Things to Do in Bugis Singapore
People often ask me where Bugis is. Perhaps this is the area with a huge concentration of affordable hotels in Singapore that will not require you to sell an organ or two to afford. It is also the best and most practical choice of area to stay in term of proximity to the major attractions, as Bugis is just a station away from the city center.
So here’s a quick guide to Bugis and the things you can see within the one-kilometer radius:
Bugis Village Market
First things first, shopping. It’s a souvenir center where you can buy everything you need in a single stop. From tasteful clothes to tacky I <3 SG shirts, to portable battery packs, ripe durian, tattoos, and the arbitrary cheap key chains and fridge magnets for colleagues back home that you don’t really like that much.
Bugis Street is within a the shopping complex in front of the malls, Bugis Junction and The shops can be a bit chaotic at night, so the best time to visit is around after lunchtime when the vendors’ brain cells are lagging for a better haggling outcome.
Mint Museum of Toys
The Singapore Mint Museum of Toys is a shop house converted to a (well) museum and it has several small and narrow floors. You should start from the top deck going down, where you can see all sorts of toys from space saucers, robots and anything that screams boys’ toy.
They even have the Buck Rogers in tacky tin toys that inspired that Gil Gerard TV series and probably the Japanese version known as Shaider.
If you’ve heard of Haji Lane and Arab Street, this is the hood to find them. The streets are known for art murals exploding with colors, thanks to hashtagging generation, it became an official stop especially among the visiting citizens of OOTDopia. Boy, they surely know how to put the glam in Kampong Glam!
The area also boasts the huge concentration of creative cafes and bespoke shops that will induce spontaneous existential orgasm to visiting hipsers.
Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple
The popularity of this temple is based on the testimonies that those who go here to worship the gods had great luck and good health.
I’m no expert in Chinese architecture but based on my personal research (which I confirmed and verified with the Heritage Society), this is the same temple under construction that Jose Rizal visited and mentioned in his diary during his stopover en route to Madrid.
Singapore Art Museum
The National Gallery has opened its doors to travelers and locals searching for creative inspiration, cultural enlightenment, and refreshing air-condition. Which consequently means that the crowds at the old SAM are being pulled-away towards the newest attraction in town.
However, the National Gallery houses the works by old and recent Asian masters, it gravitates to a more highbrow art leaving the contemporary, conceptual, and “low brow” movement to SAM.
But of course, SAM still holds seasonal shows and exhibits not to mention the permanent fixtures like the delicious chapel window done by no less than the master of glass, Ramon Orlina.
Gone were the days of dark halls, dim table lamps, and moldy air of the old libraries populated with suspicious-looking characters. Singapore National Library is the shining beacon of the country’s utopian idealism.
This seemingly surgically sterile space is open to public and offers a huge collection of art references, travel guides and updated issues of every imaginable printed medium.
There are also floors used as venues for interesting exhibits and events. Last year they have on display the oldest maps of Asia, I died.
Around the block are hipster-friendly shops like Cat Socrates and stores selling second hand books and back issues of magazines.
Where to eat
Bugis is home to several art schools and academies in the country, hence the creative (and trying to be creative) restaurants strewn here and there, at the shop houses, and small alleys.
For fusion cuisine, Artichoke is my personal pick for lunch and late lunch. For local dinner, hands down to Wing Seong Fatty’s cereal prawns at Albert Street. For cheap French I’d go to Saveur behind the National Library. But if you’re in doubt, there’s always the mall.
Where to stay
I would personally recommend Ibis at Bencoolen. At the price average of SGD150/night for two people, it is one of those affordable accommodations in Singapore that is not in the shady Geylang district. It is perfectly located right smack in the middle of Bugis, two blocks away from the MRT station, so you don’t need to ride a taxi to reach.
The room is impeccably clean, the toilet is faultless, the view—well, the bed is irresistibly comfortable so I jumped-in and curled under the (what felt like) 400,000 thread count duvet linen. Trust me, after a tiring day outside, nothing else would matter more than the sweet bed waiting for you to smoothly slip inside.
For a last-minute packer like me, I often forget to bring extra toothbrush and slippers. I was a bit frustrated that Ibis did not provide these and I had to buy from the convenient store downstairs. Then it hit me. They are one of the few establishments that are true to the green campaign: They are consciously minimizing the number of disposable items; encouraging reuse of bottles for water; creatively recycling paper products; and cleverly utilizing fabric materials for the linens. Snaps to Ibis Bencoolen!
The biggest plus for Ibis is the free use of local mobile phone with unlimited 3G and call to 27 countries [a moment of silence please>]. And oh, while all other hotels provide Lipton bags, Ibis ain’t givin yo daddeh the lipton, coz they Dilmah! I know what you did there Ibis, in a world full of Lipton, be a Dilmah. Well played!
170 BENCOOLEN STREET
189657 – SINGAPORE
TEL : (+65)65932888
GENERAL INFORMATION : H6657@ACCOR.COM
On a scale of Marina bay to Geylang, the latter being the most (cough) pedestrianized, Bugis is between the middle and the former. The district offers a variety of food and shopping options from affordable to first class. It is so diverse that you can literally buy an artisan gelato and a 1-dollar street ice cream at the same time without melting any of both.
These are just some of the many things to see in this area. I can easily say “Oh, go to Sim Lim they say, It’s fun there they say!” But sorry, I don’t Sim Lim.