Singapore/North and West
The northern and western parts of Singapore are the city's hinterlands, consisting of jungle dotted with public housing blocks and a significant industrial area in Sungei Kadut and the reclaimed area of Tuas. In addition there is a reclaimed island, Jurong Island, made from the merging of 7 previously smaller islands.
The western junction of Jurong East is 20 minutes away from the city center on the MRT East-West Line. Traveling there by the North-South Line will take closer to 60 minutes as it goes one big loop to Woodlands and the North.
The sights of Singapore's hinterland can be easily divided in two: there's the zoo and the bird park, and then there's everything else.
- Botanic Gardens, Bukit Timah Rd (next to Botanic Gardens MRT). 05:00-24:00. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once considered among the finest botanical gardens in the British empire, and still a firm favorite for visitors and locals alike. Features trees and plants from tropical climates around the world. Walking and jogging trails are throughout, and you can register for regular free guided tours highlighting different themes or areas such as the rainforest, and the healing garden. Outdoor sculptures dot the gardens. Look for the girl on the swing that appears to hang from an invisible chain in the air. Picnicking is allowed, but there are also quite a few cafes and restaurants (see Eat). Sunday evenings often see musical concerts showcasing light classics, Chinese or SE Asian performances from local orchestras at the bandstand. Free.
- Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden (next to Chinese Garden or Lakeside MRT). Free and nice for a walk and/or picnic. Also check out the tortoise and turtle sanctuary in the Chinese Garden. $5 adult admission and $2 for leafy vegetables and food pellets let you get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures. Worth a visit during the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival (Sep-Oct, exact date varies), when the garden is lit up with tens of thousands of lanterns, including complex installations with moving figures based on themes ranging from Hello Kitty to Chinese folk tales. $4.50, but $13/9 peak/off-peak during festival.
- National Orchid Garden, in the Botanic Gardens. 08:30-19:00. This is where you can spot Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, and many more. Accessible by bus or car, parking at the visitor's centre. $5 (Jan 2011).
Quite a few sites related to World War II are scattered around the island, but most will appeal only to war history buffs.
- Kranji War Memorial, 9 Woodlands Rd (15 minutes walk from Kranji station). Dedicated to those who died defending Singapore from the invading Japanese in World War II. The War Cemetery is the final resting place of 4,458 allied servicemen in marked graves and the names of over 24,000 allied servicemen whose bodies were never found are inscribed on the Memorial Walls. Quieter than Changi Chapel, but no less moving.
- Labrador Park and Labrador Secret Tunnels, Labrador Villa Rd (Bus 408 from HarbourFront MRT, runs on weekends/holidays only). 10:00-18:00, guided tours every hour. Opened in May 2005, there are two ways of looking at these two restored British-era bunkers: either they're done a pretty good job of making a tunnel interesting, or even if you dress it up with spot lights and recorded booms, it's still just a bunch of tunnels. There are also some machine gun posts, old artillery guns etc scattered about in Labrador Park, which also has some walking trails and a quiet stretch of seashore opposite Sentosa. Park free, Secret Tunnels $8/5 adult/child.
- Memories at Old Ford Factory, 351 Upper Bukit Timah Rd (Bus 173 from Bukit Batok MRT), ☎ +65 6332 7973. M-Sa 09:00-17:30, Su 12:00-17:30. War museum at the old Ford Motor Factory, where British Lt-General Percival surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. Focuses on the subsequent Japanese occupation and the experiences of both civilians and POWs with modern presentation and multimedia gadgetry, but if you're pressed for time, the Changi Chapel covers much the same territory and is probably the more interesting of the two. $3.
- Reflections at Bukit Chandu, 31-K Pepys Rd (Nearest bus stop Pasir Panjang Community Centre (lines 10, 30 from central Singapore), but it's still a bit of a hike up the hill from here). 09:00-17:00 Tu-Su. Small but well-implemented commemorative museum for the last stand of the Malay Regiment in World War II's Battle of Bukit Chandu. If visiting here, make a short detour to the free Canopy Walk next door (a part of the Southern Ridges Walk), an elevated footpath through the jungle offering nice views of Singapore's heartlands. $2.
Without a doubt the top attractions in the area, the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park offer joint tickets valid for one month (Park Hopper tickets). Adult combination tickets to any two attractions vary from $26 to $49, while combination tickets to all four parks cost $89.
- Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill (Bus 194 or 251 from Boon Lay bus interchange), ☎ +65 6265 0022. 08:30-18:00 daily. Last admission 17:30. A 20.2 hectare open-concept park dedicated to, you guessed it, birds representing various species. This is Asia’s largest bird park with a collection of more than 5,000 birds from 380 species. The park is attractively presented and quite enjoyable even if you aren't a hardcore ornithologist. The park has 4 free-flight aviaries including the world’s largest aviary, the African Waterfall Aviary, with over 600 free-flying native African birds. There’s also the Lory Loft, where you get to feed the colourful lory and lorikeets. This is a chance to get up-close with these friendly little birds. Don’t be alarmed if they end up perching on your hand, shoulder, or even head.
- You can also explore the Southeast Asian Birds’ aviary, which features Asia’s largest collection of Southeast Asian birds, including the critically endangered Bali Mynah. The fourth free-flight aviary is Jungle Jewels, home of the colourful birds from South America. The park also has a collection of penguins which are housed in an outdoor enclosure. The recently opened Breeding & Research Centre provides a behind-the-scenes look at how eggs are hatched and taken care of. For kids needing reprieve from the tropical heat in Singapore, head over to Birdz of Play, a bird-themed water playground. $28/18 adult/child (3-12 years).
- Night Safari, 80 Mandai Lake Rd (Bus 138 from Ang Mo Kio bus interchange, Bus 927 from Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, Bus 926 from Woodlands bus interchange (Su/hols only). Allow lots of time on public transport or pay $35 for a taxi from the city. For getting back to the city, several coaches run to various city stops for $5.), ☎ +65 6269 3411. 19:30-24:00, last admission 23:00. Restaurants and retail shops are open from 17:30. A completely separate wildlife park situated near the Singapore Zoo, this is the world's first wildlife park built to be viewed at night. The grounds are larger than that of the Singapore Zoo and animal exhibits are accessible to visitors on foot via 4 walking trails and a guided tram tour (Tram Safari). There is a 30 minute show at the amphitheatre with trained animal displays at least three times per night (weather permitting). The guided tram tour is recommended if you do not have the time to do a lot of walking and it brings you to the eastern part of the park which is not accessible by walking. Lighting throughout the park is minimal, but sufficient.
:Stopping at the second tram station is a must as there is a walking path (The Leopard Trail) for viewing giraffes, flying squirrels, lions and others. There are three other walking trails situated around the park – Fishing Cat Trail, East Lodge Trail, and the newest addition, Wallaby Trail. Explore the walking trails to see animals not visible from the tram journey. Flash photography is not allowed, so a tripod is recommended. Some other animals you can expect to see include tigers, lions, hyenas, tapirs, elephants, bats, hippopotamus, porcupines, leopards, badgers, and pangolins. $35/23 adult/child (3-12 years).
- River Safari, 80 Mandai Lake Rd (Bus 138 from Ang Mo Kio bus interchange, Bus 927 from Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, Bus 926 from Woodlands bus interchange (Su/PH only)), ☎ +65 6269 3411. 08:30-18:00 daily. Last admission 17:30P. Mandai's latest attraction, the River Safari is themed around river ecosystems from the Amazon to the Yangtze to the Congo and Mississippi and is a rather fascinating mix between a zoo, an aquarium and a bird park. All areas are surprisingly under cover and protected from the elements, making it a good choice in bad weather. The highlight of the park is surely Kai Kai and Jia Jia, giant pandas on loan from China along with their associated merchandise, although you'll only get to see them for 15 minutes as they sometimes hide in their dens. The Amazon River ride is now open to the public. Here you can take a boat ride around the river, and see many types of animals like jaguars an flamingos during the ride. It is similar to the Amazon Forest. The manatee enclosure is a very soothing endpoint (if traversing the park clockwise). $25/15.
- Singapore Zoo, 80 Mandai Lake Rd (Bus 138 from Ang Mo Kio bus interchange, Bus 927 from Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, Bus 926 from Woodlands bus interchange (Su/PH only)), ☎ +65 6269 3411. 08:30-18:00 daily. Last admission 17:30. This rainforest zoo is home to over 3,000 animals from over 316 species. The animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures, separated from the visitors by dry or wet moats. The park boasts the world’s first free ranging orang utan habitat in a zoo. To spare yourself walking under the hot tropical sun, you can board a little tram that trundles through the park.
- Bring along swimsuits for kids, so they can cool off in the "Rainforest Kidzworld". There's also an award-winning programme, the Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife ($29/19 adult/child extra), daily from 09:00-10:30, where you get to enjoy a buffet in the company of elephants, orang utans, snakes, and more. Advanced booking is highly recommended to ensure a spot. $22/14 adult/child (3-12 years).
- Haw Par Villa, 262 Pasir Panjang Rd (Bus 10, 30, 188 from HarbourFront or bus 143 from Orchard), ☎ +65 6872 2003. 09:00-19:00. Formerly the Tiger Balm Gardens, this is the former site of the villa of the Tiger Balm brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, now packed with an incredibly bizarre assortment of statues illustrating Chinese legends and moral values. The most famous bit is the Ten Courts of Hell, which demonstrate in gruesome detail how sinners get punished in the underworld: for example, ingratitude is punished by grilling on a red hot copper pillar, while cheating in exams merits having your body dismembered and your intestines pulled out. Free entry, $1 for Ten Hells/Jade House.
- Kong Men San Phor Kark See Monastery, 88 Bright Hill Rd (Bus 410 or 52 from Bishan MRT), ☎ +65 6849 5300. 05:00-16:30. Singapore's largest Buddhist temple and monastery sprawls over a hill in a residential suburb of Singapore. Founded in 1920, the present buildings are all oversized and rather gaudy concrete structures, but it's still a rather surreal place. The highlight is the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, whose dome is decorated on the inside with, you guessed it, ten thousand tiny Buddha figures. Runs meditation retreats (mostly only in Chinese though) and gets packed with worshippers on major Buddhist holidays.
- Omni-Theatre, just beside the Singapore Science Centre. 10:00-20:00 Tu-Su. Omnimax movies and planetarium shows can be viewed on a tilted 23 m high screen. From Jurong East MRT, transfer to Bus 335 or walk 8 min from the station. $10/5 adult/child.
- Singapore Science Centre, 15 Science Centre Rd. 10:00-18:00 Tu-Su. Set up to promote interest and learning in science and technology through assortment of exhibits. There are more than 850 exhibits in the various exhibition galleries firmly aimed at younger children (6-10) and it is not possible to view all exhibits in one visit. There is also an interesting water park area near the front entrance. $6/3 adult/child.
To find out what a sauna full of bugs feels like, go for some steamy jungle hiking. Best times are very early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Hindhede Drive (Bus 170 or SMRT 67, 75, 171, 173, 184, 852 and 961 to the Courts department store on Upper Bukit Timah Rd and walk). At 166 metres this is Singapore's highest point — if you don't count the city's skyscrapers. It is also one of the last places in Singapore that is home to the original primary tropical rainforest that used to cover the entire island. You can scale the hill in 15 minutes if you follow the paved road (boring) or 45-50 minutes if you do it the long way around (more interesting). Watch out for monkeys! Don´t expect a stunning view from the top, though. Almost nothing can be seen through the thick trees. Free.
- MacRitchie Reservoir, Lornie Rd (Bus 162, 166 from Scotts Rd, Bus 74, 132, 165 from Ang Mo Kio MRT Station or Bus 166 from Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange), ☎ +65 6468 5736. Park open sunrise to sunset, Treetop Walk open 09:00-17:00 Tu-Su. Rather more exciting than it sounds, this serene artificial lake is surrounded by acres of virgin jungle (and not a few golf courses). On the north side, the HSBC Treetop Walk is a 250 m bridge suspended as high as 27 m above the ground. Trails range from 3 to 11 km, and are of different difficulty levels. One can even hike all the way to Bukit Timah. There is a basic food court at the south entrance, and a ranger station with toilets and water at the 4.5 km mark (near Treetop Walk) on the north side. The park is also a popular haunt of canoeing enthusiasts, joggers, and strollers. For history buffs, this was also the site of a Shinto shrine (then called the Syonan Jinja) built by the Japanese during World War II, and the ruins of the shrine, while largely inaccessible without navigational equipment, still survive. Free.
- Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (Kranji Express bus (hourly) from Kranji MRT). Daily 07:30-19:00. If you want to see a mangrove forest, this is your chance. As the reserve is basically a swamp, bring plenty of mosquito repellant and keep an eye out for crocodiles. The nature reserve is a site of international importance for migratory birds. It is also Singapore's first ASEAN heritage park. Free M-F, $1 Sa/Su.
And there are a few things to do that don't involve stomping about in the jungle:
- Delta Sports Complex, 900 Tiong Bahru Rd (Redhill MRT), ☎ +65 6471 9030. 09:00-20:00 (hours may vary by facility). ClubFITT gym, swimming pool, badminton, hockey and petanque courts.
- Singapore Turf Club (Kranji MRT), 1 Turf Club, ☎ +65 6879 1000. Host horse races, most commonly on Fridays (starting 18:30) but occasionally on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday as well. Betting is allowed, making this a major draw for local gamblers. The Upper Grandstand is air-conditioned, while the Lower is not. $3/7 Lower/Upper Grandstand.
- Snow City, 21 Jurong Town Hall Rd. 10:30-18:30 Tu-Su. The first permanent indoor snow center in Singapore; interesting enough for residents of the tropics but probably not on the top of the agenda for pallid Europeans escaping their own winter. Sledding, snowboarding and other wintry pursuits, including the inevitable sub-zero bar. $12/18 for 1/2 hours.
- West Coast Park, Parallel to West Coast Highway. Much less crowded than East Coast Park, with fewer amenities, although you can explore it on pedal-go-kart. Love pets? Bring your poochies for a nice walk and some doggy snooping at the local dog run. West Coast Park is an excellent place to bring the children. There are many activities like kite flying, a huge playground and rental barbeque pits. The western starting point of the Southern Ridges Walk.
- Skate With Us Skate School West Coast Park, West Coast Park Near McDonalds Area 3, ☎ +65 6246 6362. Every Sa 09:00-12:00. Skate With Us offers professional inline skating and holidays camps at West Coast Park They offer free trial classes every month where you and your children can learn for free with supervision from a professional coach.
- Singapore Tchoukball, West Coast Park/NUS MPSH. Newly located at West Coast Park, you can organise a game of tchoukball with your friends here in Singapore. Often used by companies for teambuilding activities, tchoukball is a game that promotes character building, discipline and a fun game for you and your friends to bond and make merry! Just rent the equipment for an hour and they have a professional coach that will teach you for free.
- The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road (Free shuttle bus rides from Botanic Gardens, Toa Payoh and Clementi MRT stations & Bukit Timah Road or walk from Sixth Avenue MRT (500m)), ☎ +65 6279 7300, +65 6463 4610, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10.00 - 22.00. Following a fresh facelift, The Grandstand is set to reinvent the Singapore lifestyle experience, completely surrounded by nature. This 1 million square feet property is home to an eclectic mix of retailers, dining and services outlets, kids’ activities clusters, and one of the biggest pre-owned car mall. The North Grandstand comprises 7 levels while the South Grandstand comprises 6 levels. Regardless of which side you’re at, both are dedicated to accommodate everyone’s needs on every level. If you’re looking to shop, dine or simply sit back and relax, here is a refreshing place where you can spend quality time with family, friends and colleagues. Free.
There is little noteworthy shopping in the north or west. The major shopping malls are Jurong Point (nearest MRT station: Boon Lay), IMM, Jem and JCube (nearest MRT station: Jurong East). A stroll around the HDB heartlands may uncover interesting finds, though, not to mention an authentic taste of ordinary Singaporean life.
Tourist attractions such as Singapore Zoological Gardens, Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Botanic Gardens have gift shops overflowing with cute plush toys and tacky local kitsch.
Hawker food is cheap in the boondocks, and there are a few culinary gems to be found — if you can find them, that is. There are also clusters of good western cafes and restaurants in Holland Village and Dempsey Hill.
- Bao Gong XO Fish Head Bee Hoon, Blk 721 Clementi West St 2 #01-100. This place lets you find out what happens when you add XO cognac to fish soup. Less adventurous souls may want to try sliced fish instead of fish head.
- Joo Siah Bak Kut Teh, Blk 347 Jurong East Ave 1 #01-221 (MRT Chinese Garden). Tu-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 08:00-15:00. One of Singapore's best-known joints for bak kut teh (lit. "pork bone tea"), a peppery pork rib broth. Two bowls, rice and a serve of mui choy veggies will set you back $9.10; add in $0.50 for some you tiao fritters from the shop next door to dip in your soup.
- Samy's Curry, 25 Dempsey Rd (near Botanic Gardens), ☎ +65 6472 2080. Daily 11:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00. An old-school Singapore institution in an open-air colonial building, serving rice and curries on real banana leaves as ceiling fans whir. Waiters walk around with buckets of curry (very cheap) and take orders for tandoori, fish head curry and other treats (which can be more expensive). No air-con, no reservations, no alcohol. $5.
- Yan Kee Food Stall, Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre #03-137 (MRT Lakeside). A local legend for Chinese-style curry fish head ($14/17 small/large), the gravy is good to the last drop.
- Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa, Blk 120 #01-75, Bukit Merah Lane 1, Alexandra Village. 08:30-15:30. The best laksa in Singapore according to Makansutra and its many regulars. Expect to wait at least 30 minutes. Order with shrimp instead of cockles if raw shellfish is not your thing. Sold in sizes of $3.50/$4.50/$5.50.
- Bollywood Veggies, 100 Neo Tiew Rd (Hourly Kranji Express shuttle or taxi from Kranji MRT), ☎ +65 6898 5001. W-Su 09:00-18:00. Tucked away in rural Lim Chu Kang, this exuberantly colorful bistro with air-con and alfresco seating draws crowds on weekends with simple local dishes, made from fruits and vegetables grown on their backyard organic farm. The menu changes regularly, but favorites include their nasi lemak (coconut rice), banana curry, desserts like kueh kosui (coconut-brown sugar cake) and home-brewed teas. Kids can romp around the farm, while adults can pick up organic fruits, veggies and herbs to go. All meat is halal, but the restaurant is not certified. $12.
- Canopy Garden Dining, Bishan Park II 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, ☎ +65 6556 1533. Daily 08:00-22:00. Tucked away in Bishan Park and best known for serving brunch every day until 17:00, after which you can move over to the bar and get sozzled on Oz wines. The menu also features soups, salads, pastas and other cafe food. Indoor and outdoor seating with great tropical views. $20.
- Colbar, 9A Whitchurch Rd (off Portsdown Rd), ☎ +65 6779 4859. Tu-Su 11:00-22:00. Stuck in the past and proud of it, this low-key eatery started life as a canteen for British soldiers, and fare like ox liver with peas and chips still figure prominently on the menu. Recently relocated (complete with original building) out of the way of an expressway, but still very popular. Try the famous curries if British grub isn't to your taste, and don't expect any frills like air-con. $10-15.
- Donna Carmela/Caipirinha, 2 Greenwood Ave, ☎ +65 6463 4206. 12:00-15:00, 18:30-22:30. A family-run Brazilian churrascaria and an Italian restaurant with a vast array of pasta sharing the same premises, offering excellent home cooking in unpretentious surroundings. Their popularity is further cemented by the Italian wines they import direct and sell at retail prices from $25/bottle. Book ahead on weekends. $30.
- Green Room Café, Bishan Park II, 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, ☎ +65 6556 1533. 11:00-22:00 daily. Vegetarian cuisine in the quiet green setting of Bishan Park.
- Lim Seng Lee Duck Rice, 38 South Buona Vista Rd. Well-regarded specialist restaurant serving up tender boneless duck with their special sauce; be sure to order some "spare parts", their name for liver and gizzard. Prices above average but worth it. $10-22.
- The Lodge on Flamingo Lake, in Jurong Bird Park. Visitors to the Bird Park may wish to dine here for local food at reasonable prices, coupled with views of nearly 10,000 pink flamingos. $10-20.
- Marina Bistro, 10 Tuas West Dr (Take exit 25 from the AYE, immediately before the Tuas checkpoint). In the Raffles Marina at the extreme west of Singapore right next to Second Link bridge to Malaysia, offers very competent Singaporean and Western food. Try the excellent beef satay. Hard to get to, unless you're heading to Malaysia after. $10-15.
- The Olive, Labrador Villa Rd (next to Labrador Secret Tunnels). Fairly decent pizza and pasta in a very attractive setting in the lush greenery of Labrador Park. $15.
- Zi Yean Food Centre, Block 56 Lengkok Bahru #01-443, ☎ +65 6474 0911. Locally famed outdoor coffee shop serving up Cantonese dishes like mui choy chicken (stuffed with pickled veggies), prawns wrapped in tofu skin and deep-fried, kangkong with century eggs, and abalone with chicken (a steal at $5/plate). Prices generally reasonable but some dishes can be expensive. Open for lunch and dinner, closed alternate Wednesdays.
- Huber's Butchery, 22 Dempsey Road (in Dempsey Hill, an enclave south of the botanic gardens, just off Holland Road, which has bus stops.). Good butchery and deli plus a bistro specialising in German meat and beer. $20+.
The Bukit Timah area to the west of the city is one of Singapore's poshest residential districts featuring many high-quality restaurants, particularly in the expatriate enclave of Holland Village. Another good option is Dempsey Hill, a convenient cluster of British-era army barracks converted into restaurants for the expat set, just ten minutes from Orchard Rd.
- Beaulieu House Restaurant, 117 Beaulieu Rd (Sembawang), ☎ +65 6257 9234. 11:00-14:30, 18:00-23:00. On Singapore's northern coast, the restaurant is housed in an old colonial-style bungalow that is believed to have been built around 1910, and has sea views towards Johor. Both Western and Chinese food is served. Best reached by taxi.
- Borgo, 789 Bukit Timah Rd (off Sixth Ave), ☎ +65 6446 7762. W-M 12:00-14:00, 18:00-22:00. Small Italian eatery specializing in Tuscan charcoal grills. The pastas are also excellent, but pizzas are mediocre. Reasonably priced and very popular, so book ahead, especially on weekends. $40.
- Brazil Churrascaria, 14-16 Sixth Ave, ☎ +65 6463 1923. Waiters walk around with meat-laden skewers, just choose and eat. Decent salad buffet for the vegetarian contingent too. Open daily for dinner only. All you can eat $37++ (drinks not included).
- Margarita's, Blk 11 Dempsey Rd #01-19 (branches at East Coast Rd, Faber Drive), ☎ +65 6471 3228. Popular eatery featuring reasonably authentic Mexican eats like enchiladas with mole poblano (chocolate) sauce and refried beans, washed down with their namesake margaritas. Fills up fast on weekends with expats out to satisfy their Tex-Mex cravings, so book ahead. $40.
- Original Sin, #01-62 Chip Bee Gardens, ☎ +65 6475 5605. Tu-Su 11:30-14:30, 18:00-23:00. Continues to win awards for its Mediterranean vegetarian food. Lunch $20, dinner $40+.
Another small cluster of upscale restaurants is nestled on the grounds of the Botanic Gardens.
- Au Jardin Les Amis, ☎ +65 6466 8812. Part of the "Les Amis" group of restaurants and situated in a restored 1920s residence in the Gardens. The food is mostly French with some other European dishes thrown in and many given a little Asian twist, but given the very high prices the quality is a little wobbly. There is a superb wine list and a very helpful sommelier on hand to answer questions. The views of the garden are gorgeous. Enter through the Corner House Gate and follow signs to Au Jardin/EJH Corner House (the name of the building which houses the restaurant). Reservations recommended. $150-200.
- Casa Verde, ☎ +65 6467 7326. Daily 07:30-23:00. Located right at the entrance of the Visitor Centre, offers a mixed menu of local and Italian food at slightly elevated prices, but this is still by far the cheapest and most casual place to eat in the Gardens. The best pick here is the large wood-fired pizzas from $20.
- Chinese Box Restaurant, House 4, 1D Cluny Rd (On the National University of Singapore Bukit Timah campus at the edge of the Gardens in a charming late colonial bungalow), ☎ +65 6219 7877. Daily, lunch 12:00-15:00, dinner 18:00-23:00. The menu is pan-Chinese, the house special being Beijing duck ($4 per portion or $68 for the whole duck), a northern Chinese dish not often seen in Singapore. All in all, competent but not out of the ordinary, and there's a small price premium for the location.
- Halia Restaurant & Villa Halia, ☎ +65 6476 6711. M-F 11:00-23:00, Sa-Su 09:00-23:00. The location in the Ginger Garden of the Botanic Gardens is a reason in itself to visit especially at night, with stunning floodlit views of the surrounding jungle. The food is international with Asian twists, and while consistently excellent comes at a fairly steep price. To get there, enter the Gardens by the Tyersall Ave side entrance and walk a few minutes following the signs. Indoor and outdoor seating available, reservations recommended. $120.
Except for the odd karaoke TV pub, beer at your favorite hawker stall and a few low-key hangouts in expat enclave Holland Village, the north and west of Singapore were long virtually devoid of nightlife. However, since 2006 there has been a veritable boom of colonial black & white bungalows being repurposed into upscale dining and drinking complexes, with areas like Portsdown Rd, Rochester Park and Tanglin Village (Dempsey Rd) now buzzing on weekends.
- Baden-Baden, 42 Lorong Mambong (Holland Village). M-F 15:00-24:00, Sa-Su 12:00-01:00. Well known restaurant-pub with German fare. Wood paneling, pork knuckles, German beer and good service.
- Klee, 5B Portsdown Rd, #01-04 Wessex Estate, ☎ +65 6479 6911. M-Sa 18:00-01:00. A low-key colonial bungalow tucked away in a quiet nook (blink and you'll miss it when driving past), this is a great place for a chilled-out drink with friends. There's no menu, so tell the waiter what you're feeling like, perhaps suggesting an ingredient, and they'll come up with a cocktail just for you, using fresh fruits and herbs. Beware the "Cocktail Nazi" seating arrangements though: you will not be served unless you can snag one of the dozen or so inside seats, with the outdoor terrace allowing wine and beer only. $20.
- One Rochester, 1 Rochester Park, ☎ +65 6773 0070. 18:00-01:00 daily, breakfast from 09:00 on Sundays. Two-floor bungalow with a well-stocked wine bar, a lush outdoor seating area and DJ playing jazz and funky tunes, visiting this feels like crashing a Singaporean house party. $15.
- Oosh, 22 Dempsey Rd (Tanglin Village), ☎ +65 6475 0002. Daily 12:00-14:30; Su-Th 18:00-01:00, F-Sa 18:00-02:00. Slick complex divided into no less than nine parts set around a garden, options include an air-con wine cellar and a rooftop lookout with views over the jungle. A great place for drinks, especially when the Latin band is playing, but the food here is forgettable; unusually for Singapore, the kitchen does stay open late. $15.
It's not really advisable to stay far from the centre in Singapore, but if you want to try life as the Singaporeans live it, you have one good choice:
- Hostel One66, Block 166 Woodlands St 13 #01-545 (Near Marsiling MRT). A family-run 12-bed hostel . Dorms $18, singles $45.