Help me have a socially and physically active time in Singapore
January 18, 2012 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Working in Singapore for 3 weeks in February. Staying at the Regent hotel near Orchard Road. Where to go to find a coffee shop to relax and read a book? Where to eat a casual dinner without feeling awkward about being alone? Where to find a yoga class? A rock climbing gym? Where to have a cocktail? Also, a hostel or cheap but not sketchy hotel/bed and breakfast recommendation for one night?

I'll be in Singapore from Jan 28-Feb 21, so if there are specific events during that time, especially if it's not far from the Regent hotel, feel free to share.

I've been there before and did all the tourist things, and this time I'd like to have a more "normal" lifestyle while I am there. I'd like a comfortable coffee shop with free wi-fi to sit down and hang out in for a little while. A restaurant/bar where it's not awkward to sit down alone and eat a decent dinner (less than $20-40? Not sure what my budget for decent dinners is yet). A bar where it's not weird to have a drink by yourself? I'm a late 20s woman, if it makes a difference. Bars where local musicians play at open mic type things? Where are people most likely to talk to strangers (me) instead of keeping to themselves (so I'm not alone for 3 weeks, eek!)? Hole in the wall places that are worth going to are awesome too.

Also, I'm interested in checking out some rock climbing gyms while I'm there, any recommendations? Are there yoga classes anywhere near where the Regent is? Or Zumba? Or other fun group exercise classes? I need to stay active.

If you live in Singapore and like to do any of the things I mentioned (or things I haven't mentioned because I am not aware of them?), please recommend where to go, I'm open to anything!

I will also need to stay somewhere in Singapore one night that work is not paying for, where should I stay? As cheap as possible without being sketchy or unsafe?

Any other tips or advice are welcome too. Thanks in advance!
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. to Travel & Transportation around Singapore (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only thing I am not interested in is mall shopping. Little markets are cool, giant malls are not. Also, I know about that indoor climbing wall that's supposed to be the tallest wall in the world, but I am looking for an actual rock climbing gym.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 7:30 PM on January 18, 2012


For hostels, I absolutely recommend Wow Hostel which is a literally 1 minute walk from the Aljunied MRT station (which some would say is a "sketchy" area, but it's very open, well lit, and usually always has many people around. As a single foreign female, I never felt nervous at all walking around there alone at 3 in the morning.) I've stayed there the past 3 times I've been to Singapore, and I love it. Super comfortable Ikea beds with awesome bedding! Everyone is super friendly, and if this extra night is at the beginning of your trip rather than the end, you'll definitely meet some people you can hang out with the rest of the time.

As for things to do, sports classes, etc, keep an eye out on the Singapore Couchsurfing group. (You should be able to at least read the posts and get the info even if you're not a member.) I took a look, and there aren't many activities posted for the times when you'll be there, but it's still a couple weeks away, so I'm sure there will be more. They're a super awesome bunch of people who love welcoming visitors, and are often up to random hikes, karaoke nights, group sports nights, museum visits, and pub crawling. They'd love to have you, even if you aren't a "Couchsurfer" (though you should definitely sign up!)

Oh, and while I don't have any recommendations on "nice" restaurants, definitely take advantage of the chance to eat all the hawker food your stomach can possibly handle.
Have a fun trip!
posted by hasna at 7:51 PM on January 18, 2012


Bars:
Wala Wala is the grand dame of bars. They have fantastic live music (but really poor service, so be warned). if you go on Thursdays and Saturdays (after 9.30pm) the band playing then (Shirlyn and the Unxpected) are a brilliant band that plays hard rock and classic rock.

Balaclava at ION Orchard recently opened, and is a short walk from your hotel. I've not been there personally but have heard that it's a nice place to hang out.

The Timbre Group has a few bars that are pretty nice to chill out at (order the duck pizza, I've heard it's fantastic)

Shopping:
Haji Lane is well-known for the artsy stuff, with small shops that sell various knick-knacks.

Eats:
Food here is very very cheap. If you go to hawker centres (where the good food is, frankly) you won't need to spend more than $10 (which gets you a meal that can fill you up to bursting)

ieatishootipost is the go-to place for hawker recommendations.

If you want something more spendy (but still affordable), ladyironchef has reviews of more upmarket places as well.

MeMail me if you need more recommendations!
posted by titantoppler at 8:35 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm an American whose been living in Singapore for the last two years. To give a few answers:

I'd like a comfortable coffee shop with free wi-fi to sit down and hang out in for a little while.
There are dozens of Starbucks and Coffee Beans etc all around Orchard, and you'll have no problem finding one. For a more local coffee experience you can go to a place like Kopitam or Wang or the millions of independent Singaporean coffee places.

A restaurant/bar where it's not awkward to sit down alone and eat a decent dinner (less than $20-40? Not sure what my budget for decent dinners is yet).
The local way to go is a hawker center. It's food court style so nothing awkward about being alone. The famous one (and near Orchard) is Newton Circus but there's too many touts there for my taste. I'd head for Lau Pa Sat or basically any of the thousands of other places. Other than that, depends on what kind of food you want, there's lots of great restaurants here.

A bar where it's not weird to have a drink by yourself? I'm a late 20s woman, if it makes a difference.
Mezza 9 in the Grand Hyatt on Orchard Road makes good martinis, is chill, and, being a hotel bar, is a fine place to have a drink by yourself.

Bars where local musicians play at open mic type things?
Seconding Walla Walla in Holland Village. Singapore isnt great for live music. Crazy Elephant in Clarke Quay is pretty good, as is Timbre @ the substation. Blue Jazz in Arab Street.

Where are people most likely to talk to strangers (me) instead of keeping to themselves (so I'm not alone for 3 weeks, eek!)?
Maybe at the backpacker hotels like Prince of Wales, where there's lots of people staying short term, like yourself. Or go to a meetup of a group like Internations or Meetup.com. You can memail me as well if you like.

Hole in the wall places that are worth going to are awesome too.

Not exactly a hole in the wall, but I really like Speakeasy Bar in Blair Road. Quiet and in a neighborhood of old shophouses.

Also, I'm interested in checking out some rock climbing gyms while I'm there, any recommendations? Are there yoga classes anywhere near where the Regent is? Or Zumba? Or other fun group exercise classes? I need to stay active.
I dont' know about rock climbing or yoga (there's tons of yoga places here) but there are great places to walk/hike/jog. Southern Ridges and MacRitchie Reservoir being two that come to mind.

If you live in Singapore and like to do any of the things I mentioned (or things I haven't mentioned because I am not aware of them?), please recommend where to go, I'm open to anything!

I will also need to stay somewhere in Singapore one night that work is not paying for, where should I stay? As cheap as possible without being sketchy or unsafe?

Singapore is possibly the safest place in the world. The worst you can do is accidentally stay in a Hotel 81 type place which are basically hourly prostitute places. I stayed at a hostel called Fernloft for S$15/night and it was fine, they even had a seperate section for women. But there are loads of good, clean, cheap safe hostels here. Especially in the Little India/Lavender area.

Any other tips or advice are welcome too. Thanks in advance!
If you haven't been yet: Botanic Gardens, Altitude Bar, Asian Civilization Museum, Fort Canning Park, Mustafa Center (for shopping), Marina Bay Sands, Parkview Building, East Coast Park bicycle/rollerblading trail.
posted by banishedimmortal at 5:16 AM on January 19, 2012


A restaurant where it's not awkward to sit down alone and eat a decent dinner
and
Where are people most likely to talk to strangers (me) instead of keeping to themselves


Food Centres! I'm partial to the Maxwell and Amoy, but have yet to meet one I don't like..
posted by Rash at 8:24 AM on January 19, 2012


Do you run? You could meet up with the Singapore chapter of the Hash House Harriers, which was founded in nearby KL, and see parts of Singapore most work tourists have never seen. Jungles, streams, etc. You don't have to be a fast runner, it's more like a cross-country hike, and in most cities the hash is very diverse, so in a city already as diverse as Singapore you're sure to meet a variety of characters.

The hash is also a built-in drinking club, so if you like beer you'll be set. And once you hash in one city you'll be welcome at any hash in the world, so if you travel a lot it's a plus.

I LOOOVE Singapore. Also worth visiting is their amazing zoo. Go at night if you can.
posted by Brittanie at 8:21 PM on January 19, 2012


Coffee shop with free wifi? I'm going to very briefly mention that there's city-wide free wifi so that'll work in a pinch, but it's slow and the log-in page is a pain, so here are some non-chain coffee shop recommendations: 1. Toby's Estate, housed in a lovely refurbished warehouse next to the Singapore river, but note it closes at 6pm on weekdays (check the sign on the counter for wifi password); 2. Smitten, a tiny tiny shop near Toby's Estate where you can linger for hours (ask the staff for the wifi password); 3. Jewel Coffee, which is a little more accessible than the first two if you're working in the CBD/Shenton Way area (ask the staff for the wifi password); 4. Oriole, which also has a substantial dinner menu and live acoustic music some evenings at the Pan Pacific location not too far from your hotel, while the branch at Raffles Place will be convenient if work brings you there. I could go on - the rise of the indie coffee shop scene in Singapore means there are lots of cosy places with quality coffee but the high rents on this tiny island also mean that these places tend to be destination cafes outside the city centre - the ones I've listed above are the more accessible of the good cafes, with Oriole being the easiest to get to and also probably the one with the most comfortable seating (bonus: the Pan Pacific location would be great for solo-dining too). If coffee isn't as important as, say, how plush the couches are, then I'll recommend some other places.

If you do want to try local coffee, don't go to Kopitiam like banishedimmortal suggested. It's a foodcourt operating all over Singapore - try the food if you like, but not the local coffee/tea as I've never had a good cup of coffee/tea in any of the Kopitiam outlets I've been to. The old uncles in the hawker centre stalls do it best, but it's still hit and miss (not ALL hawker centre coffee stalls do it well). So for a safer experience, quality wise, try any branch of Ya Kun or Wang Cafe, and order some kaya toast and eggs on the side too. No free wifi and no comfy couches though, unless it's the one at the airport! (bonus: here's an infographic explaining the many styles of local coffee).

/native Singaporean, late 20s female.
posted by hellopanda at 12:43 PM on January 21, 2012


Bars where local musicians play at open mic type things? Not many open mic places that I know of, as these tend to be more popular amongst the Mandarin indiepoptweefolkballadeers (The Ark Music Cafe / Music Dreamer Live Cafe if anyone's interested). But TAB (pretty near your hotel) would be a good place to start. Nthing Wala Wala (Shirlyn & the unXpected) and Timbre (especially the one at Substation, yay duck pizza). The house band at the Pump Room packs the dancefloor and it gets really really really crowded, so maybe not a good place to go solo. And Douglas O at Le Baroque (at CHIJMES) can still get the crowd going after what must be his fourth decade performing in and around Singapore's music scene. For something more laidback, the band at CM-PB at Dempsey is pretty good and there's live jazz and whiskey at B28.
posted by hellopanda at 11:13 PM on January 21, 2012


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