Matthew Hew is the Guest Services Executive (Supervisor) of the Concierge Team at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. Born and raised in Singapore, he’s a truly excellent advocate for his hometown and we’re blessed to be able to share his recommendations for making your Singapore sojourn, well, sing! Enjoy!
Favourite locale when enjoying a day off
My favourite way to start a day off is a run or stroll along East Coast Park, taking in the scenic sea views, and the cool morning breeze.
Where he takes his own guests when they visit
I would bring them to visit the various ethnic enclaves around Singapore to experience the diversity in our harmonious multi-racial society. Singaporeans are renowned for being foodies and naturally, the day would consist of trying much of the local cuisine, and having a gastronomic adventure like no other. Dishes such as the chilli/black pepper crab, bak kut teh (pork rib soup in either a herbal or pepper broth), and hainanese chicken rice are just some of the dishes you can look forward to! Last but not least, no visit to Singapore would be complete without exploring the Marina Bay precinct (home to the Iconic Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay just minutes away from the Mandarin Oriental) which is testament to how far we have progressed as a country.
It’s a rainy day but we want to explore, what we should do
The abundance of museums in Singapore will ensure that you will always have something to do should the weather take a turn. For the history buffs, we have the National Museum of Singapore which will enable one to learn all about the intricacies of our past. Art buffs, fret not, as we have you covered, too. Conveniently located within the heart of the city, we have both the National Gallery of Singapore which boasts the largest collection of South East Asian artworks across various mediums, as well as the Art Science Museum.
Recommendations for night-time entertainment
Pop by Keong Saik Road in Chinatown where many restaurants and bars have now set up shop within the older heritage shophouses, proudly displaying character and history while serving up modern culinary delights. Guests looking for a view can also head to the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands for, arguably, the best views of the city and good food. Lastly, those looking for after dinner plans can also consider making their way down to Clarke Quay, known as the party district of Singapore, boasting some of the hottest clubs and bars in town
Key phrases visitors should learn
Singapore has an unofficial dialect, also known as ‘Singlish’, used by the locals in their daily life. Here are several fun words that might come in handy during your time with us in the country:
Da-bao – Meaning to take food away.
Makan – To eat, or can be used in a casual way when greeting one another. e.g.: “Have you makan (eaten)?” Or “Makan already?”.
Shiok – Proclamation if something is really good or satisfying, eg: This food/dish is so shiok.
The best shopping and souvenirs
It’s hard to believe that Orchard Road, now home to the world’s top luxury brands, came from such humble beginnings as a nutmeg plantation. You’ll be spoiled for choice amidst the malls that stretch for over two kilometres within this district. RISIS which plates actual orchids in gold (also the national flower of Singapore) is extensive in its offerings and ensures that there is always something for her and him. Alternatively, for those looking for a gift that’s more quirky and encapsulates daily Singaporean life, look no further than NAIISE. Its catalogue ranges from miniature replicas of popular tourist attractions, such as the Merlion, all the way to that of our local snacks and dishes.
A child-friendly thing to do or place to go
Sentosa, the island resort located on the southern coast of Singapore, is where the first and only Universal Studios within South East Asia is found. Here, families and children can expect to embark on an experience like no other. Housed within the island, Adventure Cove is an aquatic amusement park. The S.E.A Aquarium has more than 100,000 marine creatures on display across different zones while also providing the younger ones with an interactive and fun educational experience. Once the sun sets, pop by Siloso Beach to catch Wings of Time, a spectacular laser and music show against the backdrop of the South China Sea. Inclusive of pyrotechnics, it is sure to pique the interests of the younger ones and finish the evening on a high note.
His best kept secret or favourite hidden treasure
Located in the eastern part of Singapore, Katong has so much more to offer than its Peranakan roots. It is an area rich in history, and many other local favourites lie in plain sight for those who decide to venture out there. Located minutes away also lies Marina Parade, the first residential estate to be built entirely on reclaimed land. Here, one can get a glimpse into the daily life of Singaporeans, filled with wet markets, and hawkers rivalling those found in the more tourist-packed areas of Singapore.
The best way to get to the airport
A taxi ride to the airport will typically take you 20-25 minutes from within the city and is the most convenient way to get there. For those a little more adventurous and with time to spare, the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) will enable you to take in the sights of the heartlands which one would typically not get to see and is a fantastic way to get a different perspective of the lion city.
The best time of the year to visit
Come by in late January to mid February to soak up the atmosphere and experience the lead up to Chinese New Year celebrations which will be in full force. One can expect traditional performances, food markets and magnificent firework displays in the evening. Alternatively, when December comes around and the city streets transform with the light ups, experience a wonderland like no other with the plethora of festivities that will be taking place across the island.
Anything else we should know when visiting
Chewing gum and littering is prohibited in Singapore therefore, just a word of caution for those planning to visit, lest you get a culture shock and those found in possession or caught in the act can be fined. Other than that, just bring along an open mind and embrace all this beautiful country has to offer!
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