Singapore: an insider guide
Singapore’s skyline has been transformed in recent years, alongside nearly every facet of life, from art to food. Anthony Chen, Cannes Camera d’Or-winning director of the film Ilo Ilo, visits five favourite spots in his home city.
Roti Prata shop at Jalan Kayu
This place has been there for ages. It is really far out, a foreigner might even deem it remote, yet this place is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Singaporeans are crazy about food, and we can have prata – south Indian pancakes with curry – any time of the day, for breakfast or even a late night (midnight sometimes) supper. It is not too far from – and actually on the way – to the award-winning Singapore Zoo in Mandai. So might be good as a stop before or after.
256 Jalan Kayu
Open 24 hours
National Museum of Singapore
I really like the light, airy nature of the space, and I think the interior transformation of what was left from the colonial period is fantastic. It has permanent galleries on Singapore history and regularly puts up some fantastic exhibitions. The museum is also home to the Gallery Theatre (sort of like the only cinematheque we have), which is easily my favourite theatre for watching films. Film screenings and retrospectives are regularly programmed here.
93 Stamford Road
Last admission 5.30pm
Tel +65 6332 3659
Tiong Bahru estate
This is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore and I have to say holds a nostalgic charm for many Singaporeans. A lot of interesting cafés, eating places, shops and galleries have sprung up here in recent years, which makes the area great for exploring. Food lovers can also take advantage of the hawker centre, right in the centre of the estate, that is home to some of the best local food on the island.
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road
Stalls open daily 2am-3pm
Tiong Bahru estate surrounds the market
A lot of visitors who have been to Singapore would know that we have two famous crab dishes: chilli crab and black pepper crab. I usually take my foreign guests to a Jumbo Seafood for a big seafood meal – it's a must on my list, where one can savour these two crab dishes. Please order the very tasty spinach tofu as well, and perhaps a plate of mee goreng (Malay for fried noodles – this one with seafood). Jumbo now has lots of branches across the island, and I realised on my last visit that one should make a reservation on their website as it can get very busy.
Blk 1206 East Coast Parkway
#01-07/08 East Coast Seafood Centre
Mon-Sat 5pm-11.45pm | Sun and public holidays 12pm–12am
Tel +65 6442 3435
Historically known as the Arab quarter where 19th century Arab traders lived and sold their wares, the area is now trendy and hip with local designers setting up shop (making it a little bit of an indie fashion haven), and a variety of great cafés and restaurants spread out across parallel streets – plus lots of shisha (water-pipe smoking) places too. There are still traditional businesses that sell a wonderful array of carpets and fabrics. My aunts tell me this is the best place to find great fabrics to make kebaya, a traditional blouse-dress combination for ladies that has become very much a national dress.
Kampong Glam district
Shop/restaurant opening times vary