Fire up your taste buds, there’s a new kid in town

The word supper club conjures up images of an exclusive members only venue in London or America. Somewhere dimly lit, full of stylishly elegant people, smoking cigarettes and sipping cocktails. The actual American definition of supper club is ‘a small, expensive night club.’ However, to many others it refers to a kind of mix between a restaurant and having dinner at a friend’s house – a friend who’s a really good cook. Often at traditional supper clubs there would be entertainment provided too in the form of cabaret or live music.

More recently, supper clubs have undergone a resurgence in popularity and tend to refer to ‘underground restaurants’ that are more intimate than ordinary restaurants and offer diners a cosier, more homely feel, with service that is less Maitre D’ and more ‘you matter.’

Inside The Ottomani

The beautifully decadent interior of The Ottomani.

The Ottomani is one of the latest, and most stylish supper clubs to open here in Singapore and is set in the heart of Tanjong Pagar, one of Singapore’s favourite neighbourhoods known to foodies and trend setters alike.

Hidden in the back of a heritage shop house on Peck Seah Street, the entrance takes you through a neighbourhood establishment where you could be forgiven for wondering if you have come to the wrong place. But, no sooner do you give your name than you are whisked away to one of the most stylish and desirable dining rooms you will ever see.

Low, dark wood tables edged in gold, leather sofas laden with pillows and turkish rugs all offer a dining experience that feels intimate and homely. Golden lights twinkle from the many low-hanging pendants and table lights and the whole room exudes warmth. Standing proudly around the room are huge polished drinks trolleys that are heaving with gleaming glasses, bottles of all variations and all the accoutrements that are needed by the best cocktail makers.

The Ottomani - Türk Kajvesi G&T

A simple G&T takes on a new meaning here.

With no bar as such, the bartenders instead bring the bar to you preparing your drink on the mobile trolley. With a selection of cocktails and fine wines to choose from, this isn’t the easiest choice either – so let the staff at The Ottomani do what they do best and advise you on what to have. Service is where the restaurant comes in to its own. Capturing the experience of days gone by, everything comes with a personal touch.

I was lucky enough to experience this when myself and my guests – who were visiting from the uk – ate there recently. We were served by Thomas, the Slovakian head bar man who was happy to recommend dishes that he thought we should try as well as suggest how much of the food to order – you really could over order very easily.

This is due to Australian Chef Nic Philip’s ever-changing seasonal menu which is full of food you just have to try. The menu comes from a lifetimes of experience in Middle Eastern flavours and ingredients from his childhood family table as well as from his experience at leading London venues such as #26. He has a love of light and fresh cuisine with a passion for spice and this is reflected in dishes such as ‘Mum’s’ Spinach and Cheese Triangles and Burnt Carrots.

The Ottomani - Cabbage Sprouts

Who doesn’t love sprouts?

Spinach and cheese triangles

Just like mum used to make?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire features strongly at The Ottomani – from the oil lanterns that burn around the room to the wood-fired earth pit. In this custom-designed pit, every night before he leaves the restaurant, Chef Nic buries the next night’s menu leaving it to slow roast over night. This gives a depth of flavour that just cannot be replicated in an oven and leads to melt-in-the-mouth dishes made for sharing such as Sticky Pork Belly with a rub of turkish coffee, palm sugar and Szechuan pepper.

The Ottomani waiters and bar tenders

The service is attentive without being intrusive.

The end of the night comes too quickly at The Ottomani but also with a flourish. We ordered a sorbet pudding that was prepared at the table offering a spectacle of dry ice and popcorn popping in front of our eyes. It tasted great too.

Everything we ate tasted amazing and was served beautifully and with care; the service being just the right side of attentive. We were all in awe of the decor and the whole ambience of the restaurant. In fact, I can’t wait to go back.

If you go along, do let them know that 5 Go Mad recommended you.

The Ottomani, 48 Peck Seah Street, Singapore, 079317

+65 9231 9316.

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When parents come to stay

An itinerary for when Parents/grandparents come to visit.

Usually when people have their parents over to visit it is for a longer period of time – so there’s no need for a set one or two-week itinerary. Instead I’ve listed the places I’ve tried and tested with my parents and other guests we’ve had that I think all ages would enjoy.

There’s a few things to bear in mind if you’re planning days out with older guests:
  • The heat can be really hard work so take things slow, make sure they carry water bottles, wear a hat and you stop for plenty of comfort breaks. Bear this in mind when deciding where to go; there’s always a toilet in a shopping centre, MRT station and at attractions and usually a cafe and food centre too.
  • If walking is difficult make the most of any free shuttle buses, trams and mobility scooters that places like Gardens By The Bay offer.
  • I hired an electric scooter for my dad as he cannot walk very far due to “dodgy knees”. I got it from Delcon who were extremely helpful. You could also hire a wheelchair if you are confident someone is able to do the pushing. Remember, Singapore’s pavements are not always the best place for those less able though so take this into consideration too.
  • Don’t assume older guests are not interested in the more adventurous days out. My mum loved Universal Studios and was on and off the rides as much as the rest of us. Dad couldn’t go on much but still enjoyed pottering around after us.
  • Taking the kids with you is great, but some of the days out may not work. For example, not many children would enjoy the orchid garden at Botanics, but most older adults would. Let them have some space away from the kids if necessary.
View from smoke & mirrors bar, singapore

Our more mature friends have enjoyed the night life too!

ogre universal

Universal Studios is for the young, and young at heart.

Jurong Bird Park

A fascinating place with more birds than you can ever imagine. We had lunch with the parrots as my sister had bought it as a birthday pressie for my dad  –  and it was great fun. There’s a splash park there too so great if you get too hot. A lovely wander round can take all day with shows and feedings to take in and there are plenty of benches and cool spots to rest in when you need to. All info on their website

Gardens by The Bay

You could visit the gardens over two days as they are huge and there’s a fair bit of walking involved. If your guests are at all interested in flowers you should definitely take them to the flower dome. There’s often special themed exhibitions on like Chinese New Year, Christmas, Tulips and so on, and these are always stunning to see. There’s a nice little cafe inside to grab a cuppa when you need to. The Cloud Dome is also really interesting but do take jumpers as it’s freezing in there.

flowers in dome

The flower Dome is spectacular.

If they’ve got a head for heights take them to Supertree Grove and the OCBC Skyway. Lovely views of the gardens from up there.

If you have done it over two days  leave later one day and have an early dinner at Sate By The Bay before watching the Singing Trees do their thing. Everyone loves this part of the holiday and it’s not to be missed.

Botanic Gardens

Probably the place most parents seem to know about are the Botanic Gardens as they are world famous.  Take a picnic or plan to have lunch at one of the many cafes. Take your time and again make sure you’ve got plenty of water with you. There are toilets inside the gardens and places to refill your water bottles. Things to look out for are include Symphony Lake, Ginger garden and Orchid Garden. However, some of the Orchid Garden is closed due to enhancement work. If you are visiting with kids don’t miss the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

Raffles

Take your parents for look around Raffles if it’s open. Don’t just head for a drink though as you can wander around the courtyard and grounds and visit the gift shop which has some lovely gifts to take home. It is essential to stop at the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling thought and take in the old colonial atmosphere of the place. However, please note the hotel is undergoing extensive renovation work at the moment (October 2017) so do check before you go. The Bar and Billiard Room is still open serving the famous Singapore Sling.

 

Afternoon Tea

fullerton high tea

Afternoon tea at The Clifford Pier is well worth it.

Book them in to one of the many afternoon or high tea’s that most of the hotels offer. I took my parents to the one at the Fullerton Bay at Clifford Pier and it really is a spectacular venue. This is not a traditional afternoon tea though so bear in mind that you won’t  get finger sandwiches and traditional scones. However, it is delicious. The Shangri La on Orange Grove Road does a great high tea in the Rose Verandah and there are plenty of other places to try too. In fact, if you get bored of it, ask me and I’ll take them – I love an afternoon tea!

Bumboat along the river

This is a great way to while away the morning or afternoon and you can choose where to get off. I’d suggest getting on at Clarke Quay and then make your first stop at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion park. Plenty of photo opportunities here. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only will this give them a respite from the heat it offers a spot for a loo break! They can also take in the stunning hotel lobby.

Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

Museums

Any of the museums are well worth a visit. I particularly like the Peranakan Museum as it’s not too big and has a lot of fascinating information about Singapore’s heritage. Changi War Museum is also popular and also well worth a visit. Then of course there’s the National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, Malay Heritage Centre and so on.

Smaller, but worth checking out especially if you have kids to entertain too is the Mint Toy Museum; a small museum which is packed to rafters with toys and memorabilia from all the century’s. Everyone can find their favourite childhood heros from Noddy to the Avengers. It’s good fun for an hour or so and is right by Raffles so you could do both in the same day. If you do visit Mint, be sure to go right to the bar at the top – which may or may not be open – as it has some lovely views and some old school tin signs that will have you reminiscing.

peranakan museum

The Peranakan Museum is a glimpse back to how Singapore began

Bollywood Veggies

I had a great day out here with my parents and the kids. Set way out (north) west in Kranji, Bollywood Veggies is a fantastic spot that many people don’t know about. Essentially a farm and a bistro/cafe, this is a unique day out that you will all find interesting. The self-named ‘Warriors’ who own and run it have a great sense of humour and this is apparent throughout the farm – quirky signs telling you to help with the leaf clearance in return for a drink in the cafe and warnings about torture trees all make for a different kind of day out. Lunch at the bistro is amazing, and although you may need to encourage a little adventurous tasting as it’s local food, you will not be disappointed. Try one of the platters – they are delicious!

Kranji War Memorial

The graves at Kranji War Memorial

Kranji War Memorial

You can stop here on the way to or from Bollywood Veggies. A tribute to all the fallen from the UK, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India, Malaya and the Netherlands who died defending Singapore and Malaya against invading Japanese forces during World War 11. The memorial consists of war graves, the Memorial Walls, the State Cemetery and the Military Graves.

East Coast Park

Great for a relaxing stroll when you want an easy day. Wide open paths and cycle paths mean everyone can choose their way to travel. You can hire bikes here too. Pack a picnic, lots of water and have an easy stroll.

scooter and scooter

All types of transport welcomed at East Coast Park.

The Merlion on Sentosa

Situated in Sentosa, take them for a lovely stroll along the Merlion walk and then  in to the Merlion itself to hear about the myth, make a wish and ring the bell. You can use the lift to get to the mouth of the lion for a great shot over Singapore. Those more able can go right to the top of the head although there are still a few steps to climb. But there are benches for those that can’t manage them so you can go up whilst they wait in the cool.

Little India

A wander around Little India is often something older guests enjoy. If you can get a guide like those run by Road to India even better, as Poojah, the well-informed guide will explain the etiquette of the temples and some of the meaning behind what you are seeing. Stop for lunch at the hawker or one of the many restaurants if you want to try some of the best Indian food in Singapore. Wander around the markets and marvel at the dresses and saris on display. You might even want to try some on.

If, like most mums, your mum loves a bargain take her to Mustafa’s. Many claim you can buy ANYTHING you want there. From toys to suits, flour to fresh fish, they will be amazed. It’s huge though so don’t get lost! 

Singapore Zoo

This day out will involve a LOT of walking so I would only suggest this if you hire a wheelchair or scooter for less able guests. Check the website for more info as the zoo does have some to rent. It’s a great day out though and you can take it as slowly as need be. Lots of benches, shaded areas and cafes to stop when necessary as well as a tram that can take you around too. Watching the many animal shows and feedings also offers a sit down when needed.

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

Theatre in Singapore

A night at the theatre or a live performance is always a safe bet as far as I’m concerned. More often than not you’ll find something of interest on here – whether it’s a free music concert at the esplanade or a west end musical on tour at MBS. Have a look online for what’s around. These websites are helpful. http://www.baseentertainmentasia.com/ https://www.esplanade.com/ http://www.srt.com.sg/ http://pangdemonium.com/

McRitchie Reservoir

If your parents/guests are good walkers they’ll love a wander around McRitchie. For the more fit and adventurous there’s the treetop walk. Not something I’d suggest unless very good walkers though! But a stroll around the reservoir is pretty easy-going and you’ll still get to see the resident monkeys if you’re lucky. Whatever you do thought, DON’T feed them or offer them anything. They can be quite cheeky and have been known to swipe bags from tables!

Marina Bay Sands

If everyone is really tired of the heat then head to one of the shopping centres. They are all air-conditioned and if you choose MBS, you’ll find a few added attractions as well. Think Venetian style canal and traditional Sampan rides. If you time it well you’ll see the Rain Oculus too – this is a large whirlpool that forms inside a 70-foot diameter acrylic bowl and falls two stories to a pool below. The artwork, a collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie, functions as both a skylight and a rain collector. The rain water is recycled back to the whirlpool and also fills the canal that runs through the atrium.

canal at mbs

Take a stroll along the river inside the shopping centre!

Stop for lunch somewhere – you could go something more local like the every popular Din Tai Fung or go elegant at TWG. There’s also every kind of option from Gordon Ramsey to Wolfgang Puck as well as a food hall. For more information on where to eat look at the MBS website.

And remember…

These are just some suggestions. Don’t forget if your parents are visiting all they really want to do is see you and your family. If you have to work or have other commitments, leave them with instructions on how to get a cab, who to contact if there’s a problem and some ideas of things to do during the day. If you are a member of a club get them a temporary pass (most offer them for family visitors) and they can go there as often as they like. Also don’t forget to explain how to use the air con, open the door/gate and get out of the condo if you’re in one. It might be obvious to you, but to guests it’s all new.

Invite some of your Singapore friends over to meet your family. Have a barbecue or a casual dinner. Your parents will really appreciate seeing who you spend your time with and it will make things easier when talking on the phone next. It may also help to reassure them that you are doing okay here and that you have a nice life here.

When families with children come to visit

Family with children visiting for two weeks:

When you’ve got children in the mix, make your days much less packed as things always take a little longer with kids. Try to cater for all age groups where you can – but let everyone know that there’s lot of fun things around Singapore and everyone will get their turn. When all else fails, use a bribe – ice cream always works for us!

Day 1

Boat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Plenty of photo opportunities here for kids including spouting water from their mouths and ‘carrying’ MBS – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat (and offers a spot for a loo break!) but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

bumboat in Singapore

Everyone loves a relaxing potter down the river don’t they? If not, bribe them with icecream!

Day 2

Get the MRT to Esplanade and have a wander around the Esplanade. You can get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof and there’s a great Haagan Daaz inside. Take a leisurely stroll towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch at one of the many places at MBS, there’s plenty of options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Whilst you’re in MBS show the kids the canal that runs through it and if you’ve timed it right, you’ll see the Rain Oculus empty – it collects rain water that fills the canal! You can even jump on one of the sampans for a leisurely ride.

Next it’s time to grab your head for heights and go on up to the sky park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get to see what the city from 57 floors up – and if you stretch your neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

skypark at Marina Bay Sands

Young and old alike will be blown away by the views at the top of MBS

Day 3

Is pool day and a bit of down time for the adults whilst the kids burn off some energy in the pool. If you are a member of a club, head there for the day – if not, a condo pool or house pool would do the trick too. If you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests here!

Pool at The British Club Singapore

A day by the pool relaxing will be just what you all need today.

Day 4

After a relaxing day yesterday today is all about action packed fun and is probably THE thing your younger guests have been waiting for. Universal Studios.  A great family day out that will tick all the boxes no matter what age the children are. Discount tickets can be bought through places like the British Club and you can buy an express pass to help skip some of the long queues (the price can vary). But really, these places are all about the anticipation as much as anything else so just go armed with lots of patience and you’ll be fine. Pre-book your entrance tickets to avoid the long lines to get in and get there early.

Universal Studios

One of the less hair-raising rides – for some!

Day 5

Take it easy today, the kids will be exhausted from yesterday – as will the adults. Take your guests out for lunch somewhere you would go to usually. Go for a walk around your local area, let them get to know your ‘hood’. Have lunch at a hawker centre and order some food the kids may not have tried before.

Day 6

For older children today is all about local heritage so head for China Town. This may be met with groans of ‘boring’ from younger guests but remind them they can look for cheap pressies to take home or find the best noodles in Singapore today. Visit China Town Heritage Centre to get a feel for how the city has changed over the years and see how people used to live.

china town

China Town and its Markets are full of colour and culture.

Head to food street for some local fare. If it all looks a bit scary to your younger visitors, choose something simple like chicken sate or spring rolls. Or ask The Noodle Man for some plain non spicy noodles.

Spend the afternoon wandering around the markets and challenge your guests to try some Durian.

or

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

If this really doesn’t appeal to your older children and probably won’t with younger children you could suggest Singapore Zoo. One of the most impressive zoo’s I’ve ever been to and although it’s  a long day you can take your time walking around and can jump on and off the tram for a few extra dollars. The monkey exhibit is amazing and there are plenty of animal experiences and shows to see too including jungle breakfast (this requires pre-booking).

Day 7

Have a shorter day today and suggest The Alive Museum in Sun Tec city is a great spot to take families (especially on a rainy day, but it will be busy) and you will literally run out of battery on your camera. From flying on the back of a huge Kingfisher to being picked up by a giant baby, this 4D museum has to be seen to be believed. Great fun for young and old alike!

Day 8

Sentosa is calling. There really is so much to do on The State of Fun that one day is not enough. Madam Tussauds to Segways, Ziplines to a butterfly park. There’s a good page on the website here that will help you plan. It’s worth buying a Fun Pass which gives you access to a number of attractions. You can even stay for the evening and watch one of the light shows too.

For me, the things you should not miss is the Luge – brilliant fun for all and the most hair-raising skyline ride up to it, the Merlion Walk and the Merlion and the Images of Singapore LIVE (really one of the best ways to introduce children to the history of Singapore).

Dinner at Coastes is a great way to end the day – kid friendly, relaxed, the food comes quick and the kids can play in the sand whilst you and your adult guests can enjoy a much-needed beverage.

dinner at coastes, Singapore

The perfect spot for a family dinner – relaxed, good food, service is quick and your toes are in the sand. What’s not to love?

Day 9

Relax. Take it easy as everyone will be tired from yesterday. If the kids get tetchy take them for a walk around your local park.

This evening would be a good time to go on the Night Safari. The world’s first nocturnal wildlife park, it’s quite a unique night out, but it’s a late one so maybe some afternoon naps would be a good idea before you go. Book your tickets in advance and although it’ll be busy when you arrive, it’s well organised and everyone gets to see everything.

Day 10

Time to head for Gardens By The Bay. Go later in the afternoon if you can so that you can stay for the light show at 7:45. Allow a few hours at the gardens or if necessary, go back in the evening.

laying down for singing trees

Tell your guests to lay down and take in the wonder of the Singing Trees.

Plenty to do at the Children’s Garden including a splash park so get the kids to take their swimwear. If they are older they might enjoy the Cloud Forest but it’s pretty chilly inside the dome so take jumpers. Don’t forget to head to the Supertree Grove to see the gardens during the day and you can visit the OCBC Skyway if you’re ok with going up high with the kids.

Day 11

East Coast Park.  If the children are able to ride bikes this is a good place to go as you can hire them here and cycle all the way along the cycle paths that run next to the beach. If not, just grab the stroller and take a leisurely walk. Scooters, roller blades, inline skates – they’re all welcome! Plenty of dining options along the way or take a picnic. There are also barbecue pits if you want to get organised for a family bbq, you’ll need to book here though.There is a children’s playground too.

Wishing Bells, Mount Faber, Singapore
Make a wish at Mount Fabe

or

You could go for a ride on the Cable Car for spectacular views and fun. Begin your journey at Mount Faber where you can have a look around at the stunning park before getting on the cable car. There’s the huge polish bell of friendship, stunning views and a great little restaurant and gift shop up there. Also, you can buy a bell or two of your own and tie them on the railings as many others have done before.

Day 12

Water Park. Whilst Adventure Cove is great fun and well worth a visit, if your guests have already made heavy dent in their wallets, take them to Jurong Water Park instead.  A local pool that has enough rides, slides and lazy rivers to keep the younger ones happy. It may not be ideal for older children looking for huge thrills, but is a good substitute for little ones. For older ones, I’d opt for the Sentosa park for sure – if you are a member of the British Club (or know someone who is) they have discounted tickets available.

Day 13

Kartwheels on Tanjong Beach

Simple fun at the beach – and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Beach day. Most children will want to go to the beach before they go home. You can go to Tanjong, Siloso or Palawan on Sentosa for an easy day. At Palawan there’s also a fantastic pirate ship splash park ideal for under 10’s. Check the website for opening times. Whilst you’re there you can maybe do one or two of the attractions that you may have missed on day 8.

Day 14

Take a day off today and let your guests relax in the sun whilst they get ready to leave. Again a pool is a bonus here. If you’re feeling generous (which you may not be after two weeks) you could offer to take the kids out to a park to give the parents some space to pack.

Or…

If the family that are coming to stay are feeling adventurous suggest a few days away somewhere like Bintan. There are many resorts and hotels to choose from and gives people a different taste of Asia. It’s only 45 minutes by ferry so you can do it over a long weekend – we’ve even done just two days.

bintan beach games

Take a break from Singapore and hop on the ferry to Bintan for a few days. Simple laid back fun.

Other options a bit further afield are Thailand, Malaysia, Batu Batu and so on. As long as it’s within a 2 hour flight or 5 hour drive it’s worth it I think.

By doing this it takes the pressure off you as a host too as feels more like a holiday. Alternatively if you are working or your kids are at school the family may want to take a few days away on their own. Give them lots of ideas before they come and let them decide. It may even be they treat themselves to a couple of nights at one of the hotels here in Singapore.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:
Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo – both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version:
family visiting If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button and comment at the bottom of this post.

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

When your best friends come to visit…

Five day Itinerary with friends – no kids

Teapot cocktail, Bitters & Love

It will be cocktail o’clock when your best friends come to visit

Day 1

AmTanjong Beach. Take a towel and just sit and take in the strangely relaxing scenery of ships, tankers and the like. Have a dip if you like and just catch up. Don’t rush too much as everyone is just catching their breath. Then after an hour or so – or more if you have sun worshippers visiting – head for brunch at the Marina. I like Em for a good breakfast and if you’ve got kids in tow they can play on the pirate ship playground whilst you enjoy a chat with your friends. Another favourite spot that I’d go to any time of the day is Coastes – quick service and you get to sit on the beach.

PM – Walk around Sentosa – I would always get the free tram to Beach Station and go to Merlion Walk and show guests the magnificent Merlion that takes pride of place there. You can even go inside and up to its head for some stunning views of Sentosa and the surrounding area. There are a whole list of other things to do on Sentosa here. More info on Sentosa on my blog post.

Evening depends on how tired everyone is but a relaxed dinner at home is always a good way to round of day 1. You can always grab some hawker food if you are short of time (or cooking skills!)

The Luge, Sentosa, Singapore

The Luge is somewhere you should take your friends – and just pray you make it down without any ‘accidents’ of any kind. Great for a giggle and the hats are a great solution to frizzy hair!

Day 2

AMBoat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Perfect photo opportunities here – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and get off at Esplanade. More details on Clarke Quay boat trips here.

PM – Have a quick look at The Esplanade and get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof, then walk towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch around the Esplanade or eat at one of the many places at MBS (I love TWG  for some good old-fashioned elegance or there’s plenty of other options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Now grab your head for heights and go on up to the Sky Park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get the see what the city is about – and they stretch their neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

On the way home it’s time to head to Raffles. Everybody who has visited us here has this at the top of their ‘must do’ list. It may be a bit of a tourist trap and overpriced, but it is so reminiscent of a bygone era it’s worth it. It’ll only take an hour (if there’s not a queue) and is a good way to round of the day. Of course, you have to go to the Long Bar and have a Singapore Sling, but also have a look around the Courtyard and in the gift shop. Some lovely take home gifts there. * NB The Long Bar and much of the hotel is closed for renovations at the moment (October 2017) so check the website before you go.

Evening – After a freshen up and some down time back at home or the hotel it’s time to head for cocktails somewhere swanky. My favourite spot is The Lantern Bar. Pricey but worth it for the view and the atmosphere. Other places to consider are Smoke & Mirrors, Ce La Vie or Zafferanos. All offer great views.

Views from the Lantern Bar, Singapore

Great photo opportunities for your friends at The Lantern Bar and it’s always a ‘wow’ moment when the lift doors open.

Or if you fancy it head to one of the more hip places like Jigger & Pony, Operation Dagger or Bitters & Love is my personal fave. You can snack whilst drinking your cocktails as most places in Singapore offer bar snacks which are usually more than substantial if you’ve had a big lunch!

Day 3

AM & PM -Time to relax. Jet lag will kick in on day 3 so give your guests the day off. If you are a member of a club, head there for a day around the pool. Have a relaxed lunch, maybe even a spa treatment if you can.  A condo pool or house pool would do the trick too – ask friends if you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – or take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests.

Evening  Having spent the day relaxing, head out early to Gardens By The Bay – my absolute favourite touristy thing to do in Singapore as you’ll read here. The Singing Trees do their stuff at 7:45 and 8:45 every night. 

Supertree Grove at night

I have seen these beauties a dozen times or more and still love it. An absolute must do!

Pay the minimum charge (about $20 per person) and go to the top of the main tree and have a drink, it’s worth it – the views are stunning, especially as the city lights up at night. They do some pretty tasty snack up there too if you get hungry. The Indochine restaurant – which is a floor lower than the rooftop bar, is great if you want to splash out on dinner.  But I would go for something a little less heavy on the wallet and wander over to Sate By The Bay after the light show and try some of the best local food around. Don’t miss out on the Pork Belly or Sate.

Day 4

AM – Book a walking tour. I love Betel Box tours and highly recommend their China Town Food Tour. It’s really informative and takes you to places you wouldn’t necessarily know about, as well as the obvious spots. Of course, it’s all dependent on what day this is and what they have scheduled but get in early and you can work your itinerary around them. They do offer private tours too which although more expensive, actually may be worth it to do what you want.

Local hawker food at China Town

Just one of the many dishes you’ll try on the Betel Box food tour – the every popular Chicken rice.

PM – Depending on how everyone feels as walking around in this humidity can really get to you, the afternoon can be spent wandering around the markets in China Town – all the cheap touristy gifts can be found here. Arab Street and Little India also are good places for this.

Evening dinner should be somewhere relaxed, one of your favourite local dining spots maybe, or a club. Let your friends see what you do and where you’d go.

Day 5

AM – Time for some history. Either head to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Fort Siloso or my recommendation would be Changi War Museum. A great way to learn about the history of Singapore and a good end to a hectic week.

PM – Take some down time to sit and chat, after all, they’ll be gone before you know it. Make tea, put your feet up and just enjoy them being there. They’ll also need to think about packing, dependent on what time they leave tomorrow.

Evening – time to get your glad rags and show them how it’s done in Singapore. ‘Dinner up high’ is an absolute must and tell your friends to allow for this in their budget as it doesn’t come cheap. Artemis has the best food, great view and fab bar in my opinion, but there’s also Level 33, Zafferano’s, Mandarin Oriental, Ce La Vie (you will need to take out a mortgage though!), Me @ Oui, to name but a few.

 

These are just ideas for a five-day itinerary with friends and is pretty packed. Obviously you can miss things out or swap things around. For example, it may be that it pours down one day and you have to do the museum on day two instead. Be flexible but try to have a plan of some sort. That way your friends will leave feeling like they’ve seen something of this amazing island. Talking of rain, don’t assume rain stops play – as you’ll know once you’ve lived here a while, it can be raining one side of the street, and not the other. Plus, it’s very often short-lived. Just take a brolly and get on with it.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:

Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Cable Car over to Sentosa.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.
Trick Eye museum – there are two in Singapore, one on Sentosa and one Suntec. Both great fun and a must for all Instagram addicts.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version. If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button on the side of the page and comment below.

5 day with friends

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

Where do you go when…?

night in city

Lots of family and friends will want to visit this beautiful city you call home

I’ve had a LOT of visitors in the three or so years we have been living in Singapore. From people we barely knew who became lifelong friends after their visit, best friends from home, a friend’s daughter who came for a few days and stayed for two weeks, old school friends who moved to Australia and I hadn’t seen for years and of course, parents and siblings. Each visit has been different and each visitor has been given the ‘Jo tour guide’ treatment. Some more so than others, depending on how busy I was or how much they wanted me around.

So it’s not surprising that when other people I know have visitors they tend to ask me for “one of your itineraries.” I’ve got quite a reputation for my planning when it comes to visitors. I learnt early on that without a plan days can disappear and before you know it guests leave having seen barely anything. So I thought I’d share the three most used itineraries with you. All free of charge, no plus plus added and no forms to fill in. I just ask one – well two – favours. Please click the like button at the side of this page and at the bottom of the page add a comment about who you’ve got visiting. This kind of info takes a lot of time to put together so some feedback is always welcome.  If you could go so far as to follow the blog too you’ll get notified when I add more itineraries or reviews of places to go here in Singapore.

Oh, and if asked how you found out about an attraction or place to visit, please mention 5 Go Mad!

Singapore city at night

Singapore is a photographers dream!

Before you check out the itineraries, here are a few tips to help make the visits as much fun and as easy on you as possible.

Things to remember when you have visitors:
  • Everyone has different tastes and likes and dislikes. Ask visitors before they come if they have any ‘must-sees’ that they’ve heard about or anything they don’t like doing (for me, you’ll not get me near an aquarium).
  • That jet lag will affect them to one degree or another. This can mean they get barely any sleep at night and then want to crash during the day. Where possible encourage them not to sleep during the day, but it can be tough. Allow for rest breaks during the day though as don’t forget the heat hits people hard too.
  • Make sure you have spare bug spray and sun tan lotion. You’ll be surprised by how many people think they don’t need it.
  • Being a tour guide 24/7 can be exhausting, no matter how desperately you want the visitors here. So give yourself some time off too. If they are confident travellers you could suggest they do one more of the days on their own. If not, allow for some time out at some point – maybe just take a break from each other early evening.
  • Remember all friends and family want to see how your life works here so if you have a group you meet up with regularly, consider introducing them. Or if there’s a favourite coffee shop or cafe you go to a lot, take them. That way, when you’re talking to friends and family back home again next, they’ll be able to relate to your life here so much more.
What to do before they arrive:
  • Buy a couple of MRT cards for them and load them up with $10 – that way they can get around straight away.
  • When my nieces have visited I have made them up a goody bag as a welcome gift. I just go along to the markets and pick up some cheap souvenirs – a Singapore tote bag filled with things like a stuffed Merlion, a key ring, a notepad, a fan. etc.
  • Pick up a couple of Singapore maps or voucher books from the larger MRT stations or at the airport.
  • Prep your helper if you have one on the fact that there will be more people either staying or visiting and to adjust her shopping and cooking accordingly. I ask guests to leave money for a helper when I had one as it is extra work, but really that’s up to you ($50 per person at least is a fair amount I think). If you haven’t got a helper, prepare yourself – get some extra food in, start making up beds a few days before etc.
Once they arrive:
  • Once they’ve arrived, get your guests to download the MRT map app as well as Uber – that way they can figure out where to go and how to get there if you can’t be around the whole time.
  • Give them your address, phone number (add to notes on their phone or physically on a note) and point out a few local landmarks so that they feel they know where they are. You’d be surprised how many people forget to ask and head out for the day, not knowing where they’re coming back to! I always tell people what our nearest MRT and the line it’s on.
  • You could treat guests to a local sim for their phone – or point them to a shop that sells them.
  • Explain to them how the aircon works in their bedrooms, any water heaters etc. Also explain that electricity and water costs a fortune here and to turn air con and heater off when not using otherwise your next utility bill will give you a shock!

 

Merlion park, Singapore

The famous Merlion, one of the many must-sees in Singapore

Itineraries

Please click on the links below for the itinerary you want to see:

Itinerary for friends visiting for 5 days

This is for when your besties manage to get away from the kids and visit you. Lots of girlie fun and relaxing.

Itinerary for family or friends with children

Is your sister or brother heading over for a holiday with their kids in tow? Teenagers or toddler, this 14 day plan will have you covered.

Itinerary for parents visiting  

Got the parents or in-laws coming for the first or twenty-first time. Here’s some suggestions for things to do with them to keep you and them sane.

Time to get your crazy on

RiccardoTinelli@CrazyHorseParis_FastyWizz

Sexy not shocking

A recent Facebook post on a Singapore Expat site has got me thinking. It was about the iconic Parisian cabaret show Crazy Horse, whose Forever Crazy tour is coming to Singapore very soon. The post questioned if it was ‘suitable’ for women to go and see or is it regarded as tacky or non pc?

In this age of female empowerment why are women shying away from the idea of going to see a show like Forever Crazy? Let’s get to the nuts (no pun intended or I would have said crutch) of it shall we? 

Is it that really, as women, we don’t want to be seen as sexy?

Why not? We are!

Maybe not when we’re worn out after no sleep and have baby food (or our own food) smeared over our tops, but it’s there sometimes right? In my mind we should be proud of our sexuality  – be that on a stage dressed only in lights or at home dressed in a pair of jeans and t-shirt.

Is it that we think the show is exploitative?

This is not a show that exploits women, it’s a show that celebrates them. The dancers who perform are at the peak of their careers, having trained for years for this kind of gig. They are now touring the world doing what they love. Oh and they get paid for it too. Where’s the exploitation in that?

Are we scared that if we take our partners they might enjoy it a little too much?

So what? If they didn’t, wouldn’t you be more concerned? You never know you could be pleasantly surprised by the resulting mood…

RiccardoTinelli@CrazyHorseParis51

Don’t keep it secret, this show is fabulous!

Do you think it’ll just be a sex show?

It’s not, ask anyone who has seen it either in Paris, Las Vegas or on this current tour. With one of it’s most famous dances “God Save Our Bareskin” choreographed by a former lieutenant of the British Army no less, do you really think us Brits would stand for that? (Ahem, cough, cough, moving on)

No, seriously. The show is a celebration of women and their bodies yes. But it’s far from tacky. There are routines choreographed by the likes of Philippe Decouflé – writer and director of the Cirque du Soleil show Iris. A spectacle of light, colour, sensuality and Joie de vivre the show is sexy, fun, clever and unlike anything you will have seen before. 

Come on girls, grab your friends and book a girls night out – or book a date night with your other half that you’ll both enjoy – and celebrate all that it is to be feminine, sexy and have fun.

RiccardoTinelli@CrazyHorseParis19

Girls night out or date night? You choose

If you need more convincing, here’s a short history I wrote for Base Entertainment about the show.

The Crazy Horse cabaret, or ‘Le Crazy’ as it’s commonly known in France, is an iconic Parisian cabaret show founded in 1951 by painter and art dealer Alain Bernardin. Unlike other cabaret shows of the time, Bernardin purposefully opened his show just off the Champs-Élysées, thereby distinguishing it from the tacky strip joints or risqué burlesque shows found in the Pigalle district.

In fact, the story goes that Bernardin wanted to present a show that the president could watch without compromising his situation – and one where he could return the next week and bring along his wife. High standards indeed!

Bernardin conceived a show unlike any other that featured classically trained dancers performing stunning choreography, using lights and projections that played with the shapes and curves of women’s bodies. This gave the dancers an aura of mystery, the audience a spectacle unlike any other and the result was a show that was stylish, elegant and witty. 

The Golden Rules

The dancers, referred to as The Crazy Girls, come from all over the world including the UK, US, Russia and of course France. From the very beginning Bernardin was very strict about what look he wanted for his Crazy Girls. They had to be classically trained dancers and were chosen for their likeness to each other; they had to be the same height, shape and even have the same breast size.

Bernardin’s (or maybe his teams?) criteria for the perfect Crazy Girl was that they should be around 1.7m tall, with no more than 21cm between nipples and 13cm between naval and pubis.

Go on girls – get the tape measure out and see if you would qualify.

These “Golden Rules” as they were referred to, have stood for more than 60 years but have thankfully developed to include dancing and acting skills, sophistication and personality.

Still, would you get in?

RiccardoTinelli@MikaDo

Do you have what it takes to be a Crazy Girl?

Each year Crazy Horse receives over 500 applications from aspiring dancers who want to become a Crazy Girl – out of these only a handful actually make it in to the ‘family.’  If chosen, the dancer is then put through three to five months of intensive training – a Crazy Parisian dance bootcamp if you like. Only then, after successfully completing the demanding training, are the dancers given their ‘nom de scéne’ (stage name).

This nom de scéne, is given right after their very first public stage performance and is regarded as a baptism for each new dancer. Every girls name is unique to that dancer – a few of the names to look out for include Mina Velours, Loulou de Paris, Psykko Tico and Taina de Bermudes.

Famous Faces

Many of the dancers are quite rightly recognised as being the best in their field. Some of the most famous Crazy Girl dancers you may have heard of include Rita Renoir, Bertha von Paraboumm, Rosa Fumetto, Lova Moore and Polly Underground.

The show has also become famous for its celebrity guest stars who have appeared on stage. These have included Dita Von Teese, Pamela Anderson, Conchita Wurst and Kylie Minogue. Demi Moore reportedly learned the ropes for her movie Striptease by watching the Crazy Girls in action.  

2010 saw the start of the Forever Crazy worldwide tour. Conceived as a tribute to Alain Bernardin, it consists of a selection of the best acts from the cabarets 50 year repertoire. According to Crazy Horse; “the result is a distinctive show that delights the mind and enthralls the eyes!”

“God Save our Bareskin” – a dance choreographed by a lieutenant of the British Army – kicks off each show as it has done in Paris since 1989. Another dance to look out for is “Crisis? What Crisis” which was inspired by the world financial crisis.

 The show has won rave reviews all over the world. Don’t miss your chance to catch it in Singapore while you can.

Forever Crazy is showing at MBS Theatres Wednesday 11th – Sunday 22nd October. Tickets available here.

Photo credits: Riccardo Tinelli

 

Peranakan Museum

Peranakan museum

Peranakan Museum

Where: The Peranakan Museum, 39 Armenian Street, 179941.
Why? To finally find out what Peranakan actually means. To discover more about the history of Singapore.
When? Open daily 10am-7pm. Till 9pm on a Friday.
Cash heavy? Nope! Just $6 per entry, $3 for PR.
Kid friendly? Yes. there were hands on displays to keep them interested. There was a group of school children there whilst I was there and they looked like they were having fun. Strollers allowed in all galleries and there’s a changing room on level 1.
Dog friendly? No, but then why would it be?
Disabled access? Yes, all galleries have wheelchair access and there are disabled toilets and parking spaces nearby.
Getting there. The nearest MRT is City Hall. Alternatively it’s about a 5-10 minute drive from the centre of town and there are bus stops nearby.
Extra titbit. Look out for the poem about how to be a good daughter-in-law. When you’ve finished at the museum have a wander down the street and check out the amazing street art.
Website/Contact: http://www.peranakanmuseum.sg Tel: +65 6332 7591

The nitty-gritty:

The term Peranakan is talked about a lot here in Singapore. For quite a while I had no idea what it actually meant. I knew it referred to something – or someone? – local and that there were lots of lovely housewares you could buy in the ‘Peranakan design.” I figured it referred to the indigenous people of Singapore; the forefathers of this modern city. However, a trip to the Peranakan museum made me realise that there is so much more to it than that.

The imposing staircases either side of the central atrium.

The imposing staircases either side of the central atrium.

This small museum is in what used to be the Tao Nan Chinese School, one of the first modern Chinese schools in Singapore and is right by the city’s business district. With it’s dashing pastel coloured frontage, its arched verandahs and grand entrance way, the quietly imposing building catches you by surprise as you wander along Armenian Street. As you walk though the doors in to an atrium filled with light, you can’t help but notice the two huge symmetrical staircases that lead up either side of the building to corridors and galleries on the upper levels. As museums go, it’s very inviting – not stuffy or library like at all.

So, what is Peranakan? To quote the museum themselves “In Malay, Peranakan means ‘child of’ or ‘born of’ and is used to refer to people of mixed ethnic origins.” To put this in to context, years ago, way before Singapore was the high-rise city it is now, it was seen as a place of opportunity for many neighbouring countries due to its free port. This was mainly due to Singapore’s unique location on the major sea route between India and China. It quickly became a hub of trading and many Chinese immigrants came to make their fortune here – and never left. These travellers – although mainly Chinese, there were also Indian and Eurasian Portuguese – married local Malay (non muslim) women and their culture became known as Peranakan.

There are things displayed everywhere.

There are things displayed everywhere.

The first collection I visited in the museum was a series of photographs of modern-day Peranakan people accompanied by quotes about what being Peranakan means to them. There was a strong sense of belonging and tradition in most of what I read. Something that was echoed throughout other exhibits too. At the end of the room is a film showing the early Peranakan history.

I then went up to the first level where you can see art, clothing, furniture, traditions associated with the Peranakan culture. With nine galleries all themed with things such as Weddings, religion, food and feasting, it really does give you an insight in to how life would have been like years ago in Singapore. It also reflected on how this manifests in modern Singapore too.

The colourful Nonya ware.

The colourful Nonya ware.

My favourite exhibits included the amazing display of Nonya ware – the Peranakan design porcelain ware – including a full table laid for twenty plus guests. The fully dressed, parading wedding party was interesting too. There were artefacts all around the museum including at the top of the stairs and hanging above doors.

I'm not sure how far I'd walk in these...

I’m not sure how far I’d walk in these…

I was keen to learn about the Nonya (Peranakan lady), especially the rituals around getting married and was surprised by how many traditions there are. Many women it seems no longer follow these rituals to the book, but some do still survive. The room that focused on religion and in particular the rituals around death was fascinating – if a bit eery – and I can see that these customs are still in play today amongst modern-day Peranakans.

Other displays to look out for include the intricate beadwork, the fashion and the display about the many Peranakans who became cultural and philanthropic leaders.

They even have their own cat!

They even have their own cat!

The museum is an interesting way to spend a morning or afternoon. You can get around it in a couple of hours quite easily. On your way out visit the gift shop and pick up one of their beautiful hand-made cards or find a replica of the beadwork you had previously admired. There’s even a foodie shop where you can pick up some traditional Peranakan treats. A very pleasant way to while a few hours for sure.

Oh, and then have a wander down Armenian Street, there’s some amazing street art on the building just next door and some lovely little shop houses with pots of tropical plants and canaries in cages hanging out front. There’s an interesting looking restaurant that I want to go back to as well serving traditional Peranakan food.

Well worth the visit.

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5  (out of 5)

Things you might like to know…

imagesWhen you land on the wonderful little red dot it’s very exciting. The sights, sounds, smells are all new and for most people the start of a new life here is quite a buzz. But, in all honestly, it doesn’t take very long before you can become completely overwhelmed by it all.

Suddenly the most mundane things become a huge deal. Going to the supermarket can feel like an expedition to the North Pole (actually, much more like the Sahara desert). Finding a doctor is like choosing Godparents for your child, and knowing what eggs to buy – well, that’s just completely baffling.

Nearly six months in and I’m starting to feel less overwhelmed and I got to thinking of all the little things that have helped me settle in. Those subtle nuances that stop you feeling like a prize fool.

Being the kind, generous person I am I thought I’d share them with you all. So, if you’re heading over to Singers or have just arrived, have a look at this list and make notes. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can send you over the edge.

(Did I ever tell you the organic basket story??!)

Before You Arrive

  • What to bring and not to bring from your native country is such a HUGE topic I’m not going to go in to it here. What I will say is please rest assured, you can get pretty much anything you want here. Yes, some of it will be double the price of back home and you’ll kick yourself you didn’t bring a container load of it. But, you’ll also bring a whole load of stuff you don’t need, want or will ever use. For me, it was far too many clothes – and not even winter clothes, just regular stuff that never gets worn due to the heat. And stock cubes! I was led to believe you couldn’t get them here and panicked. I have a cupboard full if you want any. So, please don’t panic – and if you  are really desperate for that box of M&S chocolate shortbread, there’s always the internet.
  • If it’s at all possible visit Singapore for a week or two at least before you move. It will help you feel more comfortable with the move. If you can get to know someone who already lives here through social media or work connections, even better. Ask if they’d mind meeting you for dinner. Then bend their ear off and ask every question you’ve been storing up. Most people have been there and done that and are only to willing to answer all those questions that are keeping you up at night.

On The Road

  • If you hire (or buy if you’re stonkingly rich and flash, err, I mean if you can) a car, you will have a little device in the front window. This is called an IU device and it will be your best friend. It will get you in and out of car parks and around the roads of Singapore. However, it does need a ‘cash card’ in it and this needs ‘topping up’ regularly. IMG_2155To do this is easy – once you know how and where. You can do it at most ATM machines – just pop your bank card in and follow the instructions. A lot of shopping centres have ‘Top Up machines’ usually situated by the walkway or lifts. They can be pretty hard to spot but look like this:
    You can also top up in 7/11 stores and some petrol stations. You will also get charged when you use certain roads – you’ll notice gantry’s across roads that have details of the prices charged. Usually only a couple of dollars. Always make sure you’ve got at least $20 on your card as it can be easy to go through it in a day, especially if you’re parking in the CBD (Central Business District). However, once you know where you’re going you’ll find the money on it lasts much longer.  Keep your cash card topped up and you’ll be fine, if not, you’ll be fined (do you see what I did there?).
  • However, don’t think just because you’ve got one of these you can park anywhere. Oh no! If you go in to a car park without a barrier, or want to park in a road (check you can first!), it’s likely you’ll need ‘coupons’ to park. These coupons can be bought at 7/11 and garages and cost 50c or $1 each and are bought in books of ten or so. Check the colour of the parking bays and read the back of the coupon book to see how many coupons you should display. Pop out the little round tags for time and date and you’re good to go. Always worth keeping a book of them in the glove compartment.
  • Satnavs don’t always recognise flyovers. I have nothing more to say on this. Just be aware. SAT NAVS DO NOT ALWAYS RECOGNISE FLYOVERS. Nuff said.
  • Oh, and roundabouts don’t really exist.
  • Pedestrians like to wear headphones and listen to music/watch tv whilst walking along. Don’t assume they can hear you coming in your noisy car or hear the bell on your bike. They can’t.

Time To Shop

Shopping in the supermarket can be fun. It can also be a nightmare as the choice can be baffling, the layout a bit odd and payment for things not straightforward.

  • If you buy loose fruit and veg, more often than not there’s a set of scales/weighing machine you are supposed to take the loose – but bagged items – to to be weighed and priced. These may or may not be manned. I love the diy ones as I get to play shops for a bit.
  • There may also be a bakery section within in the supermarket – that’s separate to the supermarket (even though it’s inside the shop) Usually you’ll need to pay for things from there separately. Always check before you pop something in your trolley and wander off.
  • Tissues are big here. They are used to reserve seats at hawker centres and it’s quite common to see a solitary pack of tissues sitting in the middle of a table – which basically means someone has bagged that table and are off getting their grub. Cab drivers like to give them away – no idea why! You will find them being sold outside MRT stations or in busy shopping areas, often by disabled people. As far as I understand it, this is the only way some people get to earn any money. A couple of bucks can go a long way. And who doesn’t need tissues right? Some may say they are unlicensed hawkers. Personally, I think it’s someone who’s trying to get by.
  • When shopping for clothes get ready for ‘Free Size’ This is the sizing many of the local stores use in their clothes and they will convince you that it’ll fit just fine – the size is free and meant for all. Err… no. Unless you’re size 10, possibly 12 at a push, 5ft 9 and with perfectly honed arms and cheek bones don’t bother. It won’t fit. However, don’t be put off by all the talk of being sent away from shops head hanging low after being told ‘you’re too fat for our clothes’. There are plenty of good clothes shops that stock normal size clothes in Singapore. You’ve just got to go and look. Often they look like tiny girls sizes from the outside, but inside there’s an array to choose from.

  • At the till you will be asked “Nets or Visa?” I still am not sure what the difference is between the two apart from you use a pin number for Nets and sign your signautre for Visa. I believe some stores offer discounts/promotions sometimes if you choose one over the other. At the petrol station recently, for example, I got 10% off for using Visa rather than Nets. Check you don’t get charged if it’s Visa though. Really I think it’s comes down to your personal preference. Can you remember your pin number or not? Bear in mind you need a 6-digit pin number here, so make it one you can remember.
  • If you are planning on buying big items when you arrive, or during your time in Singapore – and you are fairly well organised enough not to get in to debt – it’s worth opening a credit card here. There are lots of credit cards that give great cash back, air miles, discount options. Choose well and you’re first flight to Bali could be courtesy of your monthly food shop. Obviously look around and be sensible, there’s no point sticking everything on credit if you don’t have the money to pay it off each month.

Out & About

  • Tipping – no one tips. Well, almost no one. There is a sign at the airport apparently that says Singapore is a non tipping country. Certainly in restaurants, hotels and so on, it’s not expected that you tip as a service charge is always added. However, some people do give a couple of bucks to the petrol station attendent who fills your car up and cleans the windscreen (yep, you only have to swan out of the car, say how much and what petrol you want put in, then pay at the till – no smelly petrol hands here). But, it’s not the norm.
  • At the hawker centres, don’t be embarrassed to ask what’s what. They can be intimidating places but do offer great, cheap food. Have a wahawkers_1820293bnder round, decide what you think you may like and go for it. As it’s so cheap it really doesn’t hurt if you get it wrong. Oh, and once you’ve got your food, take a seat and a lovely Uncle will come over and ask what drink you want and bring it to you. I’m still learning when it comes to what is good, but here’s a link to a great article I read which helps explain some of the dishes. http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/top-ten-things-to-eat-in-singapore-hawker-edition.html
  • If someone refers to an ‘Uncle’ they don’t actually mean a blood relative – or any kind of relative. In Singapore, Uncle is a term of respect for elderly gentlemen. And Aunty is the female equivalent. I guess a bit like the British use of ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Although do be offended if you’re under 40 as I believe it is really meant for the elderly. For us ‘younger’ women, we’re called ‘Sis’ however, I’m not sure what the male younger person is called as it’s not ‘bro’. Anyone help me with this one?
  • If you are going to be getting cabs, download one of the many Apps that are available to help you book a cab. Eg. there’s Grab Taxi, Comfort Cabs, Uber etc.  You can’t just stand anywhere and stick your hand out as there are certain rules the cab drivers have to adhere to. So stick to cab ranks if you can. There are plenty around – outside shopping centres, busy areas, hotels, even large condos. Don’t panic if the line seems ridiculously long, there are A LOT of cabs in Singapore and lines tend to move quickly.
  • Don’t assume the cab driver will know the way to your destination. It’s always a good idea to have an idea of what way you want to go. I can’t work out if this is because the driver doesn’t want to be accused of taking you the ‘long’ way round or they simply do not know. (Any London cab drivers reading this?!) Google map it if you have to.
  • If a cab stops, don’t assume you’ll get a ride. This is a bit of a bug beaLook out for the green one!r of people living here and a can of worms I’m leaving be for now. If a cab is on a ‘shift change’ they’ll only take you if you are going their way.  It may helpfully say on the top of the cab where it’s heading. If it’s pouring with rain be prepared to wait a while for a cab and if you see one coming with the haloed green light – stick your hand out and wave like your life depends on it. You might get lucky…

Passes & Cards

  • If you’re going to be using the public transport system it’s worth getting an EZ Link card. These are available at most MRT stations (MRT is the local rail network – it’s brilliant), 7/11 stores and other places. Initially you have to pay about $12 and some of this is kept as the card payment, the rest is then credit to use on trains, buses, some cabs and even food and drink and leisure outlets. Very handy piece of plastic to have if you run out of cash (so long as it’s been topped up of course!)
  • Get a Passion card. It’s kind of like a Tesco club card (a UK reference, sorry for those non British) and you’ll be asked if you’re a Passion card member in a number of places. Look on the local community centre website and sign up. Costs around $12 but means you’ll get money off, coupons etc at shops and be able to access local classes at community centres.

!TOP TIP COMING UP!

  • FrazzledMake an effort for your DP pass photo. Now I’m not that vain a person, but this is one tip I wish someone had shared with me. It’s likely that you’ll rock up at the Ministry of Manpower (or the MOM as you will soon know it) probably having just arrived in Singapore. Feeling a bit low, probably a bit frazzled and definitely a bit confused. All of those feelings will show on your tired, haggard, unwashed face. Take my word for it, brush your hair, slap on a bit of makeup and look confident. That pass is going to be the one thing you see almost every day whilst living in Singapore. Which leads me to my next tip…
  • Take your dependents pass/employment pass EVERYWHERE. It’s not just the obvious things like opening a bank account or getting a TV package you’ll need it for. When buying any kind of ticket, entering a play centre or visiting the doctors you will be asked for it. You need it more often than not so keep it with you. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.

Locals

  • Can Lah or Can Can – mean yep, I’ll do that for you. You will find yourself saying it without realising. There are hundreds of other phrases and words you will hear in ‘Singlish’ – which is the local dialect/language. There are some great books to help you if you want to learn more. Or, just google Singlish and away you go.
  • There are lot of people employed here which means there is lots of help. From the petrol pump guy who will fill your car up to the many shop assistants. Don’t be surprised by the fact you can get someone to bring dog food to your house, someone else who is responsible for the garden, another person who sorts out the pest control and another guy who delivers everything from water to chips. This is the country that  ‘can lah.’  Don’t be embarrassed, this is the culture of Singapore.*

*ahem, I don’t want to start a war here, but some say that customer service is different here. Don’t take things personally if it isn’t what you’d usually expect.

Home Sick?

It’s tough leaving everyone and everything you know behind. No matter how excited you are about the move and how much you think you’re ready for it, you will have days when you wonder what the hell you’ve done. Read my piece on here about how I felt – “Home is where the heart is”. But here are some other tips for helping survive those first few months of home sickness.

  • Say yes to every suggestion of meeting up, coffee morning, play date you can. You may not like everyone you meet – you don’t have to – that’s not the point. The point is, get out there. Often, it’s not the person you’ve met, but someone you meet through them that ends up being your turn-to buddy. It’s scary to start again but it’s a necessary part of relocating. So, try not to be shy. You won’t be the only one feeling like an idiot sat at home on their own sobbing because they haven’t had a chin wag for days. It takes time, so the sooner you get going the sooner you’ll have a friend or two. I hesitated far too much and so missed out on some great meet ups I’m sure. Now I try to be much more open and say yes more.
  • Remind yourself where you are every now and then. The fact you are living in this amazing city with so many stunning places on your doorstep waiting for you to explore. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a look at the weather, news, or local FB page of your home town. That often helps pick me up  😉
  • Pick up a tablet (the electronic kind, not the packet!), phone or get on the computer and FaceTime, Skype, email someone back home. Tell them how you’re feeling. My sister sent me a lovely bunch of flowers when she knew I was down and a card with such kind words it made my day. Also, remind your friends that there is nothing quite like a hand written letter through the post. But make sure you reciprocate and write to them too.
  • Talk to someone here about how you’re feeling. Without a doubt someone else will be feeling the same, or have been through it.
  • If you need help don’t be shy and ask for it. Where to find the best meat? What to do about child care? Should you worry if you’ve upset the neighbours dog? What does a red letter gift mean?  Whatever it is, someone else has probably asked it before. There a quite a few Facebook sites now – just put in Singapore expat and a whole load will come up. Singapore Expat Wives and The Real Singapore Expat Wives are two of the most popular. They can become addictive though – be warned!
  • In a similar way accept help too. You’ll be amazed how quickly people – locals and expats alike – will offer to help, especially if they know you’re stuck or struggling. Whilst you may only ever have left your child with their Nanna at home, here you’ll have to get used to asking friends to help out now you’re here (again, reciprocation is the key). Need someone to feed the cat whilst you’re away? Then get to know your neighbours. It can be weird as you barely know these people who offer their help, but saying yes and thanking them is the best way forward, believe me.
  • And finally, when all is said and done remember…

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This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any newbie Expats reading this, please add your tips to the comments section below. Any old hands – come on, pass on yours. Anyone a soon-to-be expat? What kind of tips are you looking for?

For more useful advice and tips, take a look at ‘more things you might like to know’ here! I wrote this after the overwhelming response I got to part 1. Hope you like it.