May 20, 2018
Gone are the days of flying to Paris and taking a selfie with the Eiffel Tower and other usual landmarks. It’s all about exploring off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods and even forgoing the ubiquitous Starbucks for local coffee.
In short, travelling like a local.
And who better than locals themselves to reveal their favourite haunts, hidden gems and insider tips you won’t find in guide books? In our new Off Duty series, we invite our staff to share how they spend their days off because what they enjoy today could well be a must-do on your itinerary tomorrow.
To kick off this series, we’re going back to Frasers Hospitality’s humble beginnings in Singapore. Join us as we chat with front office manager Mohd Zaini Mustafa and sales manager Ang Ding Jie who share a common love for exploring new places. Read on to discover unique things to do in Singapore for a truly authentic experience.
Zaini has been part of the Frasers family since 2012, taking on the role of assistant front office manager in preparation for the opening of the design-led hotel residence in 2013. Today, as the front office manager, he is constantly in close contact with both staff and guests, and is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, organising reservations and property maintenance, as well as planning activities for the hotel. On his days off, you can find the food lover checking out the many cafes dotting the island.
Kickstart your day with a meal…
At Chin Mee Chin Confectionery. Enjoy a local, traditional breakfast of bread with kaya (coconut jam) and kopi (coffee) at this popular joint. A visit here is like stepping back in time – its interior and furniture is reminiscent of Singapore in the ’50s.
Best spots in the café scene…
Chye Seng Huat Hardware. Formerly a warehouse, it has been converted into a cosy, modern café space. I usually have brunch with one of their cold brews. The cafe also houses a roastery, coffee bar and coffee school with the latest coffee gadgets and machines.
Another great café is The Coastal Settlement with its retro interior and vintage Vespas. A must-try are the calamari rings with their special sauce – it goes great with a craft beer!
For a taste of Singaporean nature and culture…
Hop on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin, one of two remaining traditional kampungs (villages) in Singapore. Only a 15-minute ride away from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, experience a different way of life here with buildings, fauna and wildlife that can only be found on this island.
If you prefer to stay on the mainland, the other kampung can be found in the north-east of Singapore. Unlike the many high-rise public housing buildings that dot Singapore’s landscape, Lorong Buangkok is where you can find around 26 families that continue to live in low, zinc-roofed wooden houses hidden by lush greenery. The kampung has been earmarked for future development, however, so visit it while you can.
For a day out with friends and family…
Play some board games! It’s a great way to detox from technology. I would recommend The Mind Café and Settlers Café – they offer a wide range of board games along with food and drinks that will keep you entertained for hours.
Ding Jie is no stranger to travelling. Road trips are his favourite way of getting off the beaten path – he has since driven in over 10 countries! “They help me see things with a different perspective,” he says.
When he isn’t abroad, Ding Jie’s free time is usually spent catching up with loved ones, along with some alone time to rest and relax. Not surprising, since his job requires constant interaction with clients. But this, he insists, is what he enjoys most about his job.
“I hope that my work will assure my clients that I have their best interests at heart, and that they will continue to support us and be ambassadors for our brand.”
For a unique experience…
Visit We Are The Furballs, Singapore’s first dog petting café. Centrally located in Bugis, you can easily spend hours here playing with the resident toy dogs.
Find something exquisite to bring home…
Like Chicken Rice or even Bak Kwa (barbecued pork slices) tea! Ette Tea Company operates out of a quaint HDB retail space in Kreta Ayer, offering popular Singaporean dishes as tea blends. Also on sale are Southeast Asian blends, as well as familiar classics like chamomile and earl grey. Affordable and beautifully packaged, they make great, interesting gifts for friends and family.
What I would go out of my way for…
Food! No matter how ulu (remote), there are some great F&B joints worth the distance in Singapore. If you are headed east, try The Coastal Settlement for café grub near the sea. In the west, I would recommend Enaq Restaurant for a hearty meal of crispy roti prata (indian flatbread) and teh tarik (pulled milk tea).
Dine the best way Singaporeans know…
By eating all you can at a buffet! One of my all-time favourites is the Italian brunch buffet at Basilico. Expect a wide variety of fresh, authentic Italian cuisine ranging from seafood to breads, cheese, meats and desserts.
Local Tip: If you’re up for a challenge, try using a couple of apps to make a restaurant reservation. Not only do you beat the queue, you can also enjoy discounts – the very two things that Singaporeans love! With Eatigo, you can enjoy up to 50% off your bill when you dine during off-peak hours! Or try Chope – also local slang to mean reserve – where you can earn points with every reservation made.