One of the most important things to remember when planning a trip is choosing a hub as well as the location of accommodation. Having to choose a strategic point to base your trip from is essential as it cuts time, effort, costs, and maximizes quality time spent in that destination.
At The Next Escape, we plan our itineraries very carefully (a few months ahead of our trip more often than not!) so we can make time extra time to enjoy, relax, meet people and of course to make time for any unforeseen delays or unscheduled side trips.
Having been to Singapore many times, it is small and compact enough that most of the time, walking around it suffices. For first time overseas travelers, Singapore would be one of the best places to test the waters of international travel. It is safe, walkable and has plenty of activities to choose from. I should know, Singapore was my first (and solo) international travel destination out of the Philippines many years ago!
My recent trip to Singapore took me to the Bencoolen area where I stayed at the Accor property at ibis Singapore on Bencoolen for the first time, where it felt a bit more relaxed, quieter and laidback.
FAST FACT: Bencoolen Street was named after Bencoolen (presently named Bengkulu), Sumatra (Indonesia) where Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, used to be a Lieutenant Governor.
The choice of ibis Singapore on Bencoolen as a base was quite strategic as there are a lot of walkable destinations nearby. Or if you are feeling it, cycle around using the hotel’s bamboo bicycles, available for free. Here are our top destinations around Bencoolen and beyond.
1. Bugis Street (5 minutes walk)
The present Bugis Street is touted as “the largest street-shopping location in Singapore”. The area is a maze of shopping stalls crammed side by side selling anything from key chains to t-shirts to hats to gold plated bracelets to take home as a ‘pasalubong’ or gifts to take back home. Wondering where your office co-worker got you your Merlion magnet? Chances are it was bought here.
2. Singapore Art Museum (8 minutes walk)
The Singapore Art Museum is a restored 19th century mission school now currently housing exhibitions of contemporary art pieces in the city-state and beyond. SAM organises the Singapore Biennale and there are guided tours in English daily on a first come, first served basis.
3. Little India (9 minutes walk)
Singapore’s Little India developed from a racial segregation policy of the British colonial masters. Now such is not the case of course, but the cultural remnants remain as the district is home to heritage buildings like the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple and the Central Sikh Gurdwara.
4. Arab Street (10 minutes walk)
Next to the imposing Sultan Mosque are colourful shops and restaurants, the Arab Street used to be an enclave of Singapore’s Arab and Javanese sailors and traders. The street is now home to hipster cafes, museums and multi-ethnic restaurants which come alive after office hours.
5. Peranakan Museum (13 minutes walk)
Located right on the Armenian Street is the first museum ever dedicated to Peranakan culture in Singapore, Malacca (Melaka), Penang and other Peranakan communities in the region. Peranakan Chinese are descendants of the Chinese who settled in present day Malaysia and Singapore and have assimilated Nusantara customs.
6. Boat and Clarke Quays (25-26 minutes walk)
The epicenters of Singapore nightlife are the restaurants, pubs and clubs right on these historic quays, which used to be busy centres of commerce since the founding of modern Singapore in 1819. River cruises and river taxis regularly operate from Clarke Quay and are another way of seeing the city from a different perspective. Boat Quay and Clarke Quay are within a 12 minute walk of each other.
7. Merlion (27 minutes walk)
A trip to Singapore is never complete if you haven't met its most iconic statue: the Merlion at the Merlion Park across the Esplanade - Theatres on The Bay. While the Merlion never figured in any local folklore or myths of Singapore, it has become an enduring symbol of the city-state.
Further afield, one may reach destinations like Chinatown, and famous hawker area Lau Pa Sat from ibis Singapore on Bencoolen through the Bugis MRT Station which is both connected to the East West Line (Green Line) and connects you to enclaves like Tiong Bahru (EW17) and the Downtown Line (Blue Line) which takes you to the Botanic Gardens (DT9). With careful planning, choosing the right accommodations can really make a significant impact on your travel experiences.