travel

What to do in Singapore if you want an authentic and out of the box travel experience.

For many tourists (myself included) Singapore’s bustling Changi Airport is a common stop over to a variety of overseas locations. Being centrally located between Australia and many popular holiday destinations, I’ve travelled there many times to and from Europe.

And predominantly I’ve always looked forward to one thing: the incredible shopping. Yet when you stop, take a breath, and look around, you quickly realise there is so much more to do and see in Singapore outside of its busy and bustling shopping district, Orchard Road.

Valentina on a street walk in Little India. Image supplied.

Just a stone's throw away at the centre of the colourful and vibrant melting pot of Little India is the new Hilton Garden Inn Serangoon. Its perfect location is the jumping block for a rare experience that I'm told many Singaporeans themselves are yet to uncover.

Standing amidst a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern, rustic and trendy, if you're after an authentic and out of the box travel experience, this is surely where you will find it. Here's your guide to the secret gem of Singapore:

1. Take a colourful walking tour of Little India.

Incredible street art in Little India. Image supplied.
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There really isn't a better way to experience the vibrancy of Little India than by foot. Its mix of traditional temples, intricate murals and street art as well as some unique and interesting architecture provides the most gorgeous picture opportunities.

Try taking a walk of Belilios Lane, Kerbau Road, Upper Dickson Road, Campbell Lane and Serangoon Road. During this walk you're constantly surrounded by a mix of amazing sights and smells that are sure to provide you with all the Instagram fodder you could ask for.

2. Experience the hustle and bustle of the Tekka Market.

Fruit display in Tekka Market. Image supplied.

The Tekka Market is where all the locals gather to purchase amazing fresh produce and is Singapore's largest wet indoor market. Aside from being the go-to stop for the chef of the house, it's also a meeting point for locals to see each other and socialise. It's full of food as far as your eyes can reach, from fresh fruits and vegetables, to meat and seafood and, of course, herbs and spices.

The Tekka Market is a great place to get your hands on some locally prepared delicacies, especially when it comes to Indian cuisine. Besides being a glorious site to see, you can sample from all the little stalls as you walk its isles and truly immerse yourself in the culture around you.

3. Taste the vibrant menu at the Hilton Garden Inn's Garden Grille.

Executive Chef Prabu Iyyakannu with his incredible Wok-fried King Prawns. Image supplied.
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While street food is a great way to experience the local taste, sometimes you want to take things up a notch and enjoy a beautiful and vibrant dine-in meal. And the Hilton Garden Inn's Garden Grille is certainly the place to do it.

Headed by Prabu Iyyakannu, the kitchen provides a full buffet breakfast daily as well as a lunch and dinner menu which has been carefully curated to incorporate local cuisines as well as some familiar favourites. There really is something there for everyone.

Using stunning fresh produce all purchased from the Tekka Market, Prabu prepared Wok-fried King Prawns as I watched on in awe of his mastery and skill. The dish the Executive Chef prepared was the delicate embodiment of our surroundings: fresh, zingy and utterly delicious.

4. Drink a cocktail (or two) at Bar Stories.

The Bright Story, a fruity personalised cocktail from Bar Stories. Image supplied.

Now here's a place that'll get you excited. After you've had a nice meal you can head to Bar Stories in Haji Lane, a trendy location which has a gorgeous arty backdrop and amazing drinks to match. The best part about Bar Stories is no two drinks you'll have there are ever the same. That's because they specifically tailor everything to you. Just tell them what you like and they'll whip up a magical creation that'll have your tastebuds begging for more.

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Manager of Bar Stories Dave Koh served a Bright Story, comprised of grapes, raspberries, osmanthus, yuzu and Japanese Kyoho Grape Liqueur which was created in celebration of the Hilton Garden Inn Singapore. Not only did it taste incredible but in the true style of Bar Stories, all their cocktails look like miniature works of art.

5. Get creative and take a pottery class at Mud Rock Ceramics.

Incredible ceramics at Mud Rock. Image supplied.

When you're on holiday it can be a refreshing experience to slow down and really indulge your creative side, something many of us don't have the luxury to do in the business of our day to day lives. That's exactly the experience I had at Mud Rock Ceramics. There's something incredibly calming about throwing on an apron and seeing what you can create with your own two hands and a ball of clay.

It goes without saying that founders Ng Seok Har and Michelle Lim, who have been practicing ceramics professionally for over 10 years, are the master of this. Their passion for their craft is infectious and it makes creating something as simple as a bowl such a rewarding experience.

6. Eat the brunch of your dreams at Artistry Cafe.

The Chilli Crab Burger from Artistry. Image supplied.
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If you're a big fan of brunch, you can't go past Artistry Cafe located on the corner of Kampong Glam heritage district. There's nothing quite like having a sleep in, rolling out of bed and walking over to the friendly cafe that offers one of the best locally roasted cups of coffee you're sure to experience.

Their menu is constantly changing with the seasons so you're sure to always find something new to enjoy. Co-owner of Artistry Prashant Somosundram tells me the most popular menu items at the moment are the Chilli Crab Burger and the Berry and Ricotta Pancakes. Having sampled both, I still can't decide which one of loved more, that's how mouth watering their menu is.

Berry and Ricotta Pancakes for Artistry. Image supplied.

Aside from the food, glorious food, Artistry as its name would suggest also doubles as an art gallery. They host some of the works of emerging artists, both local and international, and at night there will often be shows running (such as interpretive dance).

There's so much to do in, around and near the Hilton Garden Inn Serangoon that you really are spoiled for choice and by downloading the Hilton Honors app, you can further control your accomodation. From being able to select your own room and floor to using your phone as a digital key so you don't have to carry around a room card with you, they really have thought of everything to make your stay the simplest and most comfortable.

Singapore is so much more than just a stop over and with so much to see and do, the only question left is: when are you booking your ticket?

To find out more about the Hilton Garden Inn Singapore Serangoon, click hereValentina was a guest of the Hilton Garden Inn Singapore Serangoon.

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