Singapore’s north might not be a tourist’s first choice of a stellar district, but many forget that it holds gems such as the award-winning Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Among other things, it stands to contradict Singapore’s image as a concrete jungle. Nature reserves, reservoir parks and residential parks boast some of Singapore’s diverse natural habitats. Farming, a booming yet unheard of business in Singapore is still prevalent in the areas of Kranji and Mandai. Coincidentally, these areas also house acres of burial grounds and crematoriums. Instead of making your stop at Orchard Road on the Mass Rapid Transit (“MRT”) Line, continue on to Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Bukit Gombak, Bukit Batok and Kranji.
Award-winning attractions Singapore Zoo and Night Safari are situated next to each other. Choose to explore either or both on the same day, with the former closing at 6pm and the latter opening at 7pm. Featuring an open zoo concept where animals are separated by a moat (with the exception of extremely dangerous ones), it appeals to both adults and children with water playgrounds, animal rides and shows, tram and boat rides. The Night Safari attracts with the simple novelty of looking at animals in a nocturnal setting. Although it is much smaller and has fewer attractions than its neighbour, it still excites with fire and animal shows and a winding tram ride into the safari. Both have plenty of food and beverage options.
Along Mandai Road are gardens Mandai Orchid Garden and Orchidville. Catering to orchid enthusiasts, both feature species of orchids including Singapore’s national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim. Not only do they serve as both a learning centre and a farm, both house acclaimed restaurants Vanilla Pod and Forrest.
After gazing at animals standing still and acting pretty, why not learn how they are cultivated. Kranji Way will lead you into Singapore’s farms- highlights include the Hay Dairies Goat Farm and Jurong Frog Farm. Though the educational tours provided aren’t rocket science material, you get to sample and buy products for cheaper prices.
The north holds burial grounds for the dead serving as a reminder of the Japanese’s tragic occupation of Singapore. The historic site of the battle of Kranjibeach is remembered with a plague, though nothing much can be seen. Interestingly, the straits of Johore can be seen. The Kranji War Memorial remembers over 4,000 allied troops who perished in the war. Grand and deathly silent, it is perched atop a gently sloping hill and also houses the state cemetery where Singapore’s past presidents rest. Memories at Old Ford Factory, where the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese is was converted to a museum re-enacting the horror and glory of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore houses mini-movies and interactive games.
Singapore strives to shed its image of a concrete jungle and rightfully does so with its conservation of reservoir parks and nature reserves. One of the popular ones worth a visit include the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where Singapore’s highest peak Bukit Timah Hill stands at 163.63 metres. MacRitchie Reservoir Park caters mostly for water sports whereas the quieter Upper Pierce and Lower Pierce appear to be a breeding ground for senior citizens and foreign contract workers. Neighbourhood parks Bottle Tree Park and Bishan Park are worth a visit to see heartlanders sweat it out. The former is a popular site for prawning and features the quirky Bottle Tree whereas the latter houses the acclaimed Aramsa Spas Bishan.
The food and nightlife scene around the North is almost non-existent or overshadowed by hawkers, although you might find a gem or two. An offbeat option would be Poison Ivy Bistro, a charming eatery in Kranji Way serving comfort asian and international food in the midst of gardens, herbs and fresh vegetables. For the boisterous crowd, Chomp Chomp Food Centre at Serangoon Gardens boasts cheap hawker fare, but be prepared to sweat it out. BrauhausRestaurant & Pub , one of the top neighbourhood pubs specializes in sausages aplenty and beer from far-flung places such as Jamaica, Argentina and Namibia.
Culture vultures will be pleased to note the abundance of temples around the North. The grandest of the lot would be the Sasanaramsi Buddhist Burmese Temple in Balestier which houses the biggest enshrined Buddha out of Myanmar. Other temples around that area include the Nan Hai Temple and the Wu Cao Ba Do Gong Gong Temple.
Hotels are clustered around Balestier which is a 15 minute bus ride away from Orchard Road and Little India. Simple and fuss-free, hotels such as New Orchid Hotel and Hoover Hotel are charged by the hour and appeal to the backpackers or the occasional old man on his romp. Look to Quality Hotel for full-fledged comfort and standard with a pool, gym, three restaurants, meeting rooms, a bar and rooms with city views.