Jamie L.T. Mapa

Correspondent

  • Singapore, Asia

Jamie L.T. Mapa is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent based in Singapore. A native New Yorker raised under the influence of the Filipino “big fork and spoon,” Mapa brings a unique perspective to the southeast Asian food and social scene. She graduated from New York University and has honed her investigative and writing skills at ABC News, in addition to freelance writing on Asian sociopolitical topics. While Singapore is her base, Mapa often visits the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Interests outside of travel include dance, baking, running along the Singapore River and a never-ending quest to find the perfect slice of pizza in the Far East.

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  • On July 2, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best outdoor activities in Singapore?

    Singapore is a very outdoorsy country, mainly due to the weather.  While it does rain almost weekly, and usually for a short amount of time, it's expected to be consistently hot and humid all year round which makes planning activities and abiding to outdoor routines easier.

    Marathons and running groups have been all the craze on the little island with over 50 races planned since the start of 2013.  Singapore has sits own Runners Group (SGRunners.com) with a race calendar and regularly scheduled practice runs throughout the country.

    Staying with the athletic route, there are several bike and walking paths including four hiking paths to Singapore's highest peak at the Bukit Timah Natural Reserve.  The National Parks Board offers free guided tours at 9:25am every third Saturday of the month.  It may not be Mount Everest, but the view from 535 feet up from a forrest is quite stunning.

    For those looking to experience the outdoors with a little less athletic activity, Singapore attracts Billboard topping mainstage talent and has likewise been a great breeding ground for local 'up and coming' singers and bands.  Aerosmith, Psy and Ceelo Green recently graced the outdoor stage at Gardens By the Bay and Rihanna, The Killers and Justin Bieber are scheduled acts for the annual F1 Race in September.  Occasionally you will find free of charge events - in a country often cited as being one of the most expensive to live in - such as Baybeats: a showcase of Singaporean and regional bands hailing from countries like Malaysia, Korea and the Philippines; 20+ acts and thousands gather at the outdoor Esplanade Theatre located at the mouth of the Singapore River for three days annually.  You may want to check out SISTIC, Singapore's ticket central, for more information on tickets and upcoming events.

    Other music festivals and outdoor activities focused on the arts are often held at Fort Canning and East Coast Park along with outdoor movies (some with a drive-in theme) and the country's annual Shakespeare in the Park.

    Singapore is an outdoor traveler's dream adventure; make sure you spend some time exploring the hidden gems the country has to offer! 
  • On July 1, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best neighborhoods in Singapore?

    Like any country, Singapore has a number of neighborhoods, each with its own style and feel.  When you visit, expect to see a skyline filled with skyscrapers and bright lights as the Republic is often referred to as the financial centre and hub in southeast Asia.  During the day, the Central Business District is bustling with locals and expats alike, businessmen and women shuffling from one meeting to the next in the sweltering heat.  At night however, like Wall Street, most of the CBD shuts down.  Here’s a look at a few neighborhoods and what to expect during daytime and nighttime play.

    CBD: is one of the most expensive districts to live in as a result of its proximity to, well, itself.  A majority of the financial institutions reside in the CBD so commuting to work is a breeze.  During the day, there are a bunch of lunch options including hawker centres at food courts like Lau Pa Sat, Golden Shoe Food Centre and Asia Square.  At night however there are limited food options bar a 24 hour McDonalds.  The best way to experience the CBD at night would be from the top – of a building that is.  There are rooftop bars on some of the tallest structures in Singapore which offer a fantastic view of the city skyline.

    The Quays: Starting at the mouth of the Singapore you’ll find Boat Quay, followed by Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.  Boat Quay has a string of bars and pubs and some decent restaurants, mostly frequented by the Happy Hour after-work crowd.  Less than 1km up the river directly after Boat Quay is Clarke Quay.  Clarke Quay is the most touristy of the Quays and has an animated pixar-esque feel to it.  The food is commercial (if you look close enough, you will find a Hooters and Chili’s on the stretch), but the view from the main bridge crossing the Singapore River is worth a 30 minute trip.  It’s a great location for people watching; just don’t be surprised to see locals propped up on the bridge with a bottle of their favorite alcohol and mixer enjoying the sights.  Following Clarke Quay is Robertson Quay.  Robertson Quay has a more family and residential feel to it and is a popular location for weekend brunches and dog walking.  There is delicious Japanese food in the area and an eclectic mix of sports, whiskey, wine and sake bars.

    Tiong Bahru: this is Singapore’s up and coming hipster vibe neighborhood likened to Williamsburg or the Mission; it is perfect for Foodies or vintage goers looking to experience a more localized Singapore.  You will find a mix of acclaimed local food in the area with Tiong Bahru Food Market and Hawker Centre and local staples like Por Kee Eating House.  A mix of old meets new is the best way to describe Tiong Bahru – within one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country, you’ll also find modernized fare including the Orange Thimble, a café and gelato shop, and Open Door Policy (OPD) a western themed restaurant that’s as refreshing as an ice cold beer on a hot Singaporean day. 

    Emerald Hill:  is home to Ice Cold Beer, an establishment known for its wings as much as its beer, located in a shophouse built in the early 1900s.  Emerald Hill is situated near Orchard Road and is comprised of a short stretch of bars and restaurants which were once owned by the country’s wealthiest Peranakans.  A few well-known establishments other than Ice Cold Beer include No. 5 Emerald Hill, Que Pasa and Peranakan Place.

    Orchard Road: is the Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills or Avenue des Champs-Élysées of Singapore.  From high-end designers to worldwide department stores, Orchard Road can cater to all of your shopping needs.  The neighborhood is one of the most expensive to reside in with towering condominiums and is easily accessible via public transportation or taxi.  Surrounded by extravagant malls, hotels and dining options, Orchard Road is a must visit for any traveller.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best day trips near Singapore?

    It is easy to assume that Singapore is only one island, but most - even those living on the main island - often forget that Singaore is actually comprised of 63 different islands.  The largest and main island is referred to as Singapore Island or Palau Ujong, which literally means island at the end in Malay.

    If you are spending some time in Singapore and looking for a different experience outside of Orchard Road and Clarke Quay, here are a few ideas for day trips near the main island:


    Pulau Ubin: is one of the remaining areas of Singapore that has not been urbanized, retaining its old world rural charm.  Many say if you're looking for life in Singapore decades ago, then just hop on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin and you would have travelled time in just 15 minutes and S$2.50 later.  There are approximately 100 villagers residing on the 10km island and the main mode of transportation are bicycles.  Bikes can be rented near the jetty once you step foot on the island.  Though finding your way around the island should be much easier than decoding the bus map on the main island, residents are nonetheless very helpful (with some even offering invites into their oldschool bungalow homes, clearly created before the highrise condominiums) and happy to see visitors.  There is one local eatery on the island not far from the jetty and a wetland reserve on the southeast coast which you can bike to for a coastal beach view.

    Sentosa: is located on the main island of Singapore and is comprised of resorts and reclaimed land with man-made beaches using sand from Indonesia and Malaysia.  While Sentosa can be reached by car, the easiest way to get to the island during the day is via the Sentosa Express monorail from the Harbourfront MRT station.  Total commute time is ~15 minutes and transportation on the island is free with the exception of taxis.

    Sentosa is a great way to spend a day in Singapore or plan a staycation at for couples and families.  There is the Forbes four star rated property Capella which also houses the five star rated Auriga Spa.  Other popular accommodations on the island include Shangri-la Rasa, W Sentosa Cove, and Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa.

    Shortly after the entrance into the island there is the Resorts World complex - Singapore's first casino and home to Universal Studios theme park, a hotel and shopping malls.

    Activities on the island include Sentosa Golf Club, the only golf course in Singapore open to the public and the location of the annual Barclays Open; Wavehouse, an artificial wave creator where you can learn to surf; ziplining and the luge and skyride.  After a day of fun in the sun, indulge in a dinner at one of the acclaimed restaurants opened by these world renowned chefs: Joël Robuchon's restaurant at Hotel Michael, the recently opened Ocean Restaurant at Resorts World by Iron Chef Cat Cora or the japanese restaurant and chef kunio tokuoka joining his fellow michelin rated chef.  
  • On June 30, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What is public transportation like in Singapore?

    The public transportation system in Singapore is quite developed and the main mode of getting around as owning a car can be a costly investment.  Listed below are different options for getting around the island and some helpful tips:

    Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) - Train and Bus: The MRT is Singapore's main rail line spanning a majority of the country.  There are four lines currently categorized by colors - Red (Northsouth Line), Purple (Northeast Line), Green (Eastwest Line) and Orange (Circle Line) - with an additional blue line (Downtown Line) under development.  For other neighborhoods - mainly residential - there is the Light Rail Transit (LRT) categorized by a grey line on the train map.  Trains start operating at 5:30am and most lines have their last ride between 12AM and 1AM.  Unlike subway lines in a few other countries, Singapore's train stations are extremely clean and safe with an organized queuing system during rush hour.

    There are also thousands of buses - single and double deckers - with a multitude of bus stops and routes.  There are minimal late night buses as well, but a taxi would be the best bet if you're out in the evening after 11pm.  More information on bus routes and times and the MRT map can be found here: www.publictransport.sg

    Taxis:  Taxis are relatively affordable in Singapore and is therefore a common form of transport for residents and visitors.  Depending on the time of day, most taxis charge ~SG$3.20 as their base fare.  There will be additional charges during peak hours, if you're boarding in the Central Business District and late night service.  There are eight different taxi companies in Singapore with ComfortDelgro as the largest of the eight managing over 15,000 taxis.  A tip: you may want to avoid the "premier" taxis known as limocabs which are often black or white (Mercedes or Chevrolet) as their base fare and per meter charge is higher.

    Taxis can be hailed in most areas - though the Central Business District has designated taxi stands - and can also be booked via phone, text/sms and utilizing a web based app.  They run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
  • On June 27, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    Should visitors rent a car in Singapore?

    Renting a car in Singapore is not necessary, especially if you're not accustomed to driving on the left side of the road.

    Here are some suggestions on the best ways to get around in the red dot:

    Public transportation: the country has a rather developed train system known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in addition to buses that run through a majority of the country.  There are also free shuttles from some hotels - it's best to check with your hotel's transportation/concierge desk - and major shopping and tourist centers including Chinatown, Orchard Road and Great World City.

    By bike: Singapore is a very convenient country to ride around on your two-wheeler.  You can bike the width of the country if you have time or utilize biking trails along the coast for a view of the South China Sea.

    By taxi: there are a multitude of taxis centrally in Singapore and if you find yourself outside of the central area, taxis can be booked by a simple phone call, text message or utilizing a nifty smart phone app.  When it rains, however, and during weekday peak hours - when most are traveling to and from work - taxis are almost impossible to hail or book.

    On foot: there's no better way to immerse yourself in your surroundings and really experience the culture than by walking.  Wear light clothes, comfortable shoes and bring a small umbrella.

     
  • On June 25, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What language is spoken in Singapore?

    Nowadays English is the primary language spoken in Singapore though you'll hear a fair amount of Mandarin spoken by locals - especially at local establishments such as hawker centres and Chinese restaurants and stores.

    With Singapore's independence in 1965, the government decided to promote English as the primary language and mode of teaching in schools.  Students, however, are encouraged to be bilingual with most courses taught in English and a separate language class taught in their native ethnic tongue.

    Since Singapore is now largely a melting pot of cultures, the term 'Singlish' has been used to describe the local tongue; it has been likened to British-English with a local Sing-twist (e.g. lift is elevator, carpark is parking lot, "can" and "cannot" are preferred over "yes" and "no", "la" is tacked on to the end of phrases).

    Malay and Indian (primarily the southern Tamil dialect of India) are also common languages heard and two of the main ethnic groups on the island in addition to Singaporean-Chinese and Eurasian. 
  • On June 24, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Singapore?

    Singaporeans love their daily gastronomic staples and are happy to share these goodies in easy-to-pack gifts as souvenirs for visitors.  Below you will find a few food items worth bringing home - or indulging on the flight back - which can be found in both standard groceries and specialty shops:

    Bak Kwa: its literal translation is "dried meat" in Chinese and it is very similar to beef jerky in western cultrure.  The fragrant aroma of candied dried pork, the "traditional bak kwa", from a Bak Kwa shop is hard to miss, especially in Singapore's Chinatown.  These specialty shops do a great job of packaging these square meat slices into containers and vacuum sealing them to ensure the smell and freshness are retained: Kim Hock Guan Bak Kwa - 金福源肉干, 150 South Bridge Road, Chinatown; Kim Hwa Guan, 32 New Market Road, People's Park Food Centre, Chinatown; Bee Cheng Hiang, 28 outlets in Singapore including a stall in Changi International Airport, Terminal 2.

    Kaya Jam: is a light green spread consisting of coconut, eggs, sugar and pandan flavor.  Kaya and toast is as much a staple to any local Singaporean as peanut butter and jelly is to any American.  Here it's served at coffee shops with slices of toast and coffee or milktea and often a side of soft boiled eggs.  Kaya jam is also sold in plastic and glass containers in any Singaporean grocery or food mart including large grocery chain NTUC Fairprice and Cold Storage.  For those who can't wait to try it, you can also visit these popular chains to fulfill your Kaya breakfast needs: Killiney Kopitiam, Ya Kun Kaya Toast and Good Morning Nanyang Cafe.

    Kopi and Teh: these two beverages retain their Malay and Hokkien roots but are more commonly known as coffee and tea outside of Singapore.  Kopi locally is a darker roast with a buttery caramel taste and is thicker than what is served at well-known international chains like Starbucks.  Listed below are a few basic tips to ordering your brew at a local Singaporean coffee shop and brands that offer instant kopi at the aforementioned groceries.


    Kopi: this is the default cup of coffee and is made with sweetened condensed milk (this is already sweet and does not come with additional sugar)
    Kopi C: unsweetened coffee with evaporated milk and sugar (milkier and still sweet, but less than the above option)
    Kopi C Kosong: coffee with evaporated milk, but no sugar
    Kopi O: coffee with no milk, but with sugar
    Kopi O Kosong: coffee with no milk and no sugar
    Brands for purchasing instant kopi: Owl, Gold Kili, 434 Kopi
     
  • On June 24, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What is the weather like right now in Singapore?

    Singapore is currently 30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit and typically remains around this temperature through July.  As the dry season starts in Indonesia, however, fears for a hazy Singapore loom until September.  Last week witnessed unprecedented levels of air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia caused by fires in Indonesia and wind blowing smoke from Sumatra.  With the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) reaching an all time hazardous high in Singapore of 401 last Friday, June 21st - the high in 2006 was 150 - locals were seen donning surgical masks and scarves with a majority of retail shops selling out of face masks. 

    The PSI has dropped drastically the last two days though and the Singapore skyline was visible all day and night on Monday, June 24th.  There is hope for clear skies over the next few weeks with both governments communicating and working closely together.  
  • On June 23, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best rooftop bars in Singapore?

    Singapore has a remarkable skyline with over 4,300 highrises, the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands.  Here are a few places where you can marvel at the lights when the sun goes down while sipping on a cocktail:

    Ku De Ta: is located atop Marina Bay Sands and spans 40,000 square feet, 200 meters above sea level.  With a renowned restaurant, indoor and outdoor lounge, and an infinity pool open to hotel guests, Ku De Ta is the perfect venue for visitors.  Weekend nights tend to be the busiest so expect a long queue in the Sands' lobby and come dressed in your dancing club attire.  Remember to bring your camera to capture the view of the central business district across the bay.

    Lantern: is the Fullerton Hotel's rooftop bar also located on the Marina Bay waterfront facing Marina Bay Sands.  Hotel guests can swim in the rooftop pool while visitors can enjoy a cocktail at an outdoor table or on one of the canopy style beds.  Lantern has a casual atmosphere reminiscent of an upscale South Beach lounge.  It is recommended to visit around 8pm or 9:30pm during the 15 minute light and water show presented across the bay by Marina Bay Sands.    

    1-Altitude: is the world's highest alfresco gastrobar and is located at Level 63, One Raffles Place.  The Gallery & Bar offers breathtaking 360 degree views of Singapore, premium cocktails and food options.  In addition to the rooftop bar, 1-Altitude has six golf simulators (Citygolf, level 61) and Stellar, a fine dining restaurant serving western cuisine on level 62.  The lower levels likewise offer views with floor-to-ceiling windows. 
  • On June 23, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best rooftop bars in Singapore?

    Singapore has a remarkable skyline with over 4,300 high rises, the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands.  Here are a few places where you can marvel at the lights when the sun goes down while sipping on a cocktail:

    Ku De Ta: is located atop Marina Bay Sands and spans 40,000 square feet, 200 meters above sea level.  With a renowned restaurant, indoor and outdoor lounge, and an infinity pool open to hotel guests, Ku De Ta is the perfect venue for visitors.  Weekend nights tend to be the busiest so expect a long queue in the Sands' lobby and come dressed in your dancing club attire.  Remember to bring your camera to capture the view of the central business district across the bay.

    Lantern: is the Fullerton Hotel's rooftop bar also located on the Marina Bay waterfront facing Marina Bay Sands.  Hotel guests can swim in the rooftop pool while visitors can enjoy a cocktail at an outdoor table or on one of the canopy style beds.  Lantern has a casual atmosphere reminiscent of an upscale South Beach lounge.  It is recommended to visit around 8pm or 9:30pm during the 15 minute light and water show presented across the bay by Marina Bay Sands.    

    1-Altitude: is the world's highest alfresco gastrobar and is located at Level 63, One Raffles Place.  The Gallery & Bar offers breathtaking 360 degree views of Singapore, premium cocktails and food options.  In addition to the rooftop bar, 1-Altitude has six golf simulators (Citygolf, level 61) and Stellar, a fine dining restaurant serving western cuisine on level 62.  The lower levels likewise offer views with floor-to-ceiling windows. 
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