There’s an endless list of things to do and places to explore in Singapore, and some of these experiences don’t cost a thing. From a wildly unusual cultural theme park to a lush nature haven, we give you five ideas to consider if you want to spend the day out without breaking the bank.
1. Learn about Chinese folklore at Haw Par Villa
Once known as Tiger Balm Gardens, Haw Par Villa is an 82-year-old attraction that’s known to many as Singapore’s scariest theme park. Why? Because of its vivid depictions of the Ten Courts of Hell from Chinese folklore. Located on a hill in Pasir Panjang, Haw Par Villa was created by two Myanmar-Chinese brothers to provide moral guidance to the public through gory representations of the afterlife. For history buffs and lovers of literature, there are over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas featuring scenes from the classic novel Journey to the West, and the famed Chinese legend, Madame White Snake. The park underwent a three-month renovation last year in 2018 and reopened in March 2019, so this is definitely a good time to re-visit Haw Par Villa if you’ve already been as a kid. Oh, and guided tours are an option as well.
: 262 Pasir Panjang Road
2. Go bird-watching at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Want to escape city life? No need for a weekend getaway in a neighbouring country; just drive to the north-east of Singapore and visit Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Surrounded by tidal ponds and lush greenery, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is home to an ecosystem of birds, reptiles, and other fascinating wildlife. Put on your hiking shoes because there are several trails to conquer. There are also observation pods along the way to rest and observe wildlife such as crabs and mudskippers. If you’re lucky, you may even get to spot migratory birds from as far as Siberia. For a complete experience of the wetlands, sign up for the free Sungei Buloh guided tours, which take place every Saturday.
: 301 Neo Tiew Crescent
3. Watch musical performances at the Esplanade
Hanging out at the Esplanade is a great way to support and learn more about the local arts scene. Free programmes are organised every month at various stages and halls, like the Outdoor Theatre (pictured above). Highlights include performances from schools as well as visual installations by local artists. Occasionally, music and lifestyle related workshops are held at the Esplanade Bay Room. Interested in finding out more? Check out all the free Esplanade activities taking place. When the sun sets, soak up views of the bay area at the Roof Terrace, which is also free to enter.
: 1 Esplanade Drive
4. Hunt for a good bargain at flea markets
See what hidden gems you can find at the flea markets organised by Fleawhere. One such event to keep an eye out for is Flea Party. It typically happens every day of a selected month, and it’s the place to go to for pre-loved clothing. Venues may vary, and it looks like the next one will take place at Lucky Plaza in May. You may need to fork out some cash to buy that dress or purse, but it’s safe to say that most vendors end up selling items at two dollars and below, and at the end of it all, some even leave a small pile of clothes behind – and you can have all that for free.
: Various venues
5. Step back in time at Kampong Lorong Buangkok
Here’s your chance to visit the last kampong in Singapore. Juxtaposed against HDB flats and construction sites, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is a peaceful escape from today’s busy world. The housing areas here are exactly what you think they looked like in the olden days – rusty gates, zinc roofs, and scraggy cats lazing around. There are still quite a number of families staying there, and while they’re generally welcoming, do remember to respect their privacy and be mindful when you take photos. While there aren’t parking lots per se, there is still room for you to drive through and stop your car in empty corners.
: 7 Lorong Buangkok
Everything you seek in a car is here in the Mitsubishi Attrage. With an outstanding fuel efficiency of 20.4km/litre and easy maneuverability, the Attrage is your ride for long drives. It boasts a 450-litre boot space so passengers can sit comfortably, and the keyless operation system makes starting and stopping the car a simple, fuss-free process. Safety-wise, the Attrage has six airbags for maximum protection, an anti-lock brake system and RISE body that effectively absorbs crash energy from all directions.