My city: Singapore

Our ‘my city’ series puts a new perspective on some of our favourite places, as we catch up with creative residents, asking them to divulge their best kept secrets. From their recommended cheap eats, to their go-to coffee spot, there are plenty of hints and tips on how to stay like a local.

We caught up with one of Singapore’s brightest and most creative young musicians: iNCH. The Lion City-born indie artist just released her latest album, Letters to Ubin, which chronicles her thoughts and ideas gleaned from a short stint on the state’s remaining kampung island, Pulau Ubin.


Where do you go for the best coffee in Singapore?

Dapper Coffee. An awesome speakeasy coffee place, tucked away in the upper levels of the row of shop houses along Amoy Street.

What are your two must-try hawker food stalls?

I follow anywhere Chef Damien D’Silva goes. Huge fan of his previous gastrobar, Immigrants. He’s now at Timbre+ (a cluster of container and food truck hawker stalls). I grew up going to Pek Kio Market and will be a Pek Kio Market girl for life. I won’t be able to give you one specific stall, ’cause the point of hawker centres is variety and I would usually just grab a bunch of things and overeat. The chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll stuffed with seafood or pork) stall there is the bomb and it’s the first thing I have when I get back to Singapore from overseas. There’s also a good spiced carrot cake store that uses a recipe handed down from generations back. The mee jiam kueh (peanut pancake) store has been around for more then two decades and I love it too. Other noteworthy stalls are the Wah Kee Big Prawn noodles store and the Sheng Sheng Hokkien Mee, that used to cost just $2 a plate once upon a time.

Tell us something that only a resident of the city would know?

Most expensive food, does not always mean best food. Our tap water is drinkable and is recycled from our waste. You’re welcome. Our rubbish will eventually become an island in 2022. You can visit this island, it’s called Pulau Semakau.

Singapore. Image: iStock/primeimages

What are two Singlish (Singaporean slang) phrases every visitor should know before entering the country?

Jialat”, best used with a sigh of resignation, i.e. when stuck in Singapore traffic.
You then”, pronounced ‘den’; a sort of ‘I know you are but what am I’ retort. The only comeback you need.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in Singapore, and why?

Lived on Pulau Ubin in a kampong house without electricity or running water. Separate from the rest of the cosmopolitan island city, this smaller island is a quaint, traditional village, free from modern-day distractions.  It was awesome.

Are there any tourist traps that should be avoided?

The Singapore Flyer and open-top bus rides. They are only helpful if you’re here for a couple of hours on a layover and you want a crash course on the city.

Where would you go to get your fix of Singapore’s cultural and creative scene?

All our cultural heritage districts are awesome. Kampong Glam, Little India and Chinatown are so lively; it’s not about which is the best, but which culture you gravitate to. I personally love Little India most, it’s the least gentrified.

Haw Par Villa, Singapore. Image: iStock/sivarock

What’s the best thing to do in Singapore for free?

Haw Par Villa theme park. It’s wonderfully weird.

Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?

MacRitchie Reservoir. The docks are gorgeous at night.

In your opinion, when’s the best time of year to visit?

August – it’s the period for National Day and the Hungry Ghost Festival.

If you didn’t live in Singapore, where else would you live and why?

Austin, Texas. I’ll kill to have my way with a big Tex-Mex barbecue spread there.

When you leave Singapore, what do you look forward to most when you come back?

Efficiency. Followed by the food.

Chicken rice claypot, Singapore. Image: iStock/asab974

Listen to iNCH’s album, Letters To Ubin, check her out on Youtube or visit her website.

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