SCOOP UP LOCAL DESIGNS
- Uncover local designers and emerging brands
- On Sundays, DJ’s spin the soundtrack for the release of limited edition collections
- At Singapore’s nexus for all things design, explore five floors of exhibitions
If you’re looking for an unusual souvenir, head beyond the usual suspects to Kapok, a destination for design and the hippest shop near the Conrad. Frenchman Arnault Castel founded the company in Hong Kong in order to shine a spotlight on local designers; he expanded to Singapore with the same goal. Castel regularly uncovers the best emerging brands and this is the place to find a well-curated selection of clothing, bags, books, magazines, and home accessories from local and international (Carven, Sandqvist) talents that you won’t find anywhere else. During the day you’ll catch twentysomethings tapping out creative manifestos on their MacBooks in the lounge-like café; on weekends, come for one of the weekly Sunday X Kapok events, complete with DJs, workshops like furoshiki stamping, and limited-edition capsule collections. The light-filled, sprawling shop is located in the National Design Centre, so dip into the exhibitions in the adjacent design galleries for free—including “Fifty Years of Singapore Design,” which celebrates the evolution of Singapore design from packaging to environmental design. It’s a quick five-minute cab ride from the hotel—or if you’re up for the heat, you can walk there in 15.
The National Design Centre is within walking distance from Bugis and Bras Basah stations. You can find the centre right where Middle Road intersects with Victoria Street. Kapok is located inside of the National Design Center. So once you’re in, take your time and explore all five levels of Singapore design.
HAVE SUNDOWNERS ON AN ICONIC ROOFTOP
- The art of the cocktail; Japanese mixologists craft exquisite drinks
- Find the fourth floor’s hidden door to enter this bar atop a city landmark
- Grab some satay skewers and catch a larger-than-life laser light show
For craft cocktails with a view, locals head for Orgo, the bar atop the curvy Esplanade Theater, affectionately known as the Durian (an apt nickname, given its resemblance to an outsize version of the tropical fruit). The entrance is hidden on the fourth floor—find it and you’ll be rewarded with fresh passion-fruit martinis crafted by a staff of Japanese mixologists, along with stunning views. This is the only place to get an up-close look at the spiky surface of the Durian, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks; when it was completed in 2002 by local firm DP Architects and the U.K.’s Michael Wilford & Partners, it put Singapore on the daring-modern-architecture map. You’ll also get a unique angle on Marina Bay and the skyscrapers that encircle it, plus the old Supreme Court dome, which forms the perfect Colonial-era counterpoint to all the new spires. Although it’s just a 12-minute stroll from the Conrad, we recommend you use a route that takes you through the air-conditioned comfort of the underground passages connecting the nearby shopping malls. Stay until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays or 11:00 p.m.on weekends and catch the free laser light show that blazes out from the top of the triple towers of Marina Bay Sands. Peckish? Grab some satay skewers at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, the outdoor hawker center next door.
Just above Marina Bay, you’ll find these two experiences right next to each other. They’re located at the same address on Raffles Avenue. Just go to the intersection of Raffles and Fullerton Road and head east. You’ll see Orgo closer to the road and Makansutra Gluttons Bar closer to the water.
EAT AT THE BIGGEST (AND BEST) HAWKER CENTER
- Choose from over 200 different food stalls at this giant open air complex
- Locals love the fish ball noodle soup and wok-fried oyster omelets, to name a few
- Swing by anytime of day for an authentic dinner, lunch, or even breakfast
One of the unique pleasures of dining in Singapore? The hawker centers. Every neighborhood has one, and it’s where the majority of Singaporeans eat at least one meal a day. Most are small in scale, with only a few dozen stalls, which is why the Old Airport Road Food Center, with nearly 200, stands out. Ask any cab driver, and they’ll tell you it also has the best of many things: porridge, avocado smoothies, chicken rice, and on and on. Few tourists make the trip given that it’s away from the city center and removed from other attractions, but that shouldn’t stop you. Grab a cab and this giant open-air buffet is just a 12-minute cab ride away. We’re partial to the exemplary fish ball noodle soup at Ru Ji Kitchen, where the fish paste is pounded by hand and formed into springy balls every morning; try it with their homemade sambal chili. Or line up for noodles with tender slices of barbecued pork and wontons at Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wanton Mee followed by eggy wok-fried oyster omelets topped with fresh spring onions at Katong Ah Soon Fried Oyster. The stalls are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they keep unpredictable hours; if the one you’re looking for is closed, just find a long queue and join it. Remember, there’s no air conditioning, so it’s sometimes sweltering, and you’ll have to bring your own napkins—small trade-offs when you consider that most dishes cost between $2 and $6.
CURE WHAT AILS YOU WITH ACUPUNTURE
- Feel your energy flow with traditional Chinese medicine for the 21st century
- Trustworthy practitioners perform acupuncture, cupping and other Eastern cures
- Go for the acupressure massage or try herbal medicine treatments
For anyone who’s ever been curious about acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Singapore just might be the perfect place to try it. The discipline is still thriving in the city, with a number of trustworthy practitioners; combine them with ultra-modern facilities, and the result is clean and efficient TCM clinics for the 21st century. Founded in 1879, Eu Yan Sang has multiple clinics across the island, including outlets in Paragon Mall on Orchard Road and Marina Bay. So bring on your travel-induced jet lag, headaches, chest colds—all can be treated here with a range of Eastern cures. We love the acupuncture—we swear it doesn’t hurt, and the needles are sterile. (For first-timers, feeling the energy flow through the nerves can be a revelation.) Treatments last about 30 minutes, and include a thorough consultation with a doctor, who may recommend a combination of acupuncture plus heat therapy and cupping. And if you’re truly afraid of needles, go for an acupressure massage. The company also runs a chain of herbal medicine stores where you can buy high-quality medicines and herb-based cosmetics that target specific issues (anti-aging, inflammation, redness).
You can find multiple clinics across the island, but we recommend the one inside Paragon Shopping Center. It’s on the corner of Orchard Road and Bideford Road, near to the Orchard station. But, the clinic is closed on Sundays, so come in during the week for a healing treatment that will take you through the weekend.
MEDITATE IN A SKY-HIGH GARDEN
- Find your center in Chinatown at this picturesque Buddhist temple
- Learn the rituals, explore the museum and get good karma from a giant prayer wheel
- For a uniquely Singaporean experience, drink microbrews in a hawker center
Singapore’s temples buzz with activity and noise, and the imposing Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is no exception. Set in the heart of Chinatown, this is an active spot full of chanting monks and everyday Singaporeans waving incense. Outside it looks like a mini Potala Palace, while the glowing red interior is lined with thousands of tiny Buddha statues. Spread across four stories with multiple altars and a series of swooping Tang-style roofs, it only looks ancient. The construction actually began in 2005; it houses a museum and cultural space, and it’s very welcoming to tourists, with eager guides on hand to explain the rituals and offer free shawls to visitors with bare shoulders. While the eponymous relic is housed on the top floor inside a 3.5-ton solid gold stupa, we think the real attraction is the peacefulness of the contemplative rooftop garden, planted with an impressive display of orchids. Don’t miss turning the giant prayer wheel and accumulating some good karma. After, head to the Good Beer Company, tucked away in a far corner of the second floor of the nearby Chinatown Complex, and meditate on a uniquely Singaporean experience: a microbrew in a hawker center.
You can find the Buddhist temple in the Chinatown district, off of South Bridge Road. Right where Sago Street and South Bridge intersect, you can’t miss this red, multi-level temple. Afterwards, you can just head west on Smith Street and you’ll be at the Good Beer Company. Go up to the second floor and enjoy a cold one.
GO ON A RIVER IDYLL
- From the bay to the river, see the cityscape from a flat-bottomed bumboat
- Sip specialty blood-orange and guava margaritas at a Mexican street food favorite
The ride on a flat-bottomed bumboat from Marina Bay up the Singapore River takes about 30 minutes and is a relaxing way to see Singapore’s cityscape. Instead of taking the $24 SGD River Cruise, grab a River Taxi instead. Pay your fare with an EzLink card (buy one at any MRT station) and it’s a bargain at just $4. True, the River Cruise boats are gaily painted wooden affairs and play a narrated video onboard, but you won’t miss anything by hopping on the River Taxi: that video is propaganda-laced and hard to hear, and the boats ply an identical route. Instead, you’ll glide past the spouting Merlion fountain, the colonnaded splendor of the Fullerton Hotel (formerly the main post office), and the statue of city founder Sir Stamford Raffles in peace. Further upstream, you’ll chug past the restaurants, shopping malls, office towers, and restored warehouses that crowd the waterfront. Feeling thirsty before boarding? Stop for a blood-orange and guava margarita at Super Loco in expat-heavy Robertson Quay when you disembark—then grab a taxi back to the Conrad.
To start your aquatic adventure, head down to Clifford Pier, just one minute south. Here, you can hop on a river taxi and cruise down the Singapore River to Super Loco, which is just beyond the Alkaff Bridge.