market is one of the best hawker centers in the city. Enter the Art Deco building through the lovely flower stall and walk upstairs. Wander through the countless stalls serving delicious local cuisine, all at just about $4 each. Some stalls have been at the market for more than fifty years. General rule of thumb: Go to the stall with the biggest queue — the long wait is worth it.
After a hearty breakfast, pick up a fresh coconut to drink and explore the wet market downstairs. This is the best place to buy everyday groceries such as fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat.
LEAVE SPACE FOR SECONDS
A classic French bakery in the heart of this hipster neighborhood, Gontran Cherrier's Tiong Bahru Bakery fills the big gap for fresh croissants, bread, and desserts in a country where the wok is king. Come here for a coffee and pastry after the hustle and bustle of the wet market.
PICK UP YOUR MORNING READ
BooksActually is a wonderful independent bookshop a few blocks dow where the owners curate a wide range of work from local writers and artists as well as global publications. On the shelves are volumes on poetry, history, and art mixed with cookbooks and independent magazines. They publish a nice series of photo essays under their imprint, Math Paper Press. Venture to the back room for vintage knick-knacks and old-school local stationery. While you are on the street, grab a coffee from Forty Hands before your next stop.
GRAB A TREAT FOR THE ROAD
On Yong Siak Street, just a few shops down from BooksActually, is arguably the best cupcake shop in Singapore, Plain Vanilla, which wins for taste and design. Wander past the blue Dutch bicycles and wooden swing and into the café/bakery where all the magic happens. Fresh cakes are made in front of your eyes using what they describe as the best of ingredients: French butter, pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, bittersweet Belgian chocolate. My favorite flavors include earl grey and strawberry with white chocolate. I like to sit at one of the wooden tables outside, relaxing with a cupcake and tea while the world goes by.
TAKE A HIKE FOR A VIEW
Get your hiking gear on and drive ten minutes from the city center to MacRitchie Reservoir. Start your hike at Venus Drive, through the lush greenery of the tropical forest. A couple of kilometers in, you'll find Tree Top Walk, a free-standing suspension bridge 250 meters in the air. You get a bird's-eye view of the forest canopy and reservoir from here.
PICNIC IN THE PARK
Steeped in more than 150 years of history and known as a timeless tropical eden, the famous Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Garden are the pride of Singapore. This peaceful escape is only a stone's throw from busy Orchard Road. Walk around the expansive land (74 hectares in total) to the Ginger Garden, Swan Lake, Evolution Garden, and National Orchid Garden, where you can see more than a thousand species of orchids and catch a glimpse of Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim. The shaded lawn by Symphony Lake makes for a great afternoon picnic, and, if you're there at the right time, you might spot a few families of turtles.
CATCH SUNSET FROM THE TOP
You may have heard of Potato Head Beach Club on the Seminyak shoreline in Bali. The sister site has now opened its door on four floors of a beautiful 1930s Chinese shophouse along Keong Siak Road in Singapore. Potato Head Folk has something for everyone. The burger joint Three Buns on the first and second floors feels like someone's living room for its low-slung sofas and colorful artwork. Burgers with names like Burning Man and Truff Ryder are dangerously addictive. Don't leave without heading up to The Rooftop Garden for a rum-heavy cocktail menu in a fairy lights-filled bohemian oasis.
BBQ FOR DINNER IN CHINATOWN
Tucked away on Teck Lim Road in Chinatown and just a minute's walk from Potato Head Folk, Burnt Ends is a modern Australian barbecue joint that sets an intimate scene for a theater-worthy performance by chef Dave Pynt and team. Settle in for the evening on one of eighteen seats in the restaurant and prepare to be entertained. The menu is updated daily on their Facebook page with highlights like smoked quail eggs, whole baby snapper, and leeks with hazelnut and brown butter. They don't take reservations, so get there early to avoid disappointment.
PARTY BY THE RIVER
Kilo Lounge is located along the Kallang River in the Kampong Bugis area. At first you might wonder why you have been sent to this old and worn-down office block in the middle of nowhere. But if you walk into the manually closing elevator and head up to the eighth floor, you'll be delighted to find Kilo Lounge — where pro mixologists and emerging DJs provide libations and music all night long.
For a post-party hangout, head to 2am: Dessert Bar, hidden above a bar in Holland Village. You'll need to order at least a few dishes by award-winning pastry chef Janice Wong: blood orange and salted caramel chocolate tart, and the hojicha sesame with pear vodka sorbet. It's a fitting end to a perfect day.