Once a lesser-known isolated small-sized island, Singapore’s hide-out in world history is just water under the bridge, and it is no longer a lonely man. Today, the modern nation has naturally attracted discerning people worldwide for business, tourism, festivals and all, as they country so well organized and wonderfully livable.
With no certain evidence, history has it that the island of presenttime Singapore was first settled by human beings in AD 1298 or 1299. In the 14th century, the city called “Singapura” (meaning “lion city” in Sanskrit) was established by, according to legend, a Malaysian prince who spotted an uncharted lion and perceived it as a good-luck sign. The island has been a major trade hub ever since, drawing a wide array of foreign visitors.
1819 marked a historical cornerstone of modern Singapore, with the first footprints of British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who recognised the island as a strategic trade centre and made it come true, and implemented the Raffles Town Plan which has changed Singapore forever, clearly progressively.
Like many countries, Singapore was immensely impacted by WWII’s harshness. Once so impregnable that it was nicknamed “Gibraltar in the Far East”, Singapore, guarded by British troops, was eventually defeated in February 1942, resulting in Japanese occupation of the island. After the World War ended, Singapore became a British Crown Colony for years, joining Malaya and two other nearby lands to form the independent Federation of Malaysia. It gained independence from the UK in 1963, and then left the batch due to ideological conflicts in 1965. After the breakup, the nation turned into the sovereign democratic one, and is officially called The Republic of Singapore.
As a Singapore first-timer, I have heard a lot about vibrant Clarke Quay before. I never knew I’d fall in love with another quay as well – Robertson Quay. Thanks to the very convenient location of M Social, I got to experience both quays, day and night. Robertson Quay was legitimately cosmopolitan. As I strolled along the riverside, I saw diversified faces doing manifold activities, from sipping beer in the sun, watching sports on screen, doing afternoon runs (despite the Southeast-Asian weather, people in Singapore could go for a city run at any time, and I adore them for that), dog walking, to simply doing nothing by the river. Full of alluring eateries and chill-out venues, I would be happy to spend days exploring the stylish senses of Robertson Quay.
Merely one kilometre away is the frequently-heard Clarke Quay. I had a chance to visit Clarke Quay in the evening, at nightfall, midnight, late night, and in early morning, just in my three-day stay.
I went to Clarke Quay in my first evening just to see what it was like, and it looked so adorable with pastel-coloured cosy buildings all along the riverbank. Then at 8pm, I decided to walk back to Clarke Quay for a refreshing beer and good music, and I was not at all disappointed. It was Crazy Elephant I came across and was drawn by the dynamic voice of a lady (of auntie age, grey-haired, looking incredibly cool). As she and the band played Like A Rolling Stone and Crossroads, all eyes were on her and apparently, everybody was as amazed as I was. Clarke Quay was getting more crowded even though it was getting so late.
Before leaving Singapore, I woke up early for a morning run to see what it was like. There were only a few fellow runners on Sunday morning. I ran past Clarke Quay, and it looked like a whole different place than at night – lonely and disorderly. I found the quays very running-friendly anyway, and I would be happy to do it again.
All the way from Singapore Changi Airport, I witnessed a wealthy amount of big trees and gardens everywhere, which made an amusing car ride (with a help from my favourite songs). I heard from a local how they try to become the bona-fide garden city and was awed by their attempt and actual actions, despite being a land-scarce modern city with not many natural resources. I wonder what would it be if countries with abundant nature love the trees as much.
Finally, I had a chance to visit the iconic Gardens by the Bay in the daylight. At that time, the air-conditioned dome, furnished with natural light, was blooming with vibrant flowers from all over the world, including dainty cherry blossoms. Despite being a crowd avoider, the frolicking colours made me forget about the mass gathering.
After running around like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, an hour passed and I moved on to the Cloud Forest. Greeted by skyscraping human-made waterfall, the first sensation I perceived was refreshing. This manmade tropical highland, filled with cooling moisture in the air, made an equatorial vegetation hotspot and a perfect place to walk around, falling in love with nature’s tangible artistry.
I would unfalteringly say that Singapore is where creative juices flow. Being an island country, its extent cannot limit its love for arts and enthusiastic lifestyles. Singapore is bustling with impressionable museums, galleries, workshops, and art events, however there are some noteworthy lesser-known creative obsessions (at least, among tourists) going on: papers.
Overnight at Robertson Quay, it takes a few walking minutes to reach a not-so-hidden paperesque gem by the river: STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery. As a part of the national Visual Arts Cluster, along with National Gallery Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum, this non-profit organisation was founded 16 years ago, intending to promote and provide spaces for experimental print and paper works, at a global level.
I was in Singapore in March 2018, and I paid a visit to the engaging “Monuments and Memorials” by Vietnam-born US-resident artist Dinh Q. Lê, who is internationally renowned for his large-scale photomontages. His Monuments and Memorials solo exhibition features his unique photo weavings, combining the darkness of war victimhood with celebrated splendour, which occurred in the very same country. His first 3D weavings, combining the photographs of the escapee from regional terror in Africa and Middle East fleeing to Europe, was displayed at the exhibition as well.
I was so lucky to have stayed at M Social, because that is how I learned about “paper enthusiasts” from the hotel’s state-of-the-art M Social Communities – The Passion Art Sessions, offering unique artistic experience with local artisans. With me was lovely Rae Lim, an acclaimed paper artist who leads Paper in my Attic, turning her hobby into her passion. Focusing on origami art, she serenely taught me and other participants how to fold a flower and a pot, step by step (which was, for me, far harder beyond my expectation of doing such simple gesture). For the first time, I realised how each fold could affect the psyche, with lessons to be learned from pieces of papers. She also told a story of how folding paper is an exploration to her. It was greatly compelling.
Goodies for foodies! Yes, Singapore is one of the most beloved destinations for food aficionados. I personally am not the biggest fan of munches, but Singapore did not fail to impress me food-wise.
The first meal I had here took place right by the hotel, and it was at a coffee place by Singapore River called Toby’s Estate. I had a warm cup of aromatic piccolo as a welcome drink, alongside yummy fried mushrooms and potatoes. Toby’s Estate actually serves the finest coffees worldwide, with an airy branch in Singapore. I would really love to return and try their cold brews.
I had an amazing dinner at Beast & Butterflies at M Social Hotel among the most cutting-edge dining ambience. The only outlet of the hotel is dressed up so dashingly and daringly, and it felt so one-off. As I browsed the menu, it took much time as I was tempted to try them all, and I was struck by (and was suggested to try) Asian-ish Lobster Porridge. The dish sounds light, but came out so humbly elegant with a giant lobster on top of the flavourful porridge.
An afternoon so well spent happened at Open Farm Community. As I stepped into this family-friendly place, I found the atmosphere wonderfully cosy. Each table was occupied with happy faces of people of all ages. As a result of marvellous collaboration between local farmers and innovative chefs, all plates served are delicately tasty with their refined ingredients. Open Farm Community offers opportunities for families to spend quality time together in healthy surroundings, as well as for everyone to reconnect with nature through urban gardening.
As an Asian, I have tried countless Chinese dishes, but the most striking ones were found at Hua Ting. It was my first time having a six-course Chinese dinner with tea pairing, and it turned out to be a fantastic feast. The fresh seafood was a major upper hand, and their novelty in cooking was a real add-up.
WHEN TO GO
Singapore is great for visitors year-round and the country never ceases to be awesome. In each part of the year, tourists could find plenty of interesting workshops, exhibitions, festivals or events to attend. However, the best time weather-wise should be in February.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is considered one of the world’s best and is the destination of numerous airlines, meaning getting here by air is easy. The best, fulfilling option would be, of course, Singapore Airlines. The country is accessible by sea (mainly by cruises) and by land (driving from West Malaysia) as well.
Public transport throughout Singapore is incredibly convenient. Most visit-worthy spots are reachable by MRT and buses. Taxi is another great option. The “Moovit” mobile application is very helpful for tourists in exploring charismatic Singapore.
WHERE TO STAY
M Social Singapore
A: 90 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238259
T: +65 6206 1888
In the ideal location for visitors, M Social Singapore is situated in the serene side of busy Singapore, with enticing entertainments and scrumptious bites within walking distance. This new, innovative hotel is designed for every limited space to be savvy, with playful help from robots!