Historically, Singapore has been a hub for visitors passing through it’s airport on the way to Australia, Indonesia or other south east Asian destinations. It is also home to some of the world’s most impressive shopping malls and is well known for it’s largely consumerist society filled with savvy shoppers and bloated expats.
However, over the last few years the quirkiness so apparent in other cities is becoming prevalent (and hugely popular) in Singapore. The iconic Portobello Road and Camden markets of London and the street food style restaurants of Brooklyn, are exploding with gusto and incredible success on the clean, clinical streets of Singapore.
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Here follows a quirkier guide to the top eating, drinking, and shopping spots of Singapore:
If you are a fan of Satay then look no further than “Satay Street” (real name: Boon Tat Street) in the central business district near the iconic Marina Bay Sands building. This is a main road in Singapore that halts dead in it’s tracks at 7pm every day. Flimsy plastic barricades are used to block the road enabling expert Singapore Satay makers to hurriedly light the fires at their little huts by the roadside. These guys can cook up some of the most delicious chicken, prawn, mutton or beef satay you have ever tasted. And of course, the peanut Satay sauce is to die for. Accompanied with rice, salad, noodles – pretty much whatever you like. Wash all this down with Tiger Beer served up by the local Aunties (Singapore’s polite way of saying an older lady). Sit on plastic chairs at plastic tables and clean your Satay-covered hands with wet wipes purchased from a local weaving in and out of the tables. It’s not fancy – but it’s delicious, and enormous fun.
If you can spend more than about $20 Singapore dollars (10 GBP) per person on dinner here you may as well buy your own Satay stand.
A favorite with locals and expats in the know is Club Street. A twisting, turning row of old colonial shophouses – converted to a five hundred metre stretch of tiny bars and restaurants – lovingly kept and sympathetically restored year after year. An architectural treat. From Tuesday to Saturday, Club Street is humming with activity from 5pm until about 3 or 4am. It is undoubtedly Singapore’s answer to the south of France party scene. Showy, glamorous and hugely fun. Put on your tallest heels, shortest shorts and head to Club Street for cocktails, dancing in the street and fascinating people watching.
One of the things that Singapore prides itself on is playing host to so many different cultures, religions and races. As a result, some of these cultures tend to take over different parts of the city. Arab Street is one of these areas.
Wander around Arab Street and the surrounding lanes and you will find yourself wondering if you are in Melbourne or Morocco! Silks, clothing, local artisans and musicians, chefs, anything with an Arab influence congregates here and the result is a colourful, quirky and deeply cool mix of shops and boutiques. Stop off at a café and have a latte and a shisha if you will. Arab Street has it all.
You can, of course, go to Gucci, Pucci, Prada and Balenciaga on Orchard Road if you wish. It’s all tax free so enjoy yourselves! However, to see something a little different, the sights and smells of Arab Street will enthrall the most “seen it, done it” of travelers.