Singapore may be small in size and one of the most expensive cities in the world, but that does not mean there is a paucity of experiences or that everything here costs a lot. With its abundance of natural beauty and cultural variety, there are a lot of options for those looking to spend some quality time outdoors without spending big bucks.
We’ve chosen five of the most fascinating.
Step back in time
Pulau Ubin, home to Singapore’s last remaining kampongs
When you’re desperate to escape the urban metropolis, you can hop on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin. Home to Singapore's last kampongs (villages), it is a world away from the city’s towering skyscrapers and glitzy malls. Enjoy the feeling of being transported back in time and get a glimpse of what life was like back in the 1960s. You can wander along the many trails or bike across the rugged terrain to Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest eco-systems. Mountain bikes can be hired for SGD$6-SGD$15, although you can even bring your own if you don’t feel like shelling out cash. Landscapes and lifestyles change with the blink of an eye in Singapore, so make sure you visit Pulau Ubin while you still can.
Another place that should be high on the agenda, especially for thrill seekers with a love for all things spooky, is Neo Tiew. An abandoned housing estate, it is another relic of Singapore’s past. Once a thriving community way out in the north-west, it is now completely silent. Neo Tiew is said to be haunted, and is also known as ‘Kranji ghost town’. Fun fact: Today, it is still sometimes used for military exercises.
Pulau Ubin is a 10-minute and SG$3 one-way bumboat ride away from Changi Point Ferry Terminal (formerly Changi Jetty). The boats operate from sunrise to sunset and leave when they have 12 passengers on board.
Neo Tiew is at 3 Lim Chu Kang Rd. Take bus 975 from Choa Chu Kang MRT station.
Get cosy at an old-school outdoor movie night
In the good old days, couples could enjoy a romantic movie under the stars. But this experience does not have to be a matter of mere nostalgia; it is possible even today. Movie Mob hosts fortnightly free outdoor movie nights across the heartland. The best part is you can vote for the movie you want to watch. All you need to do is pack some munchies and a blanket, and you’re set for one of the best old-school experiences in Singapore.
Visit Movie Mob’s Facebook page to find out when and where the next movie will be screened.
In the good old days, couples could enjoy a romantic movie under the stars.
Discover a little piece of paradise
Little Guilin, a little piece of paradise in Singapore’s Bukit Batok Park
In a quiet corner in the west of Singapore you’ll find a little piece of paradise called Bukit Batok Town Park. This well-kept secret is also known as Xiao Guilin (or Little Guilin) due to its resemblance to the famous region in southern China. It is an abandoned quarry that has been transformed into an enchanting park, at the heart of which is a shimmering lake with a huge rock rising up from it. Bring a picnic basket, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the company of dressed-up couples as this is a popular location for wedding shoots.
Little Guilin is at Bukit Batok East Avenue 5. Get off at Bukit Gombak MRT station and walk about 350 metres south.
Go to an arty-party
On the first Friday of each month, the Red Dot Design Museum hosts MAAD (Market of Artists and Designers), Singapore’s trendiest flea market, where the island’s creative geniuses come together to showcase handmade jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, vintage clothes, original artworks and more. MAAD feels less like a flea market and more like a festival – you can browse through more than 70 pop-ups and enjoy a night of live music, DJ music and performances by home-grown artists, all for free.
Red Dot Design Museum is at 28 Maxwell Road, Red Dot Traffic Building. Get off at Tanjong Pagar MRT station and walk 300 metres on Maxwell Road.
Enjoy a champagne picnic and classical tunes
The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage in the Singapore Botanic Gardens is an impressive venue for classical music concerts (Credit: Singapore Tourism Board)
For an evening to remember, arm yourself with a champagne picnic, a rug and a fan, and head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, which hosts an array of free music concerts throughout the year. Pick a prime spot on the hill, kick back and relax as you listen to the likes of the NUS Symphony Orchestra performing soundtracks from popular movies. Or you could catch the US 7th Fleet Band “Orient Express” as they play an eclectic mix of classic rock and modern hits.
The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is a five-minute walk from the Nassim Gate entrance of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. For details of events, visit the NParks events and workshops page.
Singapore may be a glitzy and glamorous city, but it also has secret little corners that are well worth a visit. One only needs to look to be able to find them.