Pick any guide book of Singapore and you’ll read all about the great zoo, beautiful botanical gardens, fantastic museums and myriad of eclectic ethnic experiences the city offers. Mentioning the shopping seems almost superfluous…Yet if you’d like to discover what it is that the locals do, where they go and how they spend their free time, you’d be a bit stumped for clues. You’d be mistaken for thinking that all they do is spend every waking hour shopping or dining out. Let us assure you, that just like every other place on earth, even Singapore boasts a myriad of hidden nooks and crannies, places where locals retreat to on a gorgeous Sunday morning, where tourists don’t normally venture and which offer fantastic activities most visitors don’t even know about.
Here’s just a taste of the unique local things you can do when visiting Singapore; as long as you’re willing to step out of the shade of the malls for a day.
Learn kite flying from the masters
Fans of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner can experience a nostalgic Sunday afternoon at the splendid Marina Barrage, a mecca for picnicking families and local kite-flyers. The colourful extravaganza is even more striking at sunset, when nearby architectural gems like the Marina Bay Sands glow a crimson red. Pack a picnic basket, grab a book and enjoy a few hours of peaceful bliss. If you want to have a go, just go up and befriend one of the many kite flyers in the park; while they are all extremely protective of their kites, they’re also quite proud of their skills and will often be more than happy to let you have a go.
Beat the locals at their own game
If you’re a fit and swift martial arts/football/handball expert then you’ll have no problems joining the locals for a game of traditional sepak takraw, or kick-volleyball. Join them at the badminton courts on Jalan Membina on week-ends and show them how it’s really done! Just watch those sprained groins…they’re a killer. Alternatively, you could just sit on the sidelines and photograph them instead; just make sure you’ve got a quick trigger-finger.
Have a garden picnic in the heart of the shopping district
The Roof Gardens above the Orchard Central Mall are reminiscent of New York’s High Line: an astonishing little natural oasis in the heart of the city. We’re just not sure if the fact it is still hidden undiscovered by tourists is a bad thing or not. Families gather here in the late afternoon, when they let their kids run free and play while they sit back and enjoy the scenery and city views. Covering almost 6500sq feet of space, the Greenroofs’ vertical leafy walls are totally unique and designed by a rather clever Japanese architect. Bask in their protective shade and enjoy at leisure.
Practice your ohhhmmmmmms
Singapore is one of the few places on earth where India comes to you, in just about every way. The city’s yoga scene is formidable and various outdoor practice sessions unmissable if yoga is your thing. The best would have to be those by the Yio Chu Kang Community Centre, located out of town in a gorgeously leafy and serene suburb. The Centre often offers random (and free) Sunday morning sessions en mass as well as Japanese drumming sessions for more energetic visitors. Aside taking a class, exploring this gorgeous hood and grabbing a breakfast kaya toast at a local eatery on a quiet Sunday morning is also rather priceless.
Save the last dance for me
This particular local past-time is not as hidden as the others; in fact tourists flock here in abundance. But it is SO much fun, and still very authentic, that we urge you to check it out. On week-end evenings, score of locals flock to Far East Square for a hilarious session of line dancing, delighting spectators and, more often than not, invite them to join in. Skip that fancy nightclub for a night and come line dance instead, you’ll have a ball, all pun intended.
Get down with the kids in the block
Punks of the world unite, for we have found a fantastic skate park for you to visit. Now, before you run in the opposite direction, do hear us out. The Scape Skate Park may be Singapore’s park choice for young skaters during the day, yet it is also a fantastic hub of fun activity in the evenings when street parties and concerts keep swelling crowds entertained till waaaaay past the kids’ bedtime.
Visit the only remaining kampong village in Singapore
To be honest, there are not many locals who spend their Sundays visiting the last of their authentic villages. The younger generation seems not bothered by their swift disappearance, and are more than happy their country is modernizing so swiftly, whilst the older generations perhaps prefer to not be reminded of how natural, simple and agricultural their lives once were. In any case, head to Kampong Buangkok to pay tribute to the long-lost heritage of village life, and to see the 30 or so zinc-roofed single story homes many of Singapore’s oldest residents were brought up in.
Check out this blog-site to find out more about the history and seemingly bleak future of Singapore’s kapongs, and come look-see before the last village becomes a distant memory.
Brian Flanagan via Flickr
Singapore Sepaktakraw Federation
Orchard Central Greenroofs Project
Yeowatzup via Flickr
Walter Lim via Flickr