Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: exploring Singapore's coolest street

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Multiple shopping malls, a world-class airport and jaw-dropping hotels earn Singapore its reputation as the city of stopovers. Dig a little deeper into its cultural pockets however and you’ll discover another side of The Lion City that will certainly whet your appetite.

Sitting on the outskirts of Chinatown, Keong Saik Road has reinvented itself from a rundown suburb to one of the coolest spots in the city. Armed with a craving for fusion food and fancy facades, I took on the task of eating, drinking and partying my way through this new, hipster hangout and Best in Asia destination for 2017.

Check into cool digs

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Once known as the red-light district of Singapore, Keong Saik Road now offers up a different night-time vibe. The art deco buildings have had a revamp, and boutique hotels have set up shop with finishing touches that ooze uber cool. At Hotel 1929 you can chill out on reclaimed dentist chairs in the lobby, or take an al fresco bath on your roof terrace, while Naumi Liora offers a more refined heritage feel with its Victorian tiled foyer and neo-classical carvings on the walls.

Appreciate the area's roots

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The cultural heritage of this street sits alongside the new, swanky hangouts. Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik pays homage to the area's Hindu influence, but my favourite religious spot in the city is a moment's stroll through the Chinatown markets. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is an awe-inspiring red and gold building with intricate carvings inside, housing a museum, and the tooth itself, across four fascinating floors.

Feast on fancy fusion cuisine and cocktails

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My taste buds weren't disappointed when it came to devouring my way through Keong Saik Road. From the slightly hidden (and endlessly popular) eel house of Man Man, to small tapas plates and playful takes on Singapore Slings in Don HO, the whole street is teeming with fusion food, bustling brunch options and elaborate tasting menus. On the other end of the scale, I loved the laid back and delicious local restaurants, such as Kuan Food Court, that serve up more traditional cuisine.

Great for the 'gram

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If you appreciate colourful colonial buildings in the same way I do, get your camera ready. As you walk along Keong Saik Road and its neighbouring streets the small balconies, wooden shutters and brightly painted frontages are a visual respite from the modern, high-rise buildings that characterise much of the city. Keep an eye out for Pagoda Street and the history that surrounds this vibrant part of Singapore.

Party and patties after dark

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Later in the week, all the cool cats come out to play at Potato Head restaurant and bar. Made famous by its Balinese sister, the Singapore branch has set up on the corner of Keong Saik and Teck Lim. Line your stomach with succulent, stacked burgers at Three Buns on the first floor, before sinking lovingly crafted cocktails in either the cosily lit, library-style bar or catching the sunset on the colourful rooftop.

Contrast contemporary with culture

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Moments away from the new neighbourhood of cool, the buzzing night markets of Singapore's Chinatown await. A hotbed of sizzling plates, lively hawker stalls and kaleidoscopic colours, it offers up the perfect cultural balance to the more hipster hangouts of Keong Saik Road. Whatever your palate is craving you’ll be as spoilt for choice as I was in this little quarter of the city.

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