NATIONAL ORCHID GARDEN & BOTANIC GARDENS & ROBERTSON QUAY
The Botanic Gardens, a soothing getaway, is just minutes away from the Hostel by bus. From the Hostel, walk to Bukit Timah Road and catch Bus No. 66, 67, 153, 170 or 186. Alight at the bus-stop after the College of Physical Education (you'll see a running track on your left). Cluny Park Road is just a short walk from the bus-stop and you'll find one of the entrances to the Botanic Gardens there. It's a great place to people-watch. There's also a rainforest within the Botanic Gardens for your exploration.
The Botanic Gardens hold over half a million species of plant life spread over 52 hectares of land. The best time to visit the Botanic Gardens is early in the morning, when the air is cool and fresh. In the mornings, joggers, those practicing various forms of Chinese martial arts, and residents in the area walking their dogs love to converge there.
Admission to the Botanic Gardens is free. It is open from 5.00 a.m. to midnight everyday. On every 2nd Saturday of the month, there are free guided tours of the rainforest within the Botanic Gardens at 9.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m., 11.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. Meet at the Ranger Station. Contact Visitor Services at (65) 64717361 for more information.
The highlight of a trip to the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden, the biggest showcase of orchids in the world, with 60,000 orchid plants comprising 400 species and more than 2,000 hybrids spread over 3 hectares of land. The variety and colours of the orchids are simply remarkable.
Admission to the National Orchid Garden is S$2 per adult, and it's S$2 well spent. It is open from 8.30 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. daily.
TANGLIN MALL & TANGLIN SHOPPING CENTRE
Exit the Botanic Gardens from its main gate at Cluny Road (near the man-made lake). Walk along Napier Road until you arrive at the intersection with Tanglin Road. This is the start of Singapore's main shopping belt. The shops usually open from about 10.00 a.m. onwards and close from between 8.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. If you can help it, visit Orchard Road and its shopping tributaries on a Saturday or Sunday, when the area is most vibrant.
The 2 main shopping malls along Tanglin Road are both on your right - Tanglin Mall and Tanglin Shopping Centre.
Tanglin Mall has a supermarket at its basement and it is popular with the residents who live in this exclusive enclave. The apartments and houses close to the Orchard Road area are the most expensive in Singapore. The apartments cost from about S$1,800 per square foot.
Tanglin Mall is not large, but some of its shops offer exquisite and unique buys.
Tanglin Shopping Centre houses a large number of shops selling Asian antique, arts and crafts. The collectibles hail from China, Japan, Korea and countries in South East Asia.
HARD ROCK CAFÉ
Tanglin Road joins Orchard Road. The first offshoot on your right is Cuscaden Road and it will lead you to Singapore's Hard Rock Café. The brownie with hot fudge and vanilla ice-cream is to-die-for. It costs S$10 for a portion which is enough to feed 2.
Stop by if you're a collector of Hard Rock merchandise or if you have a brownie craving.
FORUM THE SHOPPING MALL
Continue along Orchard Road and you'll find Forum the Shopping Mall on your right, immediately after Cuscaden Road. Its anchor tenant is Toys 'R Us. Aside from toys, there isn't much to see or buy in this mall.
ORCHARD TOWERS AND PALAIS RENAISSANCE
Just opposite, you'll see Orchard Towers, which has a reputation for being a "stand alone red light district" along Orchard Road. Stop by at night and you'll know why.
Next door is Palais Renaissance, the haute couture capital of Orchard Road. The fashion houses of Europe (e.g. Prada) and the USA (e.g. DKNY) are represented here. The number of teenagers dressed from head to toe in Prada, Gucci, and Armani is astonishing.
You'll pass the Royal Thai Embassy on your left before arriving at Shaw House, home to Isetan (a Japanese departmental store) and Lido Cineplex (a complex with 8 cinemas).
Its central location makes Lido Cineplex one of the most popular cineplexes in Singapore. A movie ticket here costs from S$6.50 to S$8.50.
Turn left onto Scotts Road. The shops in Pacific Plaza on Scotts Road cater mainly for teens and the 20 something crowd.
After dark, the penthouse of Pacific Plaza comes alive with thumping music and party-goers. China Black is a club with 3 bars, a dance floor, a view of the city's skyline and an Oriental theme. The club plays Top 40s pop, commercial dance and house music. On "Retrolicious Thursdays", the best hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s are played. Guys must be 21 and gurls 18 to enter. The club is open from 5.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, 7.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. on Saturdays and 9.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. on Sundays. There's a cover charge from 10.00 p.m., ranging from S$15 to S$18 for gurls and S$15 to S$25 for guys. It's a popular club, but not the best in Singapore.
FAR EAST PLAZA
On the opposite side of Scotts Road is one of the oldest shopping complexes of this shopping belt, Far East Plaza. The shops in Far East Plaza seem to cater more for tourists than locals. There are plenty of tailors who can sew you a suit within 24-hours, electronic goods retailers and luggage shops. You have to haggle to get a good bargain here.
SCOTT'S SHOPPING CENTRE
Walk back down Scott's Road and you'll find Scott's Shopping Centre on your left.
The basement food court is one of my favourite in Singapore and it is an ideal location to stop for lunch. There's a wide selection of local fare here, and if you're craving Italian, Pasta Mania at the corner of the food court serves up some of the best and cheapest pizzas and pastas in Singapore. Even though it's not on the menu, I like to order pasta in white wine sauce, which is a buck more than the regular arrabiata or carbonara version.
The area beneath the intersection of Scott's Road and Orchard Road is the site of an extensive underground passage, linking Shaw House, Scott's Shopping Centre, Tang Plaza, Wisma Atria, Orchard MRT Station and Wheelock Place. You can wander from mall to mall without getting wet if it's raining.
TANG PLAZA & LUCKY PLAZA
Tang Plaza is home to the local departmental store, CK Tang's. It's a one-stop shop for clothes to household furnishing and appliances.
Next door, at Lucky Plaza, is the favourite hangout of Filipino workers in Singapore. Almost every other family in Singapore has a maid, and the maids are usually from the Philippines or Indonesia. On their off-days (Sundays), Lucky Plaza is awash with thousands of Filipinos. Needless to say, Lucky Plaza has many shops catering to the needs of Filipinos.
Interestingly, Lucky Plaza is also the favourite location for condom shops. There are 2 right up front.
CENTREPOINT SHOPPING CENTRE & CUPPAGE PLAZA
Continue walking down Orchard Road and the next shopping complex on your left will be Centrepoint Shopping Centre, with Robinson's as its anchor tenant.
By the time you're done browsing the stores at Centrepoint Shopping Centre, it should be dinner time and there's no better place to try a plate of "char kway teow" (Chinese flat rice noodles fried with dark soy sauce and cockles) along Orchard Road than the food court at Cuppage Plaza. Centrepoint Shopping Centre is connected to the food court by a passageway on the second floor.
Char Kway Teow is a popular Singaporean dish and the stall at Cuppage Plaza's food court is a well-known one. You may have to queue to taste it, but it's well worth the wait! The same stall also serves Oyster Omelet. The best place to try Oyster Omelet in Singapore is Newton Food Centre, but if you're not heading that way, you can give it a try here.
After dinner, you can head back to Emerald Hill Road to check out the pubs there.
Alternatively, if it's a Friday or Saturday night, you've got to see Robertson Quay also known as "Mohamed Sultan". There are 3 separate quays along the Singapore River - Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. Of the 3 quays, Robertson Quay is now the most popular party hotspot for the "hip and happenin" in Singapore. Many of the pubs and dance clubs here are housed in restored conservation shophouses, and they open till about 3.00 in the morning.
To get to Robertson Quay, walk down Orchard Road until you see Oxley Road your right (opposite Le Meridien Orchard Hotel). Stroll down Oxley Road then turn left onto River Valley Road. Mohamed Sultan Road is the first offshoot on your right.
From here, the easiest way back to the Hostel is by cab. The nearest MRT Station is Clarke Quay MRT Station, but the last train leaves at about 11.30 p.m, when the night is still young…
~ Happy Walking ~
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