Beyond the big tourist draws, the island is as varied as it is fascinating
SINGAPORE’S TOURISM Board and Economic Development Board are now promoting the island-state with the slogan “Passion Made Possible”. It replaces the “Your Singapore” pitch in use since 2010 and is aimed at businesses as well as tourists.
Designed to depict Singapore as “an inspirational place where everything is driven by passion”, the global campaign includes activities that highlight its cultural diversity.
It has something for everyone, the organisers say, whether you’re a gourmand, collector, explorer, action seeker, “culture shaper” or just love socialising.
Merlion Park and Jubilee Bridge at night
“The Passion Made Possible campaign will help us tell an inside-out-style Singapore story beyond just tourism,” says Tourism Board chief executive Lionel Yeo.
The new slogan is “enlightened by our heritage” and aimed at building “a deeper and more personal connection between Singapore and our fans”, he says. Travellers these days are seeking “more aspirational value propositions”.
“They want to eat the same food and do the same things as the residents, rather than simply visiting places built for tourists.”
Singapore's popular Wild Rocket restaurant serves a selection of modern Singapore dishes such as Spanner Crab & Daun Kesom Ravioli in Laksa broth.
One stop being promoted is Wild Rocket, a restaurant added to the “Asian 50 Best” list in 2015. Chef Willin Low founded the place a decade before that, offering modern Singapore cuisine inspired those of other countries but with authentic local flavours.
“I taught myself to cook while studying in England,” says Low. “When I returned home I worked as an attorney before opening my own restaurant. I’ve travelled to many countries and adapted their recipes to my modern Singapore dishes.”
All delightful are Pomelo Salad with Tiger Prawn and Frozen Coconut Dressing, Spanner Crab and Daun Kesom Ravioli served in Laksa broth, and Iberico Pork Char Siew with Shanghai Kao Cai and Quonao.
Low’s recommended dessert is Wild Rocket Chendol, glass jelly in the form of panna cotta with coconut-milk mousse and red beans.
Michelin-star restaurant Alma
We continue to the Michelin-star restaurant Alma by Juan Amador, home to the wonderful culinary flair of chef Haikal Johari, who previously cooked at the Water Library in Bangkok.
He remains an executive chef for the Water Library Hospitality Group, which has eateries in Chamchuri and Thonglor.
Johari is in command of the kitchen at Alma despite being partially paralysed a motorbike accident in 2015. Confined to a wheelchair, he’s nevertheless adept at creating such scrumptious delicacies as Crispy Tofu with black garlic, wild mushroom and foie gras emulsion.
His Anjou Pigeon includes a leg confit, the breast grilled and smoked with jasmine tea, and the meat dried and then reconstituted in gravy.
Singaporeans and foreigners equally love 48-year-old Song Fa Bak Kut The, a restaurant in a colonial-style building with terrific traditional Chinese food. The top-sellers include Bak Kut The, made from Brazilian pork ribs in herbal pork broth, braised pork leg and stewed pork belly.
Sung Fa restaurant is famous for its delectable Bak Kut Teh and braised leg pork, served with deep-fried doughstick.
Next to renowned Lau Pa Sat with its dozens of food hawkers, Boon Tat Street is home to many satay vendors offering skewed and grilled chicken, lamb, beef and shrimp infused with spices and served with cucumber and shallots. Nice fried rice, fried noodles and grilled stingray are also available.
Satay is a favourite at Boon Tat Street with beef, shrimp, chicken and lamb on the skewers.
We’re stuffed, so time for some sightseeing. At Changi Point Ferry Terminal we board a boat for a 15-minute hop to Pulau Ubin Island, where Malayan and Chinese residents are happy to demonstrate that the slow life is the best life.
The island, all granite, rubber trees and fruit plantations – durian, mango and coconut – is a great place to ride a bike. The 100-hectare Chek Jawa wetland is home to loads of wildlife. You might well see a hornbill, a chevrotain (mouse deer) or wild boar, and you’ll certainly see horseshoe crabs and starfish.
“The people on the island are mostly elders, over 80,” says naturalist Subaraj Rajathurai, who’s worked as a guide there for 35 years and helped lead opposition to a proposed resort development.
“The growing population is making land in Singapore more expensive, so we have to put in a lot of effort to keep the island the way it is.
“In 2001 the government planned to develop a resort here, but most Singaporeans objected. The project collapsed, so today you still see the island in its natural state.
Although constantly under threat from developers, Pulau Ubin Island for now remains a natural treasure.
“One way to keep it that way is to educate people about the importance of conservation. We also have to engage with the government in planning conservation. The government issues development plans 25 years in advance, so we have to ensure that nothing will change in the future.”
Rajathurai says there are always surprises for visitors to the island, so it fits in well with the promotional campaign, with its appeal to tourists seeking out new experiences.
Another amazing outing is iFly Singapore, a wind tunnel that recreates the experience of parachuting from a plane.
iFly Singapore recreates the experience of parachuting from a plane.
The world’s first and largest “theme wind tunnel” – five metres wide and 17 metres tall, equivalent to a five-storey building – it will make you believe you’re free-falling from 13,000 feet up. The whole thing is wrapped in acrylic glass, so you’re meanwhile getting unparalleled views of the South China Sea (assuming you keep your eyes open).
“This was actually designed for training skydivers, but we turned it into an extreme leisure activity to draw tourists to Sentosa,” says managing director Lawrence Koh Yi Le.
“We’ve had 250,000 visitors trying it out since we opened, of whom 70 per cent were children or teenagers ages seven to 16.”
iFly Singapore recreates the experience of parachuting from a plane.
First you get a quick lesson in the sign language used during a typical plummet, since you won’t be able to heard shouted instructions. There’s nothing to be alarmed about, though, since the state-of-the-art technology ensures a high degree of safety.
Speed of descent can be accurately controlled, giving plungers ample opportunity to try out various movements, including manoeuvring into four- and eight-person formations.
Rolling around on two-wheeled Segways is a great way to admire the city at night.
By evening we’ve parachuted into Marina Bay and find ourselves rolling around on two-wheeled Segways to admire the city by night along an interesting five-kilometre route. You get to see the GoGreen e-Mobility Lifestyle Hub, zoom across the Jubilee Bridge and say hello to the famous Merlion before coasting to a stop at the Marina Bay Sands resort.
The 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar on the rooftop of the One Raffle Place boasts a panoramic view of the city.
Up in the 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar at One Raffle Place, Singapore’s highest rooftop bar (another lofty 282 metres above the sea) offers the best vantage point for enjoying sunsets and night lights, all to the sound of local bands and DJs.
The writer travelled courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board.