Before the global pandemic, I was the kind of guy who too easily dismissed Singapore’s hidden gems.
I knew, on some abstract level, that Singapore had some world-famous attractions. After all, the tourism industry is an important part of the economy.
But it never really occurred to me to spend my precious vacation days on the island where I was born, instead of jetting off to faraway cities like Berlin or Dubai or Tokyo.
Then the pandemic hit, shutting down all international travel. Singaporeans found themselves cut off from the rest of the world.
While we look forward to a return to some kind of normality with the vaccine rollout, it is the perfect time to discover what Singapore had to offer.
And a little digging is just what I needed to unearth these gems.
Back to nature
Environmental tourism is in vogue (well, before the pandemic hit). More consumers are conscious of their impact on the natural world, and realise that sightseeing may not have anything to do with manmade wonders.
Taking a guided kayak tour of Pasir Ris Park or Changi Beach Park gives one the opportunity to seriously unplug. It’s a bit difficult to take a selfie for the ‘Gram when both hands are occupied propelling you through blue-green waters.
A tour of the mangrove swamps will bestow a greater appreciation for these vital defences against the effects of climate change, and remind us of the importance of nature.
If you prefer to go by land instead, a guided tour of Pulau Ubin may fit the bill.
Whether walking or biking, learn about the local flora and fauna with a helpful guide.
Sweat it out
Kayaking or hiking or cycling may burn the calories, but sometimes we feel the need to really go all out and feel the burn.
Now Downtown East is no secret. It’s one of the better hang-out spots in the East Side, a favoured destination of Pasir Risians, Loyangites and Tampines-dwellers.
But even Easties may not have heard of the Hi Roller Indoor Skating rink that opened its doors.
You no longer have to go all the way to East Coast Park and worry about the elements - you can skate indoors to cool retro tunes.
But sometimes carefree skating isn’t enough. Sometimes you get so worked up from the stress of modern living that you just need to unleash your inner beast.
The Rage Room along MacPherson Road is just the ticket.
Use a truly mind-boggling array of tools to dish out as much damage as you can. The world has been mean, this is your chance to let it all out.
Heritage and history
I won’t list all the amazing food you can find in the East, because it will take at least a week.
But I will direct you to the amazing Kim Choo Kueh Chang, a true national treasure. Since 1945, it has lasted well into the 21st century by mastering the art of making delicious pyramid-shaped dumplings stuffed with chicken and chilli prawns.
Aside from the tasty treats, the two-storey shophouse in Joo Chiat also has a heritage gallery and offers Peranakan beading workshops, suitable for that perfect date.
History and heritage is something unique that Singapore can take pride in. After all, other countries may have amazing sights, great food and awesome attractions, but none of them has our history.
Culture and tradition are also the watchwords on this Peranakan and Eurasian heritage tour where one can learn about their many contributions to Singapore’s rich culture.
Try Peranakan delicacies, take part in a popiah-making course, or snap an Instagram in front of the colourful shophouses made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster "Crazy Rich Asians".
If you want something a little more esoteric, the Original Singapore Ghost Stories tour may be what you’re looking for.
If you were the kid in school who loved reading Russell Lee’s "True Singapore Ghost Stories" and watching Shiver and Incredible Tales on TV, test your mettle by signing up for this tour.
With transportation provided to four (allegedly) haunted locations, including the legendary Old Changi Hospital, you may just finish the night with an unforgettable story.
Hidden treasures aren’t so hidden after all, if one only makes the effort to step out of the front door.
While we all hope that air travel could resume sooner rather than later, perhaps the next time you build up a frightening number of unused leave days, why not see what’s closer to home instead.
Click here to book your tours and activities on Klook today and enjoy up to 10 per cent off.
This sponsored article by Klook in collaboration with the SingapoRediscovers campaign made the writer calculate how much money he’s saved on airfare.
All images from Klook and taken before 2020 Circuit Breaker measures unless otherwise stated. Top image from Klook and Hi Roller Indoor Skating Rink’s Facebook page.