Ever felt like a tourist in the Lion City despite living here? One mama takes the #sginsiders tour and discovers Singapore hidden gems she never knew existed!
At the rate that Singapore is growing, more often than not, I feel like a tourist in and around the island now, especially living out in the ‘burbs and not making the trek into the city centre all that often. And that’s why I was thrilled at the chance to check out #sginsiders by Park Regis – a local walking guide to Clarke Quay and Chinatown put together by Park Regis Singapore, covering interesting local sights within a 5km radius or a 15-minute walk from the 4-star hotel.
It’s actually a pretty cool concept to get to know the little hidden secrets and gems tucked away in that neighbourhood, which often get overshadowed by the more popular touristy things about town. As a joint collaboration between Park Regis and three familiar local figures (namely vocalist and guitarist Sara Wee, fashionista Aarika Lee and DJ and TV personality Divian Nair), the walking guide is a curation of their favourite lifestyle spots covering fashion, music, nightlife, family hangouts, art and culture.
I particularly liked the fact that that handy guide is actually pocket size, which means it’s light and small enough to fit anywhere conveniently. And by the way, if you decide that you’d like to go on two wheels rather than two feet, the hotel also throws in the use of bicycles in the special one-night package. Let the self-guided trail begin!
I took advantage of the one-night staycation offer at the recently refurbed, 202-room hotel and had my boys test how convenient (and fun) the tour would be for kids. Turns out, there are more than a few things that would interest kids! And if they can go on bike rather than walk, even better, because you can make a fun day out of it together as a family. Although the guide has 12 recommendations on it at the moment — suggesting everything from the Peranakan Museum and the weekend flea market at China Square Central to Timbré @ Substation and Naiise. We started off with just three – all different in nature – to get a taste of what to expect.
Our first stop was the Battlebox Visitor Centre at Fort Canning Park. I am embarrassed to admit it, but even after all these years of calling Singapore home, I had no idea that something like the Battlebox existed! Turns out, neither do most people. Apart from it being the lush and sprawling green sanctuary that it is, Fort Canning Park has witnessed many of Singapore’s major historical milestones and the Battlebox – an underground tunnel from WWII – is a must-do for serious history buffs. Now a museum, the underground command centre was the location from where the British made the momentous decision to surrender to the Japanese in February 1942.
My twins, although initially bored, were quickly absorbed in the interesting history tour which was packed with short, snappy videos dating back to the war periods, life-size models of generals and their working conditions, and plenty of other visuals and charts brimming with information. By the end of the tour, the boys were pretty excited about what they had seen, and I’m sure they won’t forget all of it in a rush. I would highly recommend this stop to anyone interested in the history behind early Singapore.
The next stop was Matter Prints, a socially driven lifestyle clothing brand tucked away on Pagoda Street in the heart of Chinatown. What’s so special about another clothing store when fashionista favourites are rife across the island? Well, it’s not common knowledge that the people behind this little initiative are seeking to connect communities by championing alternative production models for textile freedom, using special prints and materials from India. Each piece produced is unique and you are guaranteed that you won’t find such pieces anywhere else in the world. You certainly don’t get clothes like that anywhere else in Chinatown!
We finally called it a night at Hive by Wala Wala on Havelock Road, one of the island’s famous live band venues and sister club to the more popular Wala Wala at Holland Village. Besides good food and better drinks, Hive also offers big-screen TVs for live screening of big sport matches and is one of those places that goes unnoticed unless you know the neighbourhood well.
How fast you go and how much you want to cover in a day is up to you. As part of its special package and Go Green Initiative, Park Regis offers guests free bicycle rental for two, inclusive of a helmet, basket, water and baby seat on request. And to make the deal even sweeter, the #SGInsiders Weekend Staycation Package is available from only $199++. Visit www.parkregissingapore.com for more information on what is included.
Happy exploring mama!
Image #1 and image #3 courtesy of Battlebox, Singapore History Consultants Pte Ltd.