Asia, Singapore

Off The Beaten Track in Singapore: Top 7 Things To Do

If you have been to Singapore before, or you are staying in this city-state for a longer amount of time, you want to go more off the beaten track in Singapore. In 2015, I lived here for 6 months during my university exchange. I lived on the campus of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and explored both the city and the surrounding countries every weekend.

There is much more to Singapore than just Marina Bay and your average Hawker Centre in Chinatown. Let me show you where to go if you want to go off the beaten track in Singapore!

1. Haw Par Villa

Not far from Chinatown you can find a deserted cultural park. Built in 1937, Haw Par Villa is the last of its kind in the world. Even though it is not in use anymore and therefore the buildings in this park are not maintained, it offers great spots for beautiful pictures.

This horror-themed park is most famous for its Ten Courts of Hell. Here are statues depicting hell in Chinese mythology. In Chinese mythology, when a person dies, they are send to the first court. Here, it is decided if the person lived a good or bad life. From here, they can be send to paradise, or punished in the relevant court. This is where the nightmare starts.

From being frozen in a block of ice to nasty beheadings and from being pushed on a tree of knives to being cut in half, all these are punishments the children of Singapore need to know to live a good life.

One of the many nasty things that can happen if you don’t live a “good” life, according to Chinese mythology

You can easily reach the park by getting off at Haw Par Villa MRT station. Admission to the park is for free. If you are looking to go off the beaten track in Singapore, this is where you need to be.

2. MacRitchie Reservoir

Right in the middle of Singapore is MacRitchie Reservoir, the largest natural park in Singapore that reveals what Singapore looked like before it became the metropolitan city it is now: a rain forest. There’s greenery, water, and plenty of hiking trails. You can go kayaking, climb treehouses for great views of the park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even see monkeys.

So if you’re in Singapore for a longer period of time and want to go for a walk in nature, definitely visit MacRitchie Reservoir.

3. Off The Beaten Track in Singapore: Pulau Ubin

Another nature hotspot in Singapore that often goes undiscovered by tourists that stay for just a couple of days, is Pulau Ubin. ‘Pulau’ means ‘island’, so it’s no surprise that Pulau Ubin is an island. You can only get to Ubin by boat, and once you arrive at the Pulau Ubin jetty, I would advise you to rent a bike, as it is the fastest way of transportation around the island.

There’s not al to to see on the island, but it is fun to see the wildlife (wild boars!), the mangrove Chek Jawa and the first home of the island, a British-style home. The view from the private jetty of this house alone is already worth it.

#Explorers Tip: Make sure you have some cash on you before you arrive, as there are not a lot of ATMs on the island.

Getting there: Make for the Ferry Terminal close to Changi Village Hawker Centre. From here, you can take a bumboat for just $2 (single trip).

4. Bukit Batok & Bukit Timah

Right next to the MacRitchie Reservoir are Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The former is a small park with a lake surrounded by impressive cliffs. It is nice for a walk outside, which is what many Singaporean families use this park for.

Bukit Batok

Bukit Timah is a little more adventurous and a lot larger than Bukit Batok. Here you can climb the tallest hill of Singapore, at 163.63m. Read more about climbing to the summit and other trails in this blog by The Smart Local about 7 cool hiking trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

5. Marina Bay Sands – get to the top for free

Of course going to Marina Bay Sands’s famous rooftop is not an off the beaten track activity. But did you know you can get to the top in no time for free?

The best #Explorers Tip I can give regarding Marina Bay Sands, is to take the guest elevator and wait for a hotel guest to get in. They need to swipe their card in the elevator to make it work, and after they have done that and indicated the floor they want to go to, you press the button for the highest floor, which is the rooftop. You don’t need to wait in line and it’s for free.

Be aware that this still doesn’t give you access to the rooftop pool, but you can enjoy the aerial view of Gardens by the Bay on one side, and Marina Bay when you go into the rooftop bar.

View from the bar on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands hotel

6. Pool parties in the city – Sofitel Hotel

On my first day in Singapore, I went to a pool party in the middle of the city centre. Imagine how relieved I was when I found out that in this city, where 30 degrees Celsius is the norm, there are pools all over the place.

The pool party I went to was at the Sofitel So Hotel in Singapore. Bonus: Right in front of this hotel is the Telok Ayer Market. This is a hawker centre where you can get cheap food.

7. Day trip to Johor Bahru, Malaysia

During my time in Singapore, I lived on the NTU campus. This university of closer to the Malaysian border than it is to the centre of Singapore! Johor Bahru is probably the least exciting city in all of Malaysia (I would recommend visiting Malacca much more!), it still makes for a nice day trip. And not in the last place because shopping here is a lot cheaper than it is in Singapore… 😉 Check out the Johor Premium Outlets for bargain deals on your new outfit.

Besides shopping centres, Johor Bahru is famous for its own version of Legoland. There are over 40 rides in this theme park, which makes for a day of fun.

Legoland Johor Bahru

These were my tips to go off the beaten track in Singapore. If you are visiting Singapore for the first time, don’t forget to check out this blog about the Top 9 Things To Do in Singapore.

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations, kickboxing, singing or horse back riding. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a civil servant, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.