Off the Beaten Track in Singapore

When you think about Singapore, you often have images of sky-high skyscrapers, concrete roads, and an overall representation of consumerism at its best. If you visited our neighbors like Malaysia and Thailand, you probably find Singapore a totally different city in the midst of slower relaxing pace countries. Tourist-driven spots like Marina Bay Sands, Clarke Quay, and Orchard Road will be their usual pedestrian-clogged self, but for travelers seeking a subtle, more engaging experience, I shall bring you to them today.

Haw Par Villa
Singaporeans born in the 70s and 80s will remember this park as a part of their childhood as it was extremely popular then. The park, originally called Tiger Balm Gardens, was built in 1937 by the Burmese-Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the developers of Tiger Balm, as a venue for teaching traditional Chinese values. This park is definitely not your average theme park. Headless chicken, human in burning pots and the Ten Courts of Hell make up this bizarre and gruesome recreation of the afterlife. It’s been free to the public since 2001 however; the theme park’s popularity has declined in recent years. It is a serene and quiet place to visit even on a weekend afternoon.

Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Reflections at Bukit Chandu is a World War II interpretive center developed and managed by the National Archives of Singapore. Housed in a bungalow that caters the permanent exhibition is one of the last remainings in Singapore. The house is built on the hill that was the site of one of the most significant battles before the start of World War II. The gallery showcases the photographs, maps, artifacts as well as invasion and mission plans to the public. A great place to educate the younger ones about World War II.

Kranji War Memorial
This historic cemetery is dedicated to the men and women from United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands and New Zealand who died defending Singapore and Malaya against the invading Japanese forces during World War II. A stark reminder of what has been, there are more than 4,400 gravestones in rows on the cemetery’s gentle slopes. Singapore’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr. Benjamin Henry Sheares, are buried here. Instead of eeriness, you will actually find this place peaceful and quiet. However, do make sure you keep yourself hydrated in the afternoon.

Sembawang Hot Spring
The best part of this location is that it is near where I used to live! It is the only natural hot spring on the main island of Singapore and it lies in a forested area about 100 meters verve off the main road. The hot spring water is slightly alkaline {due to the presence of minerals} and its sulfide content is three times that of tap water. The hot spring is less frequented nowadays but remains rustic for rural and suburban families to discover and explore. A tip – bring your own eggs to boil them in the hot spring, they will make a good tea time snack on the spot!

Pulau Ubin
A 1,000-hectare island that offers a glimpse of what Singapore used to be. It is one of the very last rural areas to be found in Singapore, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna. Nature lovers flock here on weekends as Pulau Ubin supports a rich ecosystem teeming with threatened species of birds. The main activities on this part of rustic Singapore are trekking and cycling which the latter is the most popular choice. You will need to take a ferry to this island and from the jetty, you can rent bicycles to explore around the island.

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Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food

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