The Guardian: Top 10 day trips in Singapore

For a great day out, explore the islands by yacht or ferry, walk the ‘green corridor’ or learn more about the city’s heritage and traditional crafts. Writer and photographer Marcus Ng suggests his favourite adventures. Interview by Gwen Pew

The intersection of Joo Chiat and Koon Seng Roads. Photo: Alamy

The intersection of Joo Chiat and Koon Seng Roads. Photo: Alamy

6 Feb 2015:

Southern Islands

Singapore is an island nation – but it is also a nation of islands, with more than 40 individual pulaus (islands) forming the archipelago. There are two ways of exploring the Southern Islands: the luxurious way is to rent a private yacht from either Marina at Keppel Bay or ONE°15 Marina Club, which will take you to some of the more remote places. The more affordable option is to take the daily ferry from Marina South Pier. It takes you to St John’s Island, which used to be a quarantine centre but is now a tranquil place for campers; Lazarus Island, where you’ll find a secluded cove nicknamed the Blue Lagoon that links it to Pulau Seringat; and Kusu Island, whose temples come alive during Chinese festivals, and is also the location of a tortoise sanctuary.
Yacht hire at Keppel Bay from $900 for 12 people, marinakeppelbay.com
Singapore Island Cruises from Marina South Pier start at $18 for a round trip,islandcruise.com.sg

Sungei Buloh wetland reserve and Bollywood Veggies

The district of Kranji is like Singapore’s rural hinterland and one of the best places to check out the wildlife is at Sungei Buloh. You’ll find herons, monitor lizards, snakes and otters; and migratory birds from China or Siberia if you go between September and March. If you’re hungry, head to Bollywood Veggies, which is run by a rather expressive lady called Ivy Singh. It does some great dishes such as nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves), eggplant salad, and curries. After lunch, you can wander around the farmland and see local produce including jackfruits and bananas – it offers guided tours sometimes, too. Other farms in the area include Hay Dairies, Singapore’s only goat farm, Firefly, an organic food farm, and the Jurong frog farm, which breeds bullfrogs for consumption in a traditional Chinese dish called tianji. A daily shuttle links all these places to Kranji MRT station.
Sungei Buloh wetland reserve, open Mon-Sat 7.30am-7pm, Sun 7am-7pm.Bollywood Veggies, open Wed-Fri 9.30am-6.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6.30pm

Sungei Tengah

There are three main places to go to in the Sungei Tengah area. First, the local charity Animal Concerns Research and Education Society’s wildlife sanctuary – you can visit the animals that have been rescued, such as tortoises, turtles and an iguana. Then there’s Farmart Centre, another good place for animal lovers: visitors get to pet and feed rabbits and goats. At Qian Hu Fish Farm ornamental fish are bred and aquarium accessories manufactured. Qian Hu runs a free shuttle bus service to and from Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, and you can walk between these places as long as you don’t mind working those leg muscles.
Farmart Centre, open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12am. ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre, open Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm. Qian Hu Fish Farm, open Mon-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-7pm

Jalan Bahar’s dragon kilns

Jalan Bahar is home to Guan Huat and Thow Kwang, Singapore’s last two dragon kilns – gigantic dragons-shaped chambers used to glaze ceramics. This type of kiln was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago, and immigrants built the ones in Singapore in the mid-20th century. Both of them are now protected by the government and only fired up three or four times a year, on special occasions. You can visit them anytime though, and the potters there will be happy to show you how things work. Alternatively, browse through the products, or book a workshop if you want to try your hand at pottery.
Jalan Bahar Clay Studios, open Mon-Sat 8am-5pm
Thow Kwang Pottery Studio, Facebook page, open Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Bukit Brown Cemetery

There are many cemeteries worth visiting in Singapore and for some reason it’s become quite a hip thing to do lately. One of the most significant is Bukit Brown, which is currently a hot topic as the government wants to build a highway through it. Quite a few of the graves have already been exhumed prior to construction work, but it’s one of the largest traditional Chinese burial sites in south-east Asia. One of the most impressive graves, that of Ong Sam Leong, a local business tycoon, is almost the size of two basketball courts. Volunteers from the SOS Bukit Brown group regularly hold events there to educate the public about the history behind it and motifs found around the graves – check its Facebook page for updates.
Lorong Halwa, bukitbrown.org. Open daily, 24 hours

Green Corridor

Following the old Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway tracks, the Green Corridor goes from Woodlands, in the north of Singapore, all the way to the beautiful but off-limits Tanjong Pagar railway station in the south. The trains used to take passengers from Singapore to the Malay peninsula but the tracks have been removed after operations ceased in July 2011, and it’s now a green artery that goes through the heart of the island. To walk the whole track will take the best part of a day, but there are many entry and exit points along the way if you want to nip out for a bite. Look out for two old cast-iron bridges near Bukit Timah Road, and have fun spotting other renmants such as signal posts and level crossings.
thegreencorridor.org. Open daily 24 hours

Southern Ridges

The Southern Ridges is a 9km walking trail that links three main parks: Kent Ridge park, Telok Blangah Hill park and Mount Faber park. Starting with Kent Ridge park, make sure you go to the car park at the top of the hill, where you can get spectacular views of Singapore, and where a second world war tank is still on display. The war memorial museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu, is also there and built to commemorate Lieutenant Adnan, one of the last soldiers to defend the area from the Japanese. Telok Blangah Hill park is home to the grand Alkaff Mansion, which is now an Italian restaurant and also a popular place for wedding shoots. Pass through the gorgeous pedestrian bridge, Henderson Waves, before reaching Mount Faber, from where you can take a cable car to Sentosa, home to Universal Studios and other attractions.
West Coast park, nparks.gov.sg. Open daily 24 hours

Kampong Lorong Buangkok

A bit of a living museum, Lorong Buangkok is home to the last kampong – a traditional village – on mainland Singapore. It’s in Hougang in the north-east of the country and is a remnant of what Singapore used to be like. It feels like you’ve stepped through a time machine when you arrive. A few residents still live here, and you’ll see things such as unfinished roads, cats and dogs wandering around, wooden houses built in the traditional Malay style, orchards, and other old-world elements. If you just walk around, it will take about an hour but if you fancy chatting with the locals and taking photos, you could spend at least half a day there.
Gerald Drive. Open daily 24 hours

Joo Chiat and East Coast

Once the quarter for Peranakans – a group of Chinese who immigrated to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – the Joo Chiat and East Coast areas are rich with heritage. A good route would be to go down East Coast eastwards from Tanjong Katong (which is also worth exploring) all the way to Siglap, but Joo Chiat Road makes for a great detour – as it’s home to local eateries and shops. Places to check out include the Ceylonese Tamil Temple on Ceylon Road, Katong Antique House along East Coast Road and Kuan Im Tng Temple at Tembeling Road. East Coast Road is home to traditional coffee shops such as Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, Ampang Yong Tau Foo and Kim Choo Kueh, and while the main Joo Chiat and East Coast Roads are quite touristy, the side lanes have a lot of lovely shops and townhouses, and their former glory remains largely untouched.

Changi Village and Pulau Ubin

Close to Changi airport, Changi Village used to be the site of the British Royal Air Force Base, remnants of which can still be found there today. There are excellent food places at the Changi Village Hawker Centre, including a bunch of popularnasi lemak stalls. The Malay coffeeshop at Block 1 also has excellent desserts such as goreng pisang (fried banana) and epok epok (curry puff). From here, you can take a ferry to Pulau Ubin, the largest offshore island of Singapore. It’s the last kampong outside of Kampong Lorong Buangkok and can get crowded on weekends and during festive periods. You can find cheap, decent seafood here. There are also wetlands and wild rocky shores at a cape called Chek Jawa. And if it’s tucked-away sand that you’re after, find your way to Maman Beach or Noordin Beach, which sit further away from the usual tourist areas.
Bum boats leave from Changi Point Ferry Terminal from dawn till dusk, £1.50 per person each way

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The Guardian: Top 10 outdoor spaces in Singapore

Away from the bustle of the city there are tranquil parks, historic sites and lookout towers to explore. Azyure D Hikari, co-founder of Urban Explorers of Singapore, gives his recommendations on where to visit. Interview by Gwen Pew

Changi Village Beach. Photo: Wang Guowen/Flickr

Changi Village Beach. Photo: Wang Guowen/Flickr

5 Dec 2015:

Kranji Beach battle site

There are many interesting war stories involving the Japanese invasion of Singapore, and one of them took place here on 10 February 1942, when the imperial army suffered a heavy loss of troops, which caused them to panic and almost abort the mission. It’s one of the battles that Singapore won, but due to miscommunication, a key defence line in the area was left open and by the next day, the Japanese army broke through and ended up attacking many other parts of the country. It’s now a good place to spot wildlife. My favourite moment was a close encounter with a Brahminy Kite, also known as the Singapore Bald Eagle, but you can also find crocodiles and other animals if you’re lucky.
Off Kranji Way, nparks.gov.sg

Pearl Hill city park

Above the busy streets of Chinatown, Pearl Hill was initially named Stamford Hill after Stamford Raffles – the founding father of Singapore – by Captain James Pearl in 1822. After a dispute, however, he decided to name it after himself. It used to be the highest hill in Singapore, but when the British army converted Canning Hill into a military fort, they realised that Pearl Hill was higher and ordered it to be shaved off. It’s now less than half of its previous height and also has a ready-to-drink water reservoir under its grounds. Highest or not, it’s still a great place to get in some quiet time without having to leave the city centre. The turtle pond at the top is an especially lovely spot, and is surrounded by a few picnic tables for a relaxing lunch break.
Pearl Bank. Open daily 24/7, nparks.gov.sg

Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu

Once the city’s cemetery, the government had exhumed most of the graves by 1973 for urban development but two ancient graves still survive. They belong to a Muslim Javanese father and daughter who came from a noble family. Their legend has been romanticised in the 1959 film, Radin Mas. I uncovered the real history behind them with my team, however. We found out they are probably the earliest tombs to exist in Singapore, dating back to pre-1222. This is my favourite place to go to relax as there aren’t any mosquitos and it’s well away from urban hustle.
Near Block 42, Telok Blangah Rise. Open daily 24/7

Sungei Seletar Simpang Kiri

Translating as Seletar river, the name refers to Suku Seletar, a tribe of maritime people from the Spice Islands in Indonesia who used to live by the mouth of Seletar river and along the creek of the Straits of Johor. The original river was curvier, but it’s since been straightened as part of a canal project. This is a great fishing spot and a good place for some peace and quiet.
Off Yio Chu Kang Road. Open daily 24/7

Japanese cemetery park

Surrounded by private houses in Hougang in the north-east of Singapore and listed as a memorial park, this is the largest Japanese cemetery in south-east Asia. It has 910 tombstones, including those of Yamamoto Otokichi, the first Japanese resident in Singapore, and Futabatei Shimei, the writer who first brought realism to Japanese literature, as well as young Japanese prostitutes, civilians, soldiers and convicted war criminals. There are also a few designated heritage trees, including an old lychee tree that’s unable to bear fruit due to the local climate, and a rubber tree that’s a remnant of the area’s previous life as a rubber plantation. It’s frequented by photographers, picnickers and couples, and there’s a Zen vibe.
825B Chuan Hoe Avenue. Open daily 8am-7pm

Changi Village Beach

At the western end of the Changi Boadwalk, what I’ve nicknamed Grouper Beach is still a part of Changi Beach, but anglers often catch that type of fish in the area along with horseshoe crabs and squids. Granites found here have been carbon-dated to the mesozoic era. Look out for a huge granite outcrop with the Arabic symbol for Allah inscribed on it. It was initially thought to be an inanimate “keramat” (or shrine) for the Malay fishermen and seafarers, but it’s now widely believed that they are more likely to be nautical markers. Another rock with a similar symbol can be found at the offshore island of Pulau Sekudu.
End of Andover Road

West Coast park

The more popular part of West Coast park is the Marsh Garden, but if you’re looking for a less-frequented place, head to the eastern side, where there’s a koi pond that’s been around for decades. It used to be by the sea and you can see the offshore island of Pulau Retan Laut, but the sea view has disappeared since the land reclamation in 1993, the merger of Retan Laut with the mainland, and the construction of Pasir Panjang terminal. Still, it’s a great place for quiet get-togethers and barbecues, and even playing with remote control motorboats.
71 West Coast Highway. Open 24/7, nparks.gov.sg

Tanah Merah yellow beacon

Tanah Merah is Malay for red soil, which refers to a red lateritic cliff that was once found along the coast and used as a nautical marker. In the 18th century, there used to be a village nearby called Kampung Tanah Merah Besar that was occupied by Bugis, a group of Indonesians who were often traders, but that’s long gone. Today, it is the location of the Tanah Merah ferry terminal, the gateway to Bintan and Batam Islands in Indonesia. To its east is the Tanah Merah Beach, though it’s not accessible to the public. If you go round and behind the fence, however, you’ll reach a bright yellow beacon at the edge of a water breaker. It takes a while to get there, but it’s always a nice breezy spot even if it’s hot elsewhere on the island, and anglers also like to fish here.
West of Tanah Merah ferry terminal

Jurong Hill and lookout tower

Jurong Hill’s original name was Bukit Perepok, and it’s a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The Garden of Fame has trees planted by visiting foreign dignitaries, but a great hangout is the lookout tower. The tower has a commanding panoramic view of the town of Jurong, and you’ll see the industrial area including Jurong Island. It’s popular with couples looking for a romantic photo spot. Jurong bird park is also nearby if you’re planning on spending the day in the area.
Jurong Hill

Mount Emily park

Between the shopping district of Dhoby Ghaut and Little India, the land around Mount Emily was owned by William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore. It was later bought by Charles Robert Prinsep, who allegedly named the hills after his daughters. There used to be a sacred tree that was said to be guarded by a giant snake, and a bulldozer capsized when trying to pull it down. It was chopped down a few years later, but a sandy playground remains for kids, and it’s a good place to take a break. The iconic restaurant Wild Rocket, whose founder Willin Low pioneered “mod-Sin” cuisine, is also within walking distance at the Hangout Hotel if you want a great meal.
Mount Emily

The Guardian: Top 10 Nightlife Venues in Singapore

Whether you want a few beers with mates or a top DJ, Dean Chew, co-founder of record label Darker Than Wax, selects Singapore’s best night spots. Interview by Gwen Pew.

Blu Jaz

21 Nov 2014:

1925 Microbrewery & Restaurant

One of the newest microbreweries in town, 1925 opened in May, but is already a hit with the locals. It’s just down the road from Suprette (see below) and tucked away on the second- and third-floor spaces, but the building itself is bright yellow, so you won’t miss it. Decor is industrial chic, complete with concrete walls and exposed lightbulbs – a bit too hipster for some, but the dark and pale ales brewed in their three huge canisters are seriously good. The food is decent, but the star of the place is the delightful monthly line-up of tipples.
369 Jalan Besar, +65 6294 9215, the1925.com.sg. Open Mon-Sat 10am-12am, Sun 10am-10pm

Suprette

Suprette is in Jalan Besar, which is well on its way to becoming the next hip neighbourhood in Singapore. It’s inside the quirky Kam Leng Hotel, which is part of the area’s conservation heritage trail. It does some fantastic burgers – the chickpea version is great for vegetarians – and stocks a wide range of mostly American craft beers, as well as ciders. There are a few tourists there during the day, but at night it’s mostly frequented by locals. It’s not much of a party spot, but a good place to while away an evening with good company.
Kam Leng Hotel Lobby, 383 Jalan Besar, +65 6298 8962, suprette.com. Open breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri 7.30am-3pm, Sat-Sun 7.30am-4pm; dinner and drinks Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu 6pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-12am

Blu Jaz Cafe

This is one of the few independently run night spots in Singapore – around for 10 years and it’s still packed all the time. It’s got a great vibe and a mixed demographic. The outdoor passageway is always lively; the first floor has free DJ nights every week, playing everything from hip-hop to dubstep, and the second floor space sees DJs or live jazz bands performing and also hosts stand-up comedy nights. There’s no dress code and everything’s very casual, but it has a natural energy and is a surefire hit for a good night out.
11 Bali Lane, + 65 9199 0610, blujazcafe.net. Open Tues-Thu 12pm-12.30am, Fri and Mon 12pm-1.30am, Sat 4pm-1.30am

Cable Car 1890s Saloon

In Cuppage – traditionally a Japanese area just off Singapore’s main shopping street, Orchard Road – Cable Car is a Japanese whiskey bar and watering hole that not too many people know about. There’s a huge variety of drinks on offer, including some great single malts like Yamakazi. It’s an offshoot of one of the oldest bars in Yokohama Chinatown in Japan, but has the woody interior of a San Francisco joint. Everything about it is rich – the colours, the textures, the smells – and you definitely feel like you’ve been transported out of Singapore.

49 Cuppage Terrace, + 65 6835 3545, sential.com.sg/cable_car.htm. Open Mon-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat 12pm-2am, Sun 12pm-12am

kyo

Tucked behind a little doorway in the middle of Singapore’s financial district, kyo is just a year old but is hands down the best club in town right now. It’s in a cavernous basement (you’ll see the crowd long before you see the entrance), with a generous three-sided island bar in the middle. There’s a consistently good rota of international and local DJs playing house and techno, as well as cool street-style art on the walls. Kyo makes you feel comfortable: you can either shake it on the dance floor or chill out with your friends.
#B1-02 Keck Seng Tower, 133 Cecil Street, clubkyo.com. Open Wed-Thu 9pm-4am, Fri 9pm-4.30am, Sat 11pm-6am

Jekyll & Hyde

As its name suggests, there are two sides to Jekyll & Hyde: during the day, it’s a nail salon called Manicurious, but at night it turns into a great drinking spot. The bar is at the back of the space, and bartender Jeff Ho knows his stuff. He mixes some stiff drinks – his smoky whiskey sour is legendary, as are his lovingly created cocktails. The space is engineered to feel small and intimate, and its warm tone lends an almost feminine feel. It embodies the izakaya (Japanese pub) concept and office workers flock there for post-work drinks.
49 Tras Street, +65 6222 3349, 49tras.st. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am

Spiffy Dapper

It’s a tiny, low-key speakeasy bar with a small DJ console, but Spiffy Dapper really reflects the hospitable personality of its owner, Abhishek Cherian George, who wants to make sure that everyone has a good time and is happy by the end of the night. It runs some great music nights such as Mugic, co-founded by local artists Mislav, Uly and Kentaro, and blasts a fun mix of deep house, disco and techno. It’s a really friendly place that pays tribute to the 1920s Jazz Age.
#02-01, 61 Boat Quay, +65 8233 9810, spiffydapper.com. Open Mon-Fri 6pm-3am, Sat-Sun 8pm-3am

Colbar

Colbar is essentially a shed, but it’s part of the city’s fabric and one of the best places to get away from the hustle and bustle. In Portsdown, in the western part of Singapore where the old British army barracks are, it’s something of an institution in a lush suburban area. Colbar has been run by the same couple since the 1950s. It’s super vintage, and when it moved to its current location around 10 years ago it maintained its original old-school look. They do an amazing fry-up in the morning, but it stays open at night too. The idyllic setting makes this a great place to hang out with mates over a few bottles of relatively cheap beer.
Wessex Estate, 9A Whitchurch Road, +65 6779 4859, no website. Open Tue-Sun 11am-10pm

Artistry

Another independently owned venue, Artistry is a mix of many things. There are great artworks by up-and-coming local artists on its walls, and it’s a popular cafe during the day for creative minds to meet and mingle. At night, it maintains its hip but relaxed vibe, and hosts themed music nights – from tribute concerts to Queen to hosting the first Y2K14 International LIVE LOOP ASIA Festival Singapore. Artistry provides emerging musicians with a stage and an audience. There’s a great deck outside for those who want to get some air.
17 Jalan Pinang, +65 6298 2420, artistryspace.com. Open Tue-Sat 10am-11.30pm, Sun 10am-7pm

Sugarhall

Nestled in the intimate enclave of Amoy Street and just a stone’s throw from the business district, Sugarhall is a neat introduction to Singapore’s urban scene. With warm splashes of colour, wood and rattan furniture, plus a great soundtrack of reggae and ska, the bar and grill oozes charm like an exotic Caribbean-island hut. It has an extensive list of rum cocktails: the ron negroni – a delicious concoction of Cana Brava rum, Velvet Falernum, Mancino Rosso and Campari – is a must, and the starters are great to munch on – try the roasted beetroot with pickle, kale and mascarpone cheese. The bartenders and waiting staff are also impeccably mannered (a bit of a rarity in our city state), which enhances the overall vibe.
102 Amoy Street,
sugarhall.sg. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-12am

Time Out Singapore: Essential Guide to Seminyak & Petitenget, Bali

With two public holidays coming up this month right before Bali’s rainy season officially starts, there’s no better time to pay the Island of the Gods a visit, says Gwen Pew.

Seminyak & Petitenget

14 Oct 2014: Kuta has long been known as the party and tourist central of Bali, but for those looking for somewhere more luxurious and away from the backpacking crowd, we’d suggest that you visit its northern sibling, Seminyak.

The area is known for its upmarket lifestyle, and has no shortage of fashionable boutiques, chic restaurants and Instagram- worthy cafés. And should you find yourself tired, there are plenty of spas and bars to rest your tired feet – not to mention the fact that the sunsets along its fine grey beach are truly magical.

But if you want to stay ahead of the curve, then venture even further north to Petitenget, home to some fantastic hang-out spots. We’ve trawled through the streets of both districts to revisit some time-honoured institutions and hunt down cool new establishments, so whether you’re a first timer or an annual visitor to the area, we’ve got you sorted.

Where to eat

You’ve probably worked hard to get the perfect beach bod prior to your trip, but we’re telling you right now that the real reason you got fit before arriving is so you can guiltlessly enjoy all the food that this place has to offer. The first street you’ll hear about for good grub is Jalan Oberoi (also known as JalanLaksamana and Jalan Kayu Aya; the streets here tend to have several names, so be aware of that).

There are a few cafés and brunch places on the stretch, such as Anomali Coffee (Jln Oberoi No 7B, +62 361 736687), the über-hipster Revolver (Gang 51, Jln Oberoi No 3, +62 361 7884968) and the gorgeous, brand-new Corner House (Jln Oberoi No 10A, +62 361  730276).

Fancy foodies can head to Ku De Ta’s sophisticated dinner spot Mejekawi (Jln Oberoi No 9, +62 361 736969) or Urchin (Jln Oberoi No 22, +62 361 732413), a new Aussie-style raw bar and grill. But otherwise, we’d advise you to make the walk to Jalan Petitenget.

The start of the area is marked by the synonymously named Petitenget Café (Jln Petitenget No 40X, +62 361 4733054), which is chilled out during the day and welcoming at night, while tea lovers should definitely check out Biku (Jln Petitenget No 888, +62 361 8570888), which is owned by the Australian princess of Ubud and boasts a fantastic collection of tea from India – and you can even book a tarot card reading session here.

The Potato Head Beach Club (Jln Petitenget No 51B, +62 361 4737979), whose fine dining French restaurant, Tapping Shoes, has just been revamped as a bistro, is worth a visit, but for some delectable fine dining, you should book a table at the recently opened Bambu (Jln Petitenget No 198, +62 361 8469797). Their chefs, including several 60-plus-year-old aunties, come from all over Indonesia and their food is authentic and superb.

Further into Petitenget, Barbacoa (Jln Petitenget No 14, +62 361 739233) is a great Argentinian place, Naughty Nuri’s (Jln Batu Belig No 41, +62 361 8476722) does excellent pork ribs, and Warung Eropa (Jln Petitenget No 98, +62 361 4732480) will satisfy your strongest crispy duck cravings.

Where to drink and party

While it’s not as intense as Kuta, the nightlife scene in Seminyak is certainly alive and well. The biggest parties of the year usually happen in August at Ku De TaPotato Head and W Hotel (Jln Petitenget, +62 361 4738106), but the brand new Jenja (Jln Nakula No 532XX, +62 361 8827711) will call to your inner party animal. It’s known for its hip hop Wednesdays and house/techno Fridays, although we’ve heard that Monday nights are surprisingly fun, too.

Jalan Oberoi is home to several newish places that opened last year for good drinks and better times: Red Carpet Champagne Bar (Jln Oberoi No 42C, +62 361 737889) is a fun, classy affair and claims to be ‘home to Indonesia’s largest champagne collection’, while La Favela (Jln Oberoi No 177X, +62 361 730603) also hosts great parties.

And if you’re further up on Jalan Petitenget, pop into Hu’u Bar (Jln Petitenget, +62 036 14736576), which has been around since 2001 and has hosted a range of celeb DJs. For something a bit different, head on to Salty Seagull (Jln Petitenget No 999, +62 361 8497588), where crab racing takes place every Thursday night. And if it’s gay bars that you’re after, then head right on to Jalan Camplung Tanduk – you won’t miss them.

Where to shop

As one hotel manager wisely advised the men, ‘Seminyak is a woman’s shopping paradise, so just give her the credit card and give up’. He was right. You can still find touristy knick-knacks, but the boutique shops here are generally classier – and pricier. There are three main shopping streets in the area: Jalan Raya Seminyak, and the aforementioned Jalan Oberoi and Jalan Petitenget.

Ladies can treat themselves to something pretty at Biasa (Jln Raya Seminyak No 36, +62 361 730308), Innuendo (Jln Oberoi No 117, +62 361 841 0751) and Magali Pascal (Jln Petitenget No 900, +62 361 8469794), which are all founded by European designers based there.

Those looking for something more hip and casual for both genders, head over to Somewhere (Jln Oberoi No 52, +62 361 9262981) and This is a Love Song (Jln Oberoi No 3, +62 361 9130713), or else pop over toSimpleKonsepStore (Jln Oberoi No 40, +62 361 730393), which stocks apparel as well as quirky accessories and designs.

For non-fashion goods, Bathe (Jln Raya Batu Belig No. 88, +62 361 792 9779) has wonderful bath products, and if you forget to bring a book for the beach, the biggest local bookshop Periplus (Jln Kayu Aya No 1, Seminyak Square, +62 361 736851) will have you covered.

What to do

Get your culture fix by paying the little beach-side temple, Pura Petitenget, a visit. It’s right by the beach and holds some beautiful ceremonies, but do be respectful of local culture as these rituals are sacred to the Balinese (a sarong is required for the ladies and any revealing clothing should be avoided, and be courteous when you’re taking photos).

If you prefer something a bit more active, you – or your kids – can learn to surf at Rip Curl Surf School (Jln Arjuna, +62 361 735858), or else indulge in a massage. Many hotels have pampering five-star spas, but Body Works (Jln Kayu Jati No 2, +62 361 733317) has been around for 20 years and offers relaxing treatments without breaking the bank. And Think Pink Nails (Jln Batu Belig No 108, +62 361 9188116) is great for a mani-pedi – they even have a car that picks up and drops off customers staying in the area.

And then, of course, there’s the beach. Few things are better in life than watching the sun dip into the ocean, so plonk yourself on the colourful beanbags at one of the many lovely beach bars and soak it all in. We especially love La Plancha (Jln Mesari Beach, +62 361 730603) on Double Six Beach.

Getting around

The traffic in Seminyak is notoriously nightmarish, yet the most comfortable way of getting around is still by car. Most resorts can sort you out with a set of wheels and a driver, but taxis are cheap and plentiful, too. Blue Bird is the most trusted cab company in the area, but whichever one you take, be sure you ask the cabbies to run the meter if you don’t want to be ripped off. A few brave souls do choose to take on the locals’ preferred mode of transport: motorcycles. A motorbike taxi will cost around $1 to get you from Seminyak to Petitenget, and for $5 you can rent that baby all day (excluding gas).

But if you’re really skint, just use those legs and walk. Seminyak is not the most pedestrian-friendly of places, and pavements sometimes do just vanish in the middle of the road, but on the whole it’s definitely doable, safe and free.

Rates on Skyscanner for AirAsia direct flights to Bali start from $241 return.

Time Out Singapore: Downtown Line Phase 1

Gwen Pew takes a sneak peek at the first six stations to open as part of the brand new Downtown Line.

Bugis Station. Image courtesy of Morven Koh.

Bugis Station. Image courtesy of Morven Koh.

4 Dec 2013:

Bugis

With a new exit pavillion built along Tan Quee Lan Road (Exit D), the Downtown Line platform is a bit of a trek from the original East West Line station under Bugis Junction mall. If you want to transfer between lines here, expect at least a five minute walk (even with travellators) along a newly-built underground link – though we like that the walkways have a glassy and futuristic look (featuring an art installation, ‘Ephemeral’ by Patrick Chia).

What’s around it Bugis Junction, Raffles Hospital, Bugis Village

Promenade

Standing at 42m below ground level, Promenade takes over Bras Basah (35m) as the deepest station on the MRT line. The two new Downtown Line platforms are located beneath the existing Circle Line ones – there’s a very long escalator down to the concourse. The artwork on the walls of the new platforms, entitled ‘Earthcake’, is created by Ana Prvacki and inspired by kueh lapis as well as striations created by different types of rocks piled on top of each other. There are no new exits.

What’s around it Millenia Walk, Suntec City, Marina Square

Bayfront

The Downtown Line train track runs directly parallel to the Circle Line here, which means that the lines share the same platforms, making it one of the most convenient transfer points in the MRT system.

What’s around it Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, Gardens by the Bay

Downtown

Located along the south end of Marina Bay, the namesake stop for this line is one of two new stations opened in phase 1. The platforms are both located on the basement level but are divided by a wall – decorated with an artwork called ‘Leaves’ by local ceramics artist Jason Lim – so you’ll have to go up and around to switch directions. Despite the stop’s compact size, there will be six different exits, with most of them connecting directly to Marina Bay Link Mall.

What’s around it Marina Bay Financial Centre, Marina Bay Link Mall, The Sail, One Raffles Quay, The Promontory@Marina Bay

Telok Ayer

Located under the junction of Cross Street and Telok Ayer Street, the station stands in between Chinatown and Raffles Place. The two platforms are located at the Basement 2 Level, albeit on different sides of the station (similar to the Downtown station), while the ticketing concourse is on the floor above and riders will have to take another escalator up to reach the ground level and exit through one of the three entrances.

What’s around it Amoy Street, Far East Square, China Square

Chinatown

The Downtown Line platforms are located on a floor above the existing North East Line station, which means that switching between the two lines only requires a relatively short walk. Still, a new concourse area has been built – accessible through new Exits F and G (leading to Hong Lim Complex and Chinatown Point, respectively – both along Cross Street) – which features ‘Flying Colours’: vibrant, abstract sketches of laundry on invisible drying lines created by Cheo Chai-Hiang, one of the founders of local modern art.

What’s around it Chinatown Point, Hong Lim Complex, People’s Park Complex

Time Out Singapore: Countdown Destinations in Asia 2013 (Feature)

Want to escape Singapore for New Year’s Eve? Gwen Pew and Gabrielle Jaffe round up the best places to celebrate across Asia.

Ring in the new year by partying it up on the beaches of Bali!

Ring in the new year by partying it up on the beaches of Bali!

4 Dec 2013:

For beach celebrations

Bali

For a more chilled out and romantic way of counting down, why not hop over to Bali and enjoy the moment on beautiful golden sands? Almost all the beach bars and clubs around the city will put on special New Year’s Eve nights, and the most well-known spots are the ones in Kuta, Seminkyak and Legian. Otherwise, Puputan Badung Square’s annual parade does a pretty good job of getting revellers in the mood, with a huge carnival that caters to young and old alike.

The heritage district of Ubud is becoming increasingly popular, and its New Year’s Eve celebrations do go on well into the early hours, but it’s still a good way of beating at least some of the tourist crowd. For those of you craving a bit more quiet and privacy, Sanur offers some stunning beaches, or try staying at the mountain lake resort area of Bedugul instead.

Get there Air Asia (www.airasia.com) flies direct to Bali from $232 return.

For shopping and alternative firework views

Bangkok

The main countdown event in Bangkok takes place in front of the Central World Square outside the eponymous shopping centre – the largest mall in the city. Enjoy live concerts by various popular local bands along with light displays and screens broadcasting countdowns from other cities – including the spectacular one in Sydney, which is four hours ahead of Thailand – before a brilliant fireworks display marks the New Year in Bangkok.

For those of you who want a swankier setting and panoramic view, your best bet is to head to the ‘Altitude’ party, which is held annually at the rooftop of Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, 37 floors above ground. THB1800++ ($70++) will get you access to two helipad-turned-dance-floors with local and international DJs helming the decks, three drinks and the chance to experience a fireworks show up close.

Otherwise, river cruises are also popular on NYE and companies such as Chaophraya Princess Cruise, White Orchid River Cruise and Grand Pearl Cruise all have special tours that include dinner, live music, celebratory drinks and, of course, a gorgeous setting to view the fireworks from. Costs range from around THB3,000 to 4,000 ($118++ to $158++); seewww.thairivercruise.com for details.

Get there Tiger Airways (www.tigerair.com) flies direct to Bangkok from $230 return.

For fancy fireworks and culture vultures

Hong Kong

As Asia’s concrete jungle, Hong Kong knows how to pull out all the stops when it comes to ushering in the New Year in style, with the largest fireworks display breaking out beautifully on the harbour itself. There are many places you can get fantastic views of the show from, but we’d especially recommend Ritz Carlton’s Ozone bar on the 118th floor, which is hosting a special Black and Gold Masquerade Ball for the evening with tickets costing HKD600 ($97). Otherwise, check http://www.aqua. com.hk to see if the iconic red-sailed traditional vessel will be operating like they did last year for a postcard perfect way to celebrate the night.

Away from the harbour, Sha Tin Park plays host to a countdown carnival with an eclectic mix of music, dance, jugglers and artistic performances. A highlight here last year was Herbert’s Dream by French arts group Quidams, which saw little white figures on stilts transform into four-metre-high illuminated giant elves, all set to music. This is one for the dreamers – and the broke (it’s one of the few parties in Hong Kong with free admission).

Get there Scoot (www.flyscoot.com) flies direct to Hong Kong from $450 return.

For views of iconic landmarks

Kuala Lumpur

If you’re after iconic landmarks as the backdrop of your fireworks photos, head to KLCC Park for the best view of the ones exploding over the Petronas Towers. However, many other venues around the city centre will also be staging their own shows – check out Sunway Pyramid, Damansara Mutiara, Bukit Building or Dataran Merdeka.

To catch the riot of colours and sounds at a glance, most surrounding five-star hotels offer a pretty decent view from their rooms or bars: Traders Hotel’s Skybar and Mandarin Oriental’s Sultan Lounge are both good places to check out.

Get there Tiger Airways flies direct to Kuala Lumpur from $117 return.

For street parties and entertainment

Manila

A lot of posh hotels around Manila Metro are throwing large-scale extravagant parties, with some of the most popular ones at Edsa Shangri-La, The Peninsula Manila and the Dusit Thani Manila, all featuring live music and a delicious dinner.

Makati City will once again host an annual street party, starting at the corner of Peninsula Manila Hotel, featuring all sorts of entertainment delights such as magic shows and other performances. Plus, it offers one of the most impressive fireworks shows in the country.

For a bit of retro dance music, Discovery Suites is where you need to be, as DJ Shanti Santos and the Human Race Band will be on stage to lift you up into high spirits with their euphoric brand of tunes. Resorts World Sentosa’s Filipino counterpart also traditionally holds parties at Bar 360 and The Plaza in Newport Mall. While there will be no fireworks here due to its proximity to the airport, this is nonetheless a brilliant destination for starting 2014 with a bang.

Get there Philippine Airlines (www.philippineairlines.com) flies direct to Manila from $262 return.

For traditional temples and music madness

Tokyo

If you want to be one of the first people in Asia to see in 2014 – and to see it accompanied by banging beats from some of the biggest names in the electronic music industry – then head to the Land of the Rising Sun. In previous years, Tokyo mega-club Sound Vision Museum has managed to nab Detroit techno masters Jeff Mills and Derrick May for its wild and crazy NYE parties. See http://www.vision-tokyo.com nearer to the date for details. For those who prefer to say goodbye to 2013 with live music, surrounded by a rowdy crowd of party-goers, Rockin’ On magazine’s Countdown Japan festival sees 100 acts playing across four stages over three days, culminating in one big all-night party on New Year’s Eve itself.

Looking for something less head-bangy? Then mosey on down to The Pit Inn, the Shinjuku den that puts on an all-night jazz-in with dozens of veteran musicians. Punters are free to come and go as they please, which is perfect if you want to sneak off for a spot of hatsumode. What’s hatsumode, you ask? This all-important first shrine visit of the year sees the Japanese don colourful kimonos and present amulets at Shinto shrines across the country at midnight on 31 Dec. But don’t worry if you’re too busy partying at the stroke of midnight – the atmospheric shrine visits go on throughout the night and continue for the first few days of the New Year.

Get there Vietnam Airlines (www.vietnamairlines.com) flies direct to Tokyo from $837 return.

Time Out Singapore: A Quick Guide to Nusa Dua, Bali

Gwen Pew and Berwin Song check out three new properties of note in Bali’s Nusa Dua region.

Photos can do no justice to the stunning Grand Nikko Bali. Image courtesy of the hotel.

Photos can do no justice to the stunning Grand Nikko Bali. Image courtesy of the resort.

13 Nov 2013: On the east coast of the southern tip of Bali, the district of Nusa Dua is traditionally known as a gated enclave of swanky resorts, home to five-star properties such as the Conrad, Grand Hyatt Bali and the Westin. While there aren’t many sights in the area itself (the bland Bali Collection shopping complex is the only real retail centre in the area), the region is perfect for those looking for a quiet, all-inclusive getaway or resort conference – recently, both the 2013 Miss World competition and the security-heavy APEC summit were held inside the gated region. The district is also seeing increased development in the wide swathes of land outside of the gates, with numerous resorts in the works.

Best for romantic getaways

Grand Nikko Bali

Walking around the sprawling, stunning grounds of Grand Nikko Bali, you wouldn’t think that the resort is about to celebrate its 18th anniversary. Everything is kept in mint condition, the staff members are all friendly and attentive, and the facilities are top notch. The five-star resort was rebranded just a few months ago, following the refurbishment of all 389 guest rooms and the introduction of 19 villas that each boast their own private infinity pool with either an ocean or garden view (there are 17 one-bedroom, one two-bedroom and one threebedroom villa), plus an exclusive villa lounge, a ballroom and an open-air wedding gazebo.

Guests staying at the villas are also welcomed to use the Nikko Club Lounge – a prime location to watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean, enjoy a complimentary a la carte breakfast, or relax over canapés and cocktails at dusk – and get pampered by a range of treatments, such as the recommended two-hour Harmony massage, at the Mandara Spa.

With four restaurants and a bar, as well as a range of other activities (including camel rides) and direct beach access, there is no real need to leave the Grand Nikko if you don’t want to, making it perfect for those who are looking for a truly private romantic getaway.

Guest rooms start from USD350++/ night; villas from USD650++/night. A discount of 33 percent off villas is available until March 2014. Seewww.grandnikkobali.com for details.

Best for beach activites

Chedi Sakala

The third property by luxury hotel group General Hotel Management (GHM) to open in Bali, the Chedi Sakala just started welcoming its first guests at the end of October, and officially opens this month. The resort occupies 2.4 hectares of land and is located right along the well-developed beaches of Tanjung Benoa at the northern end of Nusa Dua (inside the gated enclave), which features numerous water activies and sports. Impressively, all of the 247 guest rooms are suites; there are also 14 private one- and two-bedroom pool villas.

Other facilities at the resort include two swimming pools, a wellness spa, health club, lagoon bar and kid’s club. An all-daydining restaurant serves up an international cuisine, while the Sakala Bali restaurant across the road from the resort provides a more upscale, contemporary French dining option.

Guest rooms start from USD310++/ night; villas from USD800++/night. Seewww.ghmhotels.com/en/thechedi- sakala/home for details.

Best for those on a budget

Mantra Nusa Dua

One of the most affordable options in the area, Mantra Nusa Dua is the brand’s flagship resort outside of Australia (where they have 52 properties). While it doesn’t boast the all-out swankiness of some of the surrounding resorts (such as the ridiculously massive Mulia compound across the street), it’s great for a quiet getaway with wellsized rooms.

There are 172 rooms in three categories, situated in two wings surrounding the centrepiece pool, which runs the length of the hotel (with an overhead walkway creating a few waterfall features that leads to their dining room). All rooms feature a balcony with an outdoor daybed and rain showers in the bathrooms. Superior and Deluxe rooms start at a relatively spacious 51sqm – the difference comes in the form of an extra sofa area or a bathtub, respectively. The top rooms are the suites (24 in total) – all sized at 102sqm and still significantly cheaper than most other resorts in the area.

Though there’s no direct beach access, free shuttles are provided to Geger Beach, which is a threeminute drive away. Here, Mantra has a small area with a few beach chairs reserved specially for their guests.

The resort is also home to the Chakra spa, a first for the Mantra brand, featuring their signature Chakra balancing massage (which involves a Tibetan singing bowl and Indonesian massage). Look out for more as Mantra expands in Asia, with plans for multiple properties across Bali (including their budget hotel Brand Free and the higher-end Peppers, the first of which will be a rebranded property taking over Sentosa Seminyak).

Superior rooms start from USD99/ night; suites start from USD242/ night Seewww.mantranusadua.com for details.

Time Out Singapore: Legoland Malaysia Water Park (Feature)

Legoland Malaysia Water Park is officially opening its doors on 21 October. Featuring over 70 Lego models and 20 water-based rides – including the signature attractions Joker Soaker, Wave Pool and Build-A-Raft River – this is set to be the largest Legoland Water Park in the world. Gwen Pew goes and checks it out.

Legoland Malaysia's water park is definitely kid-friendly - but there's plenty to do for the big kids too. Photo courtesy of Legoland Malaysia.

Legoland Malaysia’s water park is definitely kid-friendly – but there’s plenty to do for the big kids too. Photo courtesy of Legoland Malaysia.

21 Oct 2013: Legoland Malaysia Water Park is officially opening its doors on 21 October. Featuring over 70 Lego models and 20 water-based rides – including the signature attractions Joker Soaker, Wave Pool and Build-A-Raft River – this is set to be the largest Legoland Water Park in the world. Most of the slides and pools are suitable for kids as young as two, but older kids and adults will also have fun at the more thrilling ones such as the Tidal Tube, which you shoot down in almost total darkness and reach breathtaking speeds before emerging from the other side, 240-feet down. Alternatively, the LEGO Slide Racers is also designed for daredevils, as six people race down different tubes at the same time on a mat, head first.

The only things to note are that firstly, grounds are extremely slippery so do be careful, and secondly, because Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country, most people there are dressed in long-sleeved shirts and trousers; feel free to wear a swimsuit but there weren’t a lot of people in bikinis when we went for a media preview, so ladies, be prepared to stand out a little if you choose to show more flesh.

Overall, though, the Water Park makes for a fun day out for all the family – so get ready, set, soak!

Legoland Malaysia 7 Jln Legoland, Bandar Medini, Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia (+60 7 597 8888, www.legoland.com.my). Sun-Tue & Thu-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-8pm. Water Park: MYR85-MYR105++ ($30-$40++); Legoland & Water Park: MYR 140-MYR175++ ($54-$67++).

Time Out Singapore: Three New Hotels

Gwen Pew rounds up three of the latest hotels to open in Singapore.

Carlton City Hotel. Image courtesy of Carlton Hotels.

Carlton City Hotel. Image courtesy of Carlton Hotels.

10 Sep 2013:

Best for business people

Carlton City Hotel

As the newest hotel to pierce the Tanjong Pagar skyline, Carlton City – part of the Worldhotels group – is perfect for jet-setting business men and women with its proximity to the CBD, ergonomic in-room furniture and free internet. Its 386 rooms are all elegantly designed, with Carlton Club Rooms and Suites allowing access to the lounge on the 28th floor, where complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails are served each day. Also look out for another branch of Carlton’s Tuxedo café and patisserie, plus the Graffiti Sky Bar on the 29th floor. An opening offer with standard room rates starting from $238++ and Club Rooms from $308++ is available until 31 Oct.

1 Gopeng St (6632 8888, www.carltoncity.sg). MRT: Tanjong Pagar.

Best for the budget-conscious

Holiday Inn Express

Located just off Orchard Road, the first Holiday Inn Express in Singapore is one of the few midrange options for staying in the heart of the city. All of their 221 guest rooms are in the same price category; while there’s no pool or gym, the hotel offers complimentary wi-fi, free continental breakfast and self-service laundry facilities. Regular prices start from $220++ per night, or take advantage of their opening deal, with rooms for $198++ per night until 30 Nov.

20 Bideford Rd (6690 3199,www.facebook.com/HolidayInnExpressSingaporeOrchardRoad). MRT: Orchard.

Best for chic travellers

Naumi Hotel

Following a multi-million-dollar facelift, the award-winning local boutique joint finally reopens its doors to visitors this month, with 73 guest rooms designed by local creative agency White Jacket, plus two luxurious suites inspired by Andy Warhol and Coco Chanel. Be sure to take a dip in their revamped rooftop infinity pool and try out the new Indian restaurant, Table by Rang Mahal. Room rates start from $350++ per night for single occupancy, including breakfast.

41 Seah St (6403 6000, www.naumihotel.com). MRT: Esplanade.

Time Out Singapore: Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas

Launched in 2003 and weighing more than 138,000 tonnes, Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas is the largest cruise ship homeporting in Asia, following the ripples of her sister ship, Voyager of the SeasGwen Pew explores it further.

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.

18 Jul 2013: Launched in 2003 and weighing more than 138,000 tonnes, Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas is the largest cruise ship homeporting in Asia, following the ripples of her sister ship, Voyager of the Seas. She boasts of 15 passenger decks and comes equipped with a shipload of features, including an ice skating rink, a ‘rooftop’ wedding chapel, an outdoor rock climbing wall, an arcade centre, a casino, a miniature golf course and more. Food options on board are plentiful, ranging from a steakhouse to a sushi restaurant to the 1950s-inspired American diner Johnny Rockets (where you can play tunes on their still-functional old-school jukeboxes).

Three- to 17-year-olds can make friends at the Adventure Ocean, which has a host of complimentary activities taking place throughout the trip, while the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery has trained staff looking after little ones aged between six months to three years old, so parents can enjoy some much-needed couple time.

While Mariner is similar in size and build to Voyager, she does have a few unique tricks up her sleeves, including ship-wide wifi (fees apply), new hotel openings an outdoor movie screen and digital touch screens located around the ship to help you find your way. After arriving in Singapore last month,Mariner of the Seas is currently sailing around Shanghai, but will be back in November and cruising around South-East Asia until next March. Her next journey from Singapore will commence on 10 November, and will take guests on a five-night cruise around the region, docking in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket.