Singapore is a melting pot of culture with people from all walks of life living and working in harmony. Chinese, Indian, Malay and British cultures largely dominate with the historical and the contemporary thriving in this glorious country.
It is home to the glamorous, sophisticated and super-clean lifestyle of shopping malls, rooftop cocktail bars and gourmet restaurants, but there is also the simple and wholesome side of Singapore that provides an insight into the city that existed before tourism started booming and urbanisation took over.
There are numerous iconic attractions in Singapore that everyone add to their itineraries. But don’t overlook the following unique places to truly experience all Singapore has to offer.
5 Unique Places to Visit in Singapore
#1 Bukit Time Nature Reserve
People generally view Singapore as an urban giant, sporting different shades of modernity and technological advancements. But there are many ecological and cultural aspects to look forward to as well.
Not many are aware that Singapore is home to virgin rainforest. A virgin rainforest is one that has been allowed to grow and attain a great age without any significant external forces disturbing or disrupting its growth.
Amidst the depths of one such residential neighbourhood of Singapore is the Bukit Time Nature Reserve. While Gardens by the Bay is perpetually crowded and a mainstream tourist attraction, Bukit Time Nature Reserve is the road less travelled.
It’s free to visit and you will feel like you are in a bubble, far away from the chaos. It’s home to almost 40% of Singapore’s natural plants and it is one of the best places in Singapore to enjoy nature in its real and unfiltered form.
There is a steep uphill hike that leads you deeper into the rainforest where you can spot friendly monkeys and other creatures who call this nature reserve their home.
Image by Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
#2 Pulau Ubin
Like stepping back 50 years into the past where life in Singapore was slow and lowly and traditional, the 1,020-hectare island Pulau Ubin is just a 10-minute boat ride from Changi and another great choice if you want to visit places that are not often frequented by tourists.
This is where nature and history intertwine; you can hire bikes on arrival and then head out to the Chek Jawa Wetlands – one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems where you can explore the mangroves and soak in the splendid view.
Kingfishers and bulbul birds inhabit the tidal flats and mangroves, so keep an eye out!
#3 Kampong Buangkok
Amidst the urban and fast-paced life of Singapore which is largely dominated by high-rise buildings and air-conditioned malls, lies a small slice of traditional life. You can still experience traces of kampong (village) lifestyle with a visit to Kampong Buangkok.
The kampong was also known as Selak Kain in Malay, meaning ‘hitching up one’s sarong (a type of skirt)’, a reference to the people of the village hitching up their sarongs to wade through floods whenever the village experienced flash floods.
The land which the kampong rests on was acquired in 1956 by Sng Teow Koon, a traditional Chinese medicine seller. His descendants still live in Kampong Buangkok.
This little oasis of a village is easily accessible and completely different from anything else you’ll see in Singapore. Most people often leave Kampong Buangkok off their itineraries and go for the more mainstream attractions.
But if you are interested in learning about the culture and history of Singapore, this is a unique and interesting choice to consider. Kampong Buangkok is near the Sengkang neighbourhood.
Getting there requires an MRT and bus transfer (preferably get an online bus ticket) or a Taxi/Uber.
#4 Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa has to be one of the most unusual and unique places to visit in Singapore!
It is a whimsical cross between a city park and an amusement park built by the Aw Boon brothers, owners of the Tiger Balm furniture and for this reason, the place is also known as Tiger Balm Park.
It has free admission and there are statues depicting scenes from Chinese mythology and some gruesome illustrations of Chinese afterlife.
It’s on the West Coast Highway viaduct and is well served by buses so make sure to get a bus ticket that takes you to this crazy place!
#5 Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Situated at the heart of Chinatown is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, home to some of the most fascinating Buddhist relics in the world.
It is a five-storey Chinese Buddhist Temple famed worldwide for storing what is supposedly the left canine tooth of Lord Buddha, recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India.
The temple contains the dazzling gold Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Chamber as well as one of the most impressive collections of rare Asian Buddhist artefacts in the Buddhist Culture Museum. The tooth relic is housed in a massive 320 kg, a solid gold stupa on the 4th floor.
There is also a beautiful rooftop garden which centres on the world’s biggest Buddhist prayer wheel, topped off by an elegant pagoda. This is a great place to gain a better understanding of Buddhist culture.
Try to visit when a daily ceremony is taking place in the 100 Dragons Hall to hear the monks chanting because that is one of a kind experience. Chinatown is easily accessible by bus and you can get a bus ticket to and from Chinatown.
Singapore has a lot to offer – whether it is the mainstream attractions or the quaint and unusual spots. One of the best things is that all of these places are inter-connected with a streamlined travel system and are easily accessible by public transport. You can get a train ticket or bus ticket online and hop from one unique place to another without any stress or hassle.