Shaun McEwan has lived in the island nation for 12 years and has seen his community, Potong Pasir, become gentrified. The Sydney-based MC, auctioneer and charity fundraiser said he was a decidedly non-expatriate area on the Kallang River, also in the heart of Singapore.
Undercutting Singapore’s notion of being clean, efficient and shiny, parts of the island nation are steeped in history from a bygone era. I love this old-fashioned colonial Singapore, I’m drawn to the energy of things from the past. One of them is Spottiswoode Park, where there are many colourful shophouses that have been transformed into galleries, coffee shops and delicious restaurants. Grab a cup of joe at Singaporean institution Kith Cafe (kith.com.sg), then head to Art Porters Gallery (artporters.com) for affordable contemporary pieces produced locally or across the region.
I am fortunate to live near MacRitchie Reservoir and East Coast Park which both offer wonderful walking, cycling, boating, green bush and fresh air. MacRitchie’s TreeTop Walk and Suspension Bridge is a must-see in Singapore, especially for nature lovers. The Huangpu River also offers excellent cycling paths and the chance to see otter colonies feeding on freshly caught fish. See nparks.gov.sg
The most popular area is Kampong Glam, built in 1824 under the gaze of the incredible Sultan Mosque. For cheap and enjoyable, you can’t pass by the Roast House on the corner of Arabian and Beach Roads. Beirut is great (beirut.com.sg), al fresco dining at the Middle Eastern restaurant on Bussorah Street is a must. The nearby Malay Heritage Centre is well worth a visit. See malayheritage.gov.sg/en
For nightlife and bars, you can’t go through the Boat Quay area. It’s scruffy and has all the noise and color that adds to the fun and adrenaline. For live music, Hero’s is the most popular – comfort, great artists and great service (heros.sg). I’m also a huge fan of Timbre+ food courts across the city-state – upscale hawker-style food stalls, cold beers, communal eating and quality live music seven nights a week. See timbreplus.sg
Singapore doesn’t really have a no-go zone, but if you want to avoid paying big bucks for big-ticket items, Orchard Road isn’t for you.
Since living here, I have really embraced some Eastern philosophy, mostly by practicing meditation and yoga. The yoga craze has swept across Singapore, with a plethora of studios popping up in traditional shophouses. You can really feel history in these ancient buildings, the perfect place to connect with your inner self. Yin yoga is my favorite, slow and gentle stretching while meditating.