Worth a Trip: Far East Changi Village
On the far northeast coast, Changi Village is a refreshing escape from the hubbub of the city. A wander around the area offers a window into a more relaxed side of Singapore, where vests, boardshorts and flip-flops (the quintessential heartlander uniform) are the look, and people are slightly less accustomed to seeing ang moh (Europeans) in their midst. The atmosphere is almost village-like, and a browse around the area will turn up cheap clothes, batik, Indian textiles and electronics.
Getting here is relatively easy. You can catch the East West MRT to Tanah Merah station, from where bus 2 will whisk you right into the heart of Changi Village, passing en route interesting old black-and-white colonial bungalows along Loyang Ave, before terminating beside the lively, renowned Changi Village Hawker Centre.
Alternatively, grab a bike from one of the rental kiosks in East Coast Park and peddle the flat 18km route, which will take you east through tranquil coastal parkland, north along Changi Coast Rd (heaven for plane spotters), and finally west along Changi Beach, where thousands of Singaporean civilians were executed during WWII.
Changi Beach is lapped by the polluted waters of the Straits of Johor and is lousy for swimming, but there's a good stretch of sand for a romantic stroll. It's popular for weekend picnics and barbecues, but almost deserted during the week.
Next to the bus terminal and just up from Changi Beach is the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where you can catch bumboats (motorised sampans) to nostalgic Pulau Ubin – Singapore's most outstanding day trip. Just beyond the ferry terminal is the starting point for the Changi Point Coastal Walk, a relaxing, 2.2km-long boardwalk that straddles mangroves, a sandy beach and the verdant grounds of government holiday villas.
The walk leads to the private Changi Sailing Club, whose public Coachman Inn restaurant/bar is a wonderful spot to polish off a couple of beers while gazing out at bobbing yachts and Pulau Ubin. From the sailing club, it's an easy 750m up Netheravon Rd to the Coastal Settlement, with its great coffee, food and lush garden locale.
If riding, a return trip from Bike Stop in East Coast Park to Changi Village, with a lazy lunch thrown in, will take around four hours.
Geylang: Red Lights, Sacred Sites
All those nasty rumours about Geylang being an open-air meat market packed with brothels, girly bars, dubious hotels and alley after alley lined with sex workers from all over Southeast Asia are absolutely true. It might not be Bangkok's Patpong, but pound its pavements at night and you'll see it's pretty risqué – well for Singapore, that is.
Yet strange as it may seem, Geylang is also one of the Lion City's spiritual hubs, with huge temples and mosques, and picturesque alleys dotted with religious schools, shrines and temples. A daytime stroll through the lorongs (alleys) that run north to south between Sims Ave and Geylang Rd offers unexpected charm for those who take the time to look.
Several fetching side streets well worth checking out include tree-lined Lorong 27, a small street chock-a-block with colourful shrines and temples. Chanting is a common sound on Lorong 24A – many of its renovated shophouses are home to smaller Buddhist associations. Gorgeous Lorong 34 boasts both restored and unrestored shophouses painted in varying hues, as well as a number of colourful shrines and braziers for burning incense.
Geylang's other blessing is its food scene. Both Geylang Rd and Sims Ave heave with cheap, tasty, unceremonious local eateries, so round off your wander with the sort of local steam your mother would approve of.
Take an MRT to Aljunied station and head south along Aljunied Rd. Once you get to Geylang Rd, head either east or west. All the lorongs snake out from Geylang Rd.