Singapore Tourist Pass

The Singapore Tourist Pass, is a travel pass that allows for unlimited travel (with restrictions), on basic buses, MRT and LRT trains. The pass comes with one, two, or three day durations, and has a refundable S$10 deposit. On paper, it looks like a great option, however, it’s maybe not as good a deal as it first looks.

The first issue, is that the duration starts from the moment you use the card. So if you arrive in the evening and only travel to your hotel, you’ve used up the first day on the card. Our stop on the MRT was only S$2.50 each, so it made no sense to buy the pass on the evening we arrived.

The second issue, is that it’s very easy to not utilise the card to its full potential, especially if spend the entire day at somewhere like the Bontanic Gardens, Sentosa or the Zoo complex. On the day we went to the Zoo complex, we got the MRT to Khatib, then the Mandai Khatib Shuttle to the zoo; we then reversed that on the way back to the hotel. Even though the Tourist Pass is an ez-link card and you can pay for the Mandai Khatib Shuttle with an ez-link card, the Tourist Pass only covers you for basic buses, so you have to pay. This is unfortunate, as the normal buses take twice as long to get to the Zoo complex, although they are quieter and you’re ,more likely to get a seat.

One useful feature of the card though, is that you can top it up like a normal ez-link card and then use it as such. We didn’t realise that you’re supposed to top it up at one of the special Tourist Pass stations, not at the machines in the stations. We found this to be the cheapest method of using the card, as on the day we were hunting souvenirs in Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown, we barely used S$5 worth of MRT journeys. We also found that we were refunded our outstanding balance, which I’m not sure would happen if you top up at the Tourist Pass kiosk.

If I was doing it all again, I’d probably just use one of my contactless cards, rather than renting one of these.

Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre

Our last day in Singapore, saw us tramping around buying souvenirs. Little India, for the Tekka Centre; fancy trousers, a Black Panther shirt, and incense. Arab Street, for pashminas, and bracelets. Chinatown, for a silk dressing gown, t-shirts, and dinner.

After being slightly disappointed by a lunchtime visit to the Hong Lim Complex Food Centre a few days before, we thought we’d try the food centre at the Chinatown Complex. What an experience, the place is absolutely massive!

Split into four distinct areas, each with their own coloured tables, it’s a veritable rabbit warren of corridors and cubby holes. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you pop down another corridor, only to find yourself in another huge area, with a huge choice to match.

As a non-local, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to choose between five, six, seven, or more stalls, all selling the same thing. In one case though, it’s easy, as there is one stall that is listed in the Michelin Guide, it also has a queue to match.

While my wife was queuing to try the Michelin rated dumplings, l was to sort out the kids and get the beer in. In a shock departure from their usual staple of chicken rice, the kids both decided to try some chicken satay. After their skewers had been served, we wandered to another area, with what appeared to be the only open vegetarian stall in the whole place.

With the kids settled, it was off to find same drinks. Weirdly, it took ages to find some bandung, a ridiculously sweet opaque pink concoction, which the kids had requested. This saw me in bits of the centre we hadn’t been into yet, which lead to me finding two different craft beer outlets. The first was selling beer brewed in Singapore, the second selling beer imported from Hong-Kong, the UK and the US, featuring Fourpure and Magic Rock, amongst other familiar names.

The imported beer was eye wateringly expensive, at around S$14 for a glass depending on where it was from. The local beer was far more reasonable at around S$8 a glass. Compare this with the bar in the Golden Mile Food Centre, which was selling imported US IPA for around S$8 – 10 per glass. So I bought the local beer, as I can get Fourpure and Magic Rock back home. The other reason for buying local, was the cluster of loud white Westerners by the expensive beer stall.

With the drinks bought, it was back to the kids to see how they were doing, then it off to the veggie stall to buy my dinner. Disaster, they’d switched their light off, meaning they were closed; the chef eating dinner with his wife and child. The look of distress and disappointment on my face must have struck a chord, as he stopped eating his dinner and offered to cook me mine. I’m not sure I’ve ever said thank you, to someone as much as I did this gentleman.

While my dinner was being cooked, my wife finally turned up with her dumplings; evidently they were worth the wait. She also enjoyed the beer, so everyone was happy. I’d definitely recommend eating here, rather than one of the plethora of over priced tourist restaurants outside.

Gaylang Serai Market

Having already visited Haig Road Food Centre for putu piring, we wanted to try it again before we left Singapore. We also wanted to try and find the actual stall that was featured in the Singapore episode of Street Food. I watched the start of the episode again, and after a quick google, found that we only needed to walk about 400m passed Haig Road Food Center to find it.

Gaylang Serai Market, is evidently one of the biggest and busiest wet markets in Singapore. It also sports a small hawker centre on the first floor, along with a Muslim clothing market. Tucked into the bottom left corner of the ground floor, is a Mr Teh Tarik Eating House, which is just a slightly posher mini hawker centre, but most importantly, contains the Haig Road Putu Piring stall that we were after.

The kids opted for chicken rice, as per usual. My wife went for some tofu goreng, which was described as “the best thing I’ve eaten so far”. While I finally found some chempedak goreng, basically deep fried battered jackfruit, which I had with ubi kayu, which turned out to be cassava chips.

Once the main course was out the way, it was time for more putu piring. It was just as good as the first time we had it, and we all finished the contents of our Styrofoam plates. We discussed how we would try and replicate these at home, or if it was even possible to do so.

After finishing our food, we went for a wander through the rest of the market. The clothing wasn’t really of any use to us, and a lot of the wet market had shut up shop. There was plenty of dried fish bits though, if that’s your thing. I found some coffee beans, and bought some from Indonesia and some from Bali.

Keng Eng Kee Seafood

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, or just KEK Seafood for short, was another establishment featured in the Singapore episode of Street Food. As a vegetarian, I knew I’d struggle to find anything to eat, but my wife and son wanted to try the chilli crab.

To be fair, they bent over backwards to accommodate me, offering to cook me something vegetarian. The caveat though, was it would be cooked on all the same equipment as the meat and fish. When given the option in these scenarios, I generally decline.

I did ask if there were any veggie places nearby, but was told there was just a shop selling bread and milk. What they didn’t tell me, however, was the fact that Alexandra Village Food Centre, a hawker centre, was just around the corner too. To be honest though, we didn’t explore the hawker centre, so I have no idea if there were any veggie stalls or not.

So how did the family get on at KEK Seafood? It was busy, very busy. We were asked if we had a reservation, which we didn’t, so we were sat out on the street, in the overspill area. The chilli crab is priced by weight, the one my wife and son shared was $72, or about £42. It was also very messy to break up and eat, with my wife struggling to hold the shell crackers and the hot crab at the same time.

We’re glad we went, but I doubt we’d go back. Our daughter isn’t adventurous, and I’m a veggie, so it was always going to be a stretch.

The Long Bar, Raffles Hotel

Fifteen years ago, after tramping around Singapore for the day, my wife and I flopped in to chairs on the Long Bar veranda. We sipped our Singapore slings and threw monkey nut shells on the floor. Since then, we’ve had two kids, while Raffles has had two renovations.

These days you’re no longer allowed to sit on the veranda. Instead, you’ll most likely find yourself queuing on it, with a load of other tourists. Our wait wasn’t so bad, at somewhere between five and ten minutes. The wait when we left looked a lot longer.

Yes, it’s a tourist trap. Yes, it’s eye wateringly expensive; at $33 a sling. Yes, you have to do it; suck up the wait and the expense.

Tho kids absolutely loved it, especially the massive bag of nuts and throwing the shells on the ground. My wife and I loved it, as it took us right back to our honeymoon. It was fabulous.

Haig Road Market & Food Center

Haig Road might not mean anything to you, unless you have a Netflix subscription. Those of you who have watched the Singapore episode of Street Food however, will know exactly why we’re here.

First we needed some proper lunch though. The kids went with chicken rice, for a change. While my wife and I wandered around for a bit till we found a vegetarian stall. One of those ones that has lots of unidentifiable bits and bob’s, that look suspiciously like meat.

I asked for a dish with noodles, veg and tofu, and got a plate of noodles, veg and tofu. My wife’s dumpling noodle soup was, “the best thing I’ve eaten so far”, you win some you loose some.

We weren’t here for anything other than the putu piring though. It’s a steamed rice flour, sweet snack, filled with palm sugar, and served with pandan leaf and shredded coconut. It’s also as good as you imagine it to be.

There’s a dryness and coarseness to the steamed rice flour. This is perfectly offset by the moistness of the freshly shredded coconut, and all tied together by the sweetness of the sugar. The portion size was perfect, I wouldn’t have wanted the eat anymore.

The market and food centre might be a bit of a trek from the usual tourist spots. If you remotely identify as a foodie though, then it’s well worth the journey to try the putu piring.

Wakey Wakey

When we booked our holiday, we had an Air B’nB apartment. Due to the government crack down, the host cancelled, and we ended up in a hotel. This meant that I didn’t really have the necessary recepticals to make use of my PuckPuck. So I had to find a local coffee shop as a priority.

I noticed a coffee stall in the hawker centre that we visited on the first evening. It was closed, even though the sign said it opened at 07:30. A quick Google later and I ended up in Yang Coffee & Toast, although the americano I asked for, tasted suspiciously like over stewed filter coffee.

As the kids needed breakfast, it was back on Google to see if there was anywhere better. Thankfully there was. Wakey Wakey, is home to the 2018 Singapore Barista Champion, and could be a coffee shop anywhere back home; with the stripped back aesthetic and exposed concrete.

Thankfully, the long black on the menu, was just that. At $5 a pop it’s quite expensive, but it’s plenty tasty, made right in front of you and served in proper porcelain. They also do take out, although I was charged differing amounts, on different days, by different staff; $0.50 to $1 over the sit in price.

I didn’t eat, as the morning is part of my fasting time. However, the kids loved their waffles, with fruit and maple syrup. My wife, also loved her chia coconut fruit bowl. I loved the coffee, so we were all happy. So happy, that I’ve been back for multiple coffees each morning, and we’ve eaten there multiple times.

Cluny Food Hall

After a morning wandering through parts of Singapore Botanic Gardens, we ended up at the Cluny Food Hall for lunch. After being gouged for drinks at Bee’s Knees earlier in the day, we thought somewhere with food Hall in the title might be more like a hawker centre, than a tourist trap.

Choice was limited to three outlets, one selling toast and drinks, the other two selling noodles and bowls. Vegetarian options were pretty non-existent, and everything had two prices, one for staff, one for everyone else.

The kids opted for chicken rice, which looked okay on the plate. However, the chicken wasn’t hot, and it was slightly pink, so they didn’t eat it. My wife was told no soup when ordering, so ended up with something that just tasted of fish sauce.

I opted for thick toast, which a was a single small slice of thck white toasted bread, with a smeer of smooth peanut butter. I also ordered two soft boiled eggs, which were mostly liquid. The guava juice I ordered, was freshly juiced, from fruit that had been preprepard and kept in a fridge; it was mank, according to the kids.

All in all, it was a near total disaster. You may well ask why we didn’t complain, and we probably should have. However, there was only one chap selling and cooking at the outlet everyone else ate at. Plus, there was a bit of a language barrier going on, at the toast outlet. So we decided to chalked it up and move on.

If I was going to the Botanic Gardens again, I’d probably take a packed lunch with me. As it was the weekend, there was loads of couples, families and groups of friends, all having picnics; it’s obviously the thing to do.

Golden Mile Food Centre

I’ve drunk craft beer in all sorts of places over the years, but drinking US IPA in a Singaporean hawker centre is a first for me. It’s been fifteen years since we were last here, so it’s no great surprise that the global craft beer juggernaut has arrived.

After a long flight from London, via Warsaw, with no food. It was great to find plenty of vegetarian options in the hawker centre over the road from our hotel.

What I found more surprising though, was the stall selling Deschutes, Heretic and Anderson Valley on draft, plus Stone in cans. After twenty three odd hours of travelling, I wasn’t complaining about a choice of IPA.

As it turned out, we visited the this hawker centre two nights on the trot. On our first visit, I had a lovely three curry set, with some roti. Which was absolutely gorgeous, with just the right amount of curry for the two breads.

I tried a different stall on our second visit. Opting for two smallish plates, one of aloo gobi, the other, of palak paneer. Both scooped up, with some freshly baked garlic naan. Again, the curry was excellent.

It was great to find a hawker centre so close to where we were staying. It was even better finding one with decent beer.

Cambridge Slow Swim and Picnic

pooh sticks

On Sunday the 7th of July, my daughter and I, took part in the Cambridge Slow Swim and Picnic. Which is a 2.5KM social swim from Grantchester to Cambridge along the River Cam. With four waves, leaving at 15 minute intervals, there was a group to suit all levels of swimming ability. As I had my daughter in tow, we went in the last wave, Pooh Sticks.

The event started with registration on Sheep’s Green in Cambridge, before a wander along the the river, through Grantchester Meadows, to the start line. Each wave set off, after a short safety briefing, and headed back down the river, at their own pace, to Sheep’s Green.

We started near the back of the last wave, and an hour and seventeen minutes later, we finished; having passed all of Wave 4, most of Wave 3 and caught a few stragglers from Wave 2. We did stop by one of the trees and jump into the river, but mostly I swam breaststroke, while towing my daughter, who was on a pink rubber ring (she did kick occasionally).

I was slightly worried, as I didn’t have a wetsuit to wear. It wasn’t for want of trying to find one either, as I’d tried a few and had to send them back, as they didn’t quite fit. In the end the water temperature was adequate. While my core remained at a decent temperature, I did loose feeling in my pinkies and one of my big toes. I should perhaps invest the neoprene swimming gloves and booties that others were using.

We both enjoyed ourselves immensely though, and my daughter has said she want’s to do it again next year, which was great to hear. If you fancy taking part, then early bird entries are available until October, see the Cambridge Slow Swim and Picnic website for more details.