Here’s how to make the most out of your next business trip to Singapore.
1. Warning: childhood flashbacks are a real and present danger during your visit to MINT Museum of Toys. Spread across four levels, the museum houses the extraordinary collection of Chang Yang Fa, who has been collecting toys for as long as he can remember. From dolls dating back to the mid-19th century to some of the rarer (and pricier) Star Wars-related merchandise in the galaxy, it’s a wild trip down a pre-internet memory lane.
2. Despite the area’s rapid rate of change, Chinatown is still intimately connected to the country’s captivating past. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is an excellent introduction to the district’s rich history and signposted landmarks throughout the area make it possible to enjoy a self-guided tour. The neighbourhood’s tightly packed lanes are filled with souvenir stores, while its restaurants and hawker centres – including the Chinatown Complex on Smith Street – offer true tastes of Singapore.
3. Gardens by the Bay, a 101-hectare park, signals Singapore’s intent to shake its “concrete metropolis” tag. It has two spectacular cooled conservatories: the 1.2-hectare Flower Dome showcases plants from desert regions across the world, while the multi-level Cloud Forest has rare plants from tropical highlands that are threatened by climate change. Catch the MRT to the Gardens (take the Circle or Downtown line) and buy tickets online to avoid queues.
4. Orchard Road’s reputation as one of the world’s great shopping destinations is richly deserved. The street’s famous hawkers are a thing of the past, replaced with the region’s more formidable malls. Battle the crowds for couture at addresses such as Ion Orchard, Scotts Square and Plaza Singapura.
5. For souvenirs out of the ordinary, head to Red Point Record Warehouse (80 Playfair Road), in the Toa Payoh neighbourhood, which is filled with second-hand records and CDs. Singaporean and Malay records are the store’s specialty, although turntables and other hi-fi equipment are available. Owner Ong Chai Koon is one of the friendlier record-store owners you’re likely to encounter – just make sure you take your shoes off before entering.