Symbol of the Lion City, the Merlion is virtually right across the street from Ascott Raffles Place Singapore and one attraction that is iconic of the country
Symbol of the Lion City, the Merlion is virtually right across the street from Ascott Raffles Place Singapore and one attraction that is iconic of the country

Living on a tiny island has its advantages. Singapore may be just a little red dot on the world map, but this means you do not have to travel very far to get from one place to another. This was something I came to appreciate when I went to study in South Australia for seven years.

If you live at Ascott Raffles Place Singapore where I am a host, most of the country’s best attractions are within walking distance. Our award-winning serviced residence (we were just named Singapore’s Leading Serviced Apartments at the prestigious World Travel Awards) sits at the heart of the city’s business district.

Much like its surroundings which boasts spanking new skyscrapers towering over historical sites, Ascott Raffles Place Singapore is a charming mix of old and new. The refurbished heritage building traces its origins to the 1950s and was once the tallest structure in Southeast Asia.

Something Old

Singapore is known for being a bustling metropolis. But it still has precious pockets of history, many of which are within walking distance from my serviced residence. If you are not ready to navigate the city alone, join a walking tour. Every weekend, members of Singapore Footprints, enthusiastic guides from the Nanyang Technological University’s Tourism and Hospitality Management Club, conduct these tours for free. There are two routes: the Singapore River Tour and the Bras Basah Bugis Tour.

I recommend the Singapore River Tour for the simple reason that the meeting point is right next door to the serviced residence at the Raffles Place MRT. The hour-and-a-half long tour will take you to the Singapore River, once the main artery of trade in Singapore and the lifeblood of colonial Singapore. Now, it is lined with eateries and nightspots and a lovely place to talk a walk and people-watch.

Along the river are several monuments that pay tribute to Singapore’s past. At the Merlion Park is the 8.6-metre Merlion, the symbol of the city. Do not leave without taking a picture of the statue with the cityscape as a backdrop. The mythical creature has the body of a fish, representing Singapore’s past as a fishing village; and the head of a lion, a reference to Singapore as a lion city. The walk will also take you to Cavenagh Bridge, Singapore’s oldest bridge and its only suspension bridge constructed in 1869. At the Esplanade Park, one of the country’s oldest parks, take note of the Cenotaph, a war memorial to the British soldiers who perished in both World Wars.

From the open field known as the Padang, you can see more Singapore landmarks. The stretch of green, reserved by the city’s founder, Thomas Stamford Raffles, for public use, is where the first National Day Parade was held in 1966.

Opposite the Padang is City Hall where major government as well as international events like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank meetings have been held. Next to it is the Old Supreme Court Building where the courthouses of the country’s supreme courts used to be. The building is the last classical-style structure built in the British colony and a lovely contrast to the glass and steel modern-day structures around. Both buildings will be refurbished and turned into an arts and culture centre.

Another place worth walking to is Chinatown where Chinese migrants once congregated. Now, it is a great one-stop destination for all things Chinese. I always recommend that my visitors go to the street market to pick up souvenirs. Chinese fans, calligraphy, stamps carved out with Chinese names and characters, tee-shirts with Singapore icons, bags and slippers with Chinese motifs, lanterns, chopsticks, cushion covers – chinoiserie rules in Chinatown.

Something New

For something new, winner of the World Architecture Festival 2012’s World Building of the Year, Gardens by the Bay, would be my choice. It features three waterfront gardens that is the realisation of the government’s vision to turn Singapore into a “City in a Garden”.

At the heart of the garden is a pair of uber conservatories shaped like massive domes that cover an area of more than 20,000 square metres. The climate-controlled glasshouses – the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome – are among the largest of their kind in the world. They provide a wonderful all-weather place to spend an afternoon.

I love the 35-metre tall man-made waterfall in the Cloud Forest where the symbiotic relationship between plants and planet is the main theme. The cool temperature is a welcome change from the heat of the tropics. With flowers, and plants from around the world, I find it hard to believe I am in the tropics whenever I go to the Flower Dome.

Something Yummy to Eat and Fun to Do

Singapore is, without question, a food paradise. I love the fact that you can get almost any cuisine in the world right here. But since you are in Singapore, why not try the local foods. For somewhere real Singaporeans go to, head for the Market Street Food Court at the Golden Shoe Car Park – just five-minute walk from our serviced residence. Whenever I am there, I must eat the curry chicken bee hoon (rice vermicelli) from Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon. The thick, coconut-based curry broth and generous serving of tender chicken slices is so satisfying.

On the second level of the Golden Shoe Complex is Golden Nur Nasi Biryani Special is a Malay food stall that serves crispy chicken with fragrant biryani rice (basmati rice with spices) that is to die for. For Singapore’s favourite hawker dish, Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice is the place. Even former Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, is a patron. The stall has his picture as proof!

For a place to chill and enjoy the view while sipping a drink or having a meal, Clarke Quay is my pick. Just walk around you will be amazed at the number of nightspots and types of international and local cuisine you can find.

Before you go home, walk down to Raffles City Singapore for some shopping. The mall boasts brand names like agnés b, Coach, Kate Spade and Nine West.

Being so near all the attractions is a definite boon. You get to see so much more when you explore the city on foot and you do not have to bother about the traffic. I invite you to put on your walking shoes and explore Singapore from Ascott Raffles Place Singapore.

Come stay with us:

Ascott Raffles Place Singapore
Ascott Raffles Place Singapore
2 Finlayson Green
Singapore 049247
Tel: (65) 6577 1688
Somerset Bencoolen Singapore
Somerset Bencoolen Singapore
No 51 Bencoolen Street
Singapore 189630
Tel: (65) 6849 4688
Somerset Liang Court Singapore
Somerset Liang Court Singapore
177B River Valley Road
Singapore 179032
Tel: (65) 6337 0111
Somerset Orchard Singapore
Somerset Orchard Singapore
160 Orchard Road
#06-01 OG Orchard Point,
Singapore 238842
Tel: (65) 6735 0500