Five different things to do a business trip in Singapore

By John Walton, September 11 2012
Five different things to do a business trip in Singapore

If you're anything like us, you have a sort of love-hate relationship with Singapore.

On the one hand, it's a seriously accessible, connected modern city with very few culture clashes.

At the same time you've probably visiting Singapore there a hundred times (or felt like it), you're bored of Orchard Road and there's only so much laksa you can eat.

So on our most recent trip to the Merion City, we put our heads together over a map with the concierge team at the Four Seasons Singapore to suggest some new openings, hidden gems and things you might not have seen before, and which would go well on a business trip.

And there's not a Singapore Sling among them.

Urbanism can be interesting!

The Singapore City Gallery is a surprisingly fascinating couple of hours' wander, full of interactive historical displays and dioramas about how Singapore came to be, and how its highly urban society is designed.

Run by the government's Urban Redevelopment Authority, the story is much more than you'd expect.

Who doesn't love an enormous diorama?
Who doesn't love an enormous diorama?

(It's also across the street from the Maxwell Road hawker centre -- stop off for your Tian Tian Hainan Chicken Rice fix on your way out.)

Shopping -- no, not Orchard Road

Sorry Orchard Road, we're kind of over you. But there's still heaps of decent shopping to be done in Singapore, and our current favourite -- especially for peoplewatching more interesting than the Orchard Road clones -- is the Mustafa Centre in Little India.

It's a busy four levels of nearly anything you can imagine (with a healthy concentration of Indian merchandise), and the 24-hour shopping is well worth a jetlagged midnight prowl.

Shopping -- part 2 (it's Singapore, after all)

If you're after a few authentic things to bring home for colleagues or family, the very worthy Chinatown Social Enterprise shop has great unique handicrafts and, being a social enterprise supporting local elderly and disabled residents, brings a warm fuzzy feeling too.

Coffee lovers pining for a relatively decent brew should head out to Tiong Bahru's streets, among one of Singapore's oldest housing estate, and follow their nose to find a good brew -- the good spots change regularly, so ask your concierge.

Quirky, unusual items to bring home can be found in shops around the estate, but try a roam down Tiong Bahru Road and Seng Poh Lane.

Pick and choose among Singapore's new art galleries

Unlike many other Asian cities, Singapore doesn't have an artists' district as such, with low rents and old warehouses to make hipster galleries.

Try the new-as-of-September Gillman Barracks out near Labrador Park, the Keppel Distripark's galleries in Tanjong Pagar (really, out in shipping container land -- ask your concierge for the latest on the gallery of the month) or the redeveloped Dempsey Hill up along Holland Road.

Gillman Barracks' buildings alone are worth a look.
Gillman Barracks' buildings alone are worth a look.

Go explore the Gardens by the Bay

On the far side of the Marina Bay Sands landmark/monstrosity, check out the new Gardens by the Bay park complex.

It's best visited on a cool evening or early in the morning if you're down that end of town.

With Marina Bay itself now pretty much completely a freshwater reservoir, there are all kinds of nifty things going on there, from jogging to rumours of upcoming watersport activities. Keep an eye and an ear out, and ask your concierge and colleagues.

Have you visited any of these places? What did you think? And what's your favourite haunt when you're in SG? Share your comment below (lah)!

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

Gardens by the Bay is a nice place to visit in Singapore. It's quite amazing what they have done in that area.

Another place to go is Clarke Quay. Some great restaurants and funky bars there.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Yeah, I'm kind of over Clarke Quay too, but then I've never found more than the "sitting outside on a hot evening for relatively mediocre food and drinks" experience. Do you have a fave spot?


Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

For something different - I like to head down to Changi Beach Park and enjoy a meal & beer while watching the incoming aircraft.




Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 261

+1 for Changi Beach Park. This is a great place to do some spotting in peace and quiet and just chill out.

Agree with Mustafa Centre too. I always go there to do some shopping, as well as Vivo City.

I like to head to Holland Village as well for dinner and socialising. It's very expat centric, but a lovely spot.

Boat Quay is another great spot for dinner. Opposite side of the river to Clarke Quay, cheaper restaurants and a great view of the city.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2212

If you're taking the MRT from Changi airport to the CBD, do drop by Bedok along the way - the interchange connects to an excellent food centre with many, many options for cheap, tasty eats for a taste of Singapore.

The Teochew steamed cakes are especially good, and I'm quite partial to the 'carrot cake' and fishball noodles.


14 Sep 2012

Total posts 1

I find plenty to do. For war history, visit the Battle Box (Percival's HQ in Fort Canning Park), the Surrender Chamber and other exhibits (Sentosa Island), the Ford factory where Percival surrendered (Upper Bukit Timah Road), the museum commemorating the Battle of Bukit Chandu (the last stand by the Malayan Regiment before the city fell), City Hall (opposite the Padang) where Mountbatten received the Japanese surrender, the memorial to Lim Bo Seng near the cricket club, the Changi prison camp museum, and the war cemetery at Kranji (for silent contemplation). Other activities - Changi Village is a nice quiet place, walk through Chinatown at any time of day, ride the MRT for no reason other than riding the MRT. Or catch the MRT to Woodlands and then the bus over the Causeway to JB for a few hours - the border crossing is interesting but don't spend too long on the other side as there is not much to do. Good luck.

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 59

I'll keep Gardens by the bay for something to do next visit coming up soon as a way to find something to keep me occupied before heading back to the Airport to fly home.There's always something new to see or do in Singapore every visit I have been.

One sign I reckon everyone should look out for at any Hawker Stall where food is sold is Lamp(I kid you not!!)Chop.Whether it's a joke or the person's English is not the greatest I wouldn't know but it's great for a laugh.

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