6 must-dos when you’re in Singapore

1. Work up an appetite

Try yoga or meditation before your cooking class – yoga before food increases the appetite. I go to the Ananda Marga Yoga Society (AMYS), a not-for-profit yoga studio a stone’s throw away from my home.

2. Nail it

Head from a class to a manicure/pedicure session. Singapore has some very talented nail artists who create amazing nail art that can last weeks (if you are careful). My favourite place is Jess’s Nail Bar in Eunos.

3. Loosen those knots

Virtually every kind of massage is available in Singapore, and they can be very reasonably priced, especially if you are prepared to venture into the heartlands. My favourite haunt is House of Traditional Javanese Massage on East Coast Road. They have branches all over the island.

4. Shop till you drop

Singapore is a shopper’s paradise, but the fun isn’t only on Orchard Road. Suburban malls and shops can offer interesting finds that are even more creative than Giorgio Armani! The Isan Gallery in Kembangan is worth a stop (make an appointment) and Joo Chiat can also be relied upon to throw up some very nice surprises.

5. Tuck in

Eating is the national past time – and for good reason. Skip the restaurants and venture into the iconic hawker centres and kopitiams (coffee shops) dotted around the island. Hygiene is religiously monitored by our Ministry of Environment, so you won’t have to worry on that count.

6. Explore the island on foot

Walking is the best way to get to know our city. For a guided walking tour, try Betel Box’s amazing food tours or Charlotte Chu’s personalised tours.

Ruq’s Singapore Favourites

Image from the Betelbox Facebook Page

Betel Box

Betel Box was started by Tony Tan, a professional tourist guide, restauranteur, hosteller, backpacker, conservationist and technologist rolled into one. Tony creates and runs specialist tours for individuals, small groups and corporate events. His Food Walks are amazing and crazy at the same time, sometimes going on into the wee hours of the morning! For more information, visit his website.

The Betel Box Backpacker Hostel
200 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427471
(65) 6247 7340 | 
Email the Betel BoxVisit the website

Image from Charlotte Chu’s Facebook Page

Charlotte Chu

Charlotte Chu has been a guide for the last 5 years and loves every minute of it. A self-confessed ‘information junkie’, Charlotte has read up extensively on the history and heritage of Singapore, and is most happy to share what she knows. She has in her collection pictures of ‘old’ Singapore, which gives a very good perspective on how much has changed in the last 40 years. Her tours always include food stops as a testimony to Singapore’s reputation as a ‘Food Paradise’.  Just tell her what your interests are and she will tailor a tour for you.

(65) 8101 1003 | Email Charlotte | Facebook Page

Jess’s Nail Bar

I visit Jess for a pedicure at least once a month. I especially like her nail artwork and the short foot scrub and massage that she gives. I also love the many compliments I get for my arty toe nails! 🙂 You have to call in advance as she is very popular and is usually fully booked. Speak to her in simple English as Mandarin is her first language. Don’t expect a fancy establishment, and be prepared for the local aunties engaged in a loud gossip session over your head! 🙂

Classic Saloon
Block 8 Eunos Crescent #01-2683, Singapore 40008
(65) 83688452

Image from the Ananda Marga Facebook Page

Ananda Marga Yoga Society (AMYS)

In a world of corporate-run yoga studios, Ananda Marga, a not-for-profit yoga society, is a breath of fresh air. This is where I go for my yoga classes. Ananda Marga offers small daily yoga and meditation classes which focus on gentle asanas (Raja di Raja yoga), breath work, yoga nidra-style guided deep relaxation, lymphatic drainage self-massage and the Kaoshiiki yoga dance (the latter two are unique to Ananda Marga). It is a short walk from Cookery Magic and Kembangan MRT station. Conducted by experienced instructors, I especially like how the asanas are never rushed, and how their benefits are always explained.

18 Waringin Park, Sin Chuan Garden, Singapore 416331
(65) 6344 6519 | Email AMYS | Visit the website

Image from the Isan Gallery website

Isan Gallery

Opposite Kembangan MRT you will find another hidden gem. Percy Vasu gave up architecture to start a social enterprise even before social enterprises became fashionable. Years ago, on a trip to Laos, he discovered a village of skilled weavers whose exquisite work was in danger of becoming extinct. Percy adopted the village and got them to weave textiles with designs that would sell in the western world. He paid them a fair price for their work and the beautiful silk shawls that they weave have found their way to the most fashionable capitals of the world, from New York to Tokyo. He has since converted part of his home into a gallery of treasures. Here you will find antique lacquerware, silver, textiles, accessories and the beautiful one-of-a-kind hand-weaved silk shawls. I bought one for myself as a gift for passing my 50th year on this planet! 🙂 Visits are strictly by appointment, so do call before going over.

(65)6442 4278 | Email Isan GalleryVisit the website

Joo Chiat Road, Apr 06

Image by User:Sengkang [Copyrighted free use], from Wikimedia Commons

Joo Chiat Road

An often made 8-minute drive from Cookery Magic – is known for its conservation shop houses, many of which feature Peranakan architectural design. It is also a kitchen tools paradise!  Besides the eclectic mix of shops selling kitchenware, you will also find restaurants, coffee shops, budget hotels, a red light district, mosques, churches, and temples!

A little further from my neighbourhood

If you love fashion, my recommendation is to check out Haji Lane in Arab Street – I never tire of this neighbourhood, which remains my favourite place to visit for small quirky shops. For department stores, I love Tangs in Orchard Road. For home & lifestyle items, I go to Lims. For antiques, I visit The Heritage Shop at Jalan Sultan and Keng at Craig’s Road.

So what’s cooking in my kitchen?