When you go to Singapore it’s easy to head right into the city and base yourself there. But if you want to get to know a different side of Singapore, there’s much to gain from staying in one of the villages within this city-state.
On a recent trip I tried out not one but two areas, Katong and Changi (it’s much more than just the world’s best airport) to learn more about Singapore’s neighbourhoods and multicultural heritage.
The trip was organized by Far East Hospitality, which has a number of hotel brands, and I was there to experience two of their Singapore Village Hotels.
Village Hotel Katong and MeGuideU
The trip started with a stay at the Village Hotel Katong, which celebrates the Peranakan culture of the area through both the hotel’s design and the food you can try.
The hotel has teamed up with a great guide service called MeGuideU, and had arranged for a local guide to meet me in the hotel lobby and give me a tour around the area. The hotel can help tailor these tours to suit your interests and how much time you would like to spend, and I found it a wonderful way to understand the history and culture of the area.
My guide, Ivy, has been showing tourists around for more than thirty years and was a wealth of knowledge. As she explained, Katong is a Paranakan area in Singapore, which is a blend of Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian heritage, and as we walked around she shared stories from the neighbourhood.
Ivy took me into some of the local shops, explaining the traditions and history, and also some of the foods, with special stops to try some of her (delicious) favourites along the way.
Katong is famous for its laksa, and the hotel is just across the road from Nancy Lim’s 328 Katong Laksa where you can grab a stool underneath a wall of photos of Nancy with local stars and tuck into a particularly delicious laksa along with that other Singapore classic, chicken rice.
Back in the Village Hotel Katong the local treats continued. At the hotel’s buffet you can try to make your own popular Peranakan dish, Kueh Pie Tee. They don’t only provide the ingredients including the cute tee cups, braised turnip and boiled egg and shrimp, but for newbies like me they have helpful instructions so you know what to do.
Once you’ve nailed that one it’s time to try mixing up your first Rojak Petis, or you can simply go for something more familiar, like the generous seafood buffet.
After dinner I could have gone out into the night to do some more exploring but there was something in my room that was calling my name. A big beautiful bath and a comfy bed. Two of the best things in the world in this gal’s book.
Village Hotel Changi
For so many international visitors, Changi is the place you fly in and out of rather than spend any real time in. But there’s more to this corner of Singapore than my favourite airport.
The Village Hotel Changi is found next to nature reserves and wetlands on the coastline. You can hop on a boat across to the island of Pulau Ubin, go bike riding through beautiful nature areas, or grab a bite to eat at the Changi Village Hawker Centre.
The hotel also has a range of dining choices, with five restaurants and cafés offering local and international cuisine in both buffet and a la carte options.
The Village Hotel Changi also has two pools. The one on the ground floor is above ground and features a glass wall, which means people sitting in the nearby restaurant can see the parts of people that are underwater.
But for me the best pool is the one on the roof, which has views out over the sea and is the perfect place to watch planes coming in to land. There’s something very soothing about floating in water underneath frangipani trees and lazily guessing if Singapore Airlines or another carrier will be coming past next.
And when it’s time to catch your own plane out, the airport side of Changi is just a ten-minute ride away.
Amanda Woods travelled and stayed as a guest of Far East Hospitality. All thoughts and opinions remain her own.
You can also check out an interview with the manager of Village Hotel Katong, Brett Walker, here.
The Village Hotel Changi is one of my top picks for hotels close to Changi Airport.