Singapore tours: exploring the island

The Intan

Tours per se provide a comprehensive understanding of the city with insights, and lesser known facts and stories from licensed tourist guides. Similarly, in Singapore there is a tour for everyone from families with toddlers to business travellers. With a wide range of interest areas covered by tours, including nature, food and history, visitors can expect an immersive experience of this city.

THE INTAN

The Intan is a heritage shophouse in the idyllic neighbourhood of Joo Chiat. The nature of the building is revealed only upon entering it — that’s when you realise it is a museum dedicated to Peranakan culture, and is not just someone’s home. 

Peranakans are descendants of Chinese and other Southeast Asian immigrants who migrated to and intermarried locals of Malaysia and Singapore. The community was recognised in the early 1800s.

Everything in The Intan is a collector’s item of Peranakan culture. Once inside, you are seated at one of the antique Peranakan chairs placed around a well-matched coffee table and are served nyonya kueh kueh (snack-sized cakes and pastries) before the tour.

Beside the main door is a large altar that has been painstakingly put together with porcelain bowls, beadwork, stools, and candle stands amongst others.

Further inside the museum, on the left is a cabinet that is filled with memorabilia such as crockery and cutlery, symbolic statuettes, patterned cloth pieces, and so on. Opposite to this is a large dining table with even more traditional vases, urns, crockery and cutlery. These items  display Peranakan philosophy.

Lining the stairway leading to the upper level, there are colourful tiffin boxes and ornate spittoons. The loft displays stunning Peranakan jewellery, clothes, purses, furniture and a surprisingly large collection
of shoes — all placed in an orderly fashion.

Indeed, The Intan is an in-depth insight into Peranakan culture as the tour goes deep into its origins and traces its evolution up to the modern day. This home-museum is formally recognised by the Museum Roundtable Association of Singapore. Today, it not only offers tours of its items, but also hosts tea parties, curated meals, workshops and talks about the Peranakan culture.

The space can be booked for a maximum of 40 people for celebrations and corporate gatherings. Corporate groups will particularly find this interesting because a dinner or tea at The Intan is not just that, but one that embarks on an intriguing journey of time travel.

Advance bookings are required. Prices start at S$60/₹2,800 per person per hour for a minimum of four people; tel: +65 6440 1148; the-intan.com.

Gardens by the Bay

Into the night

Once you pack up for the day, instead of heading back to your hotel, get dropped off on South Bridge Road. It is a stark contrast to Singapore’s skyscrapers and modern facade. A busy, yet peaceful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum stands opposite the ticket booking office of Tour East (toureast.net).

The all-inclusive Night Out Marina Bay tour is a convenient way to visit Singapore’s iconic sights because it commences after working hours. An accompanying guide ensures you’re well acquainted with the places providing interesting nuggets of information.

The first stop is at Gardens by the Bay that is home to 5,00,000 plants from over 2,200 species and one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls. You won’t just find a plethora of flora species, but will also be educated on them through informative placards placed at the foot of the exhibits. The highlight though, and one that repeatedly is a favourite for many, is the OCBC Skyway. Located 22 metres above ground, among the Supertrees, one can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding greenery.

Next on the list is a visit to the Sands Skypark Observation Deck at Marina Bay Sands, across from Gardens by the Bay. Shaped like a surfboard, albeit unintentionally, and 57 levels tall, it allows one to enjoy an uninterrupted view of Singapore all the way to the Straits of Singapore at a distance.

Having worked up an appetite by now, the guide ends the tour with a sumptuous visit to Lau Pa Sat — a 24-hour hawker centre that serves local and other Asian food. Before heading to the food stalls, take a minute to admire the ornamental columns designed by British architect George Coleman in 1894. The Victorian design remains beautiful to date, thanks to continuous restoration work.

Post sunset, Satay Street comes to life with grills setting shop to welcome the dinner crowd. This lively place is popular for delectable satay (barbecue meat skewers) and chilled beer. Alternatively, you could venture inside the food hall to broaden your menu options with more local dishes. If you visit on a weekend, you can enjoy live music too.


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