In July this year (2018), which is right after most of us joyously celebrated Hari Raya Aidilfitri, I've spent my days searching for a destination I can visit within a short amount of time and still be able to experience quite a number of great things.

I decided to visit Singapore. To some, it may sound pretty common to visit Singapore but I believe this city has things that are left undiscovered by me. You may ask "What's nice in Singapore?".


Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by The Bay, Merlion Park, Haji Lane and Orchard Road are the places that always appear on top of most travellers' mind. Good news is I have visited them all and that's the reason I'm looking for something new in this trip. Therefore, I choose to base in Katong area and explore its vicinity.


 Why Katong area? 

I have several reasons for my decision to explore this neighbourhood. One thing for sure is to get away from the hustle and bustle of the other main areas around the city. Besides, I want to taste the more authentic local ambience. It is typically quieter that sometimes I have to stop and ask myself "am I still in Singapore?" LOL.


I would say this neighbourhood is worth a visit or stay for those who wish to break away from the norm (staying in popular areas like Chinatown or Marina Bay Sands). As a plus point, Katong is conveniently connected via a bus and MRT with the other parts of the city.



 Things to do in Katong area 


1. Morning visit at Seri Senpaga Viyanagar Temple

Image: www.arounddeglobe.com

I started my day by visiting the oldest Hindu temple on the island, Seri Senpaga Viyanagar Temple. Built in the 19th century, this temple features a Chola-style architecture and considered as one of the country's historic treasures. Besides seeing the locals performing their prayer, you can explore some of its unique features including the gold-covered Vimanam (biggest in Singapore), four main granite pillars, Gopuram designed on the Chola traditions and more! | Entrance fee: by donation, Opening hours: 6AM - 11PM daily.



2. Marvel at several vintage collections at Katong Antique House

Image: www.tripexpert.com

Did you know that Katong holds a significant history of the Peranakan descendant? Don't miss out the chance to get deeper into Peranakan history and see some magnificent antique collection showcased in the house called Katong Antique House. You can also learn how the growth of Peranakan culture in this area. | Entrance fee: SGD15 per person (check the latest price before you go), Opening hours: by appointment only



3. Learn about Peranakan at Rumah Bebe


If you're searching for local souvenirs to bring back home, Rumah Bebe is the place for you. This little local shop has a lot of unique Peranakan tableware and utensils that it made you feel like stepping in the olden days. You can find a variety of stunning Batiks and Baju Kebaya in this store. On top of that, take a chance to savour some of the delectable Peranakan delicacies served at this shop | Website: www.rumahbebe.com, Opening hours: 9.30AM - 6.30PM from Tuesday to Sunday, Note: No photo allowed in the shop



4. Lunch 328 Katong Laksa


Finding a place to feed your hungry tummy? are you fancy something spicy, savoury and local-ish? Make your way to the famous 328 Katong Laksa restaurant and treat yourself a mouth-watering seafood laksa. With the fact that Gordon Ramsey ate here once, I guess I don't have to put so much effort to convince you to try their laksa! | Opening hours: 10AM - 10PM (Mon to Fri) and 9AM - 10PM (Saturday & Sunday).



5. Browse various quirky items at Cat Socrates

Image: www.facebook.com/pg/catsocrates

Are you a fan of indie stuff? Be sure to drop by at a store called Cat Socrates. There are various unique items sold here from books, accessories, stationeries and souvenirs. What's interesting about them? The items are mostly made by the local designers. | Website: www.facebook.com/catsocrates, Opening hours: 12.30PM - 9.30PM (closed on Monday).


6. Go for a sweet treat at Birds of Paradise

Image: www.facebook.com/bopgelato

After strolling around the neighbourhood under the hot sun, go for a sweet treat at Birds of Paradise café. They serve something better than ice cream, which is a smooth and refreshing gelato that is made fresh daily using natural ingredients such as basil and blue ginger | Website: www.facebook.com/bopgelato, Opening hours: 12PM - 10 or 10.30PM (closed on Monday).



7. Walk and a picture with the colourful shophouses


No trip to Singapore specifically Katong is complete if you don't walk around Joo Chiat Road to appreciate the colourful and carefully-conserved Peranakan shophouses around the area. These buildings have been around since the early 1900s and typically adorned with the signature ceramic Peranakan floral and pastel colours. Good spot for a picture, too!



 Where I stay in Katong 

During my visit, I was fortunate to experience Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy's facility and hospitality. This hotel is strategically located in the culturally rich Katong area of Singapore. Besides its proximity to the downtown and Changi Airport, this property is also surrounded by several attractions as mentioned above, which is also an obvious reason for my decision to stay here.


When entering the main lobby, there is a reception desk, little café and Mac station for guests to surf the Internet while waiting for something. Check in process was fairly smooth. I received drink vouchers from the receptionist to enjoy some soft drinks or juice at Breez Bistro and Bar.


Now, let's move to the room. Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy boasts different types of rooms including Superior Room (32sqm), Deluxe Room (32sqm), Executive Room (32sqm), Junior Suite (50sqm), Studio Suite (52sqm) and lastly Business Suite (54sqm), which is the type of room I stayed at this property.


Popular among business travellers, this room exudes a modern and chic minimalist décor with a spacious space that allows guests to comfortably move around and store their items. The room is equipped with necessities including a writing desk, broadband access, complimentary Internet and WiFi, LCD flat screen TV with various channels.


Meanwhile, the bathroom has its basic amenities (in-house brand toiletries), a large standalone soaking tub to relax after your long day and a TV attached to the wall. This is the place where I spent my hours before sleep, soaking in the hot water while listening to some relaxing tunes.

Other room features including floor to ceiling windows, sofa bed, luggage rack, minibar, safe deposit box, kiblat praying direction indicator and more.

Bonus point: They also provide a Handy smartphone with unlimited international calls to 10 countries and mobile data for guests during their stay. It is quite convenient if you would like to stroll around the area and wish to remain connected to the Internet

Since Executive Lounge access is one of the benefits of being a suite or executive room guest, I fully make use of this opportunity to experience what it has to offer by having my breakfast while appreciating the fantastic view of East Coast Park as well as the Straits of Singapore. Sounds like a great way to start a day, right?


For breakfast, the Executive Lounge, located on the 17th floor, offers a quite decent amount of menus from fresh fruits, salads, a few main meals like a noodle, rice, meats, slices of bread and desserts. For someone who doesn't really eat much, their breakfast buffet was great and I like the fact that it is more peaceful to have breakfast here compared to their main restaurant, Feast@East. Other Executive Lounge benefits including personalised service and private check-in, all day refreshments, selection of reading materials and complimentary evening drinks.


If you feel not in the mood to explore the city and wish to just stay at the hotel, the swimming pool, baby pool and sun decks are located on the 4th floor and open from 6AM until 10PM. It is an ideal spot to unwind, sunbathing while sipping some refreshing drinks from Breez Bistro and Bar. To keep yourself fit and productive while travelling, you can utilise their workout facilities including treadmills, stationary bikes and a few others are available at their 24-hour fitness center, which is located on the same floor with the swimming pool.

Note: If you're going to Changi Airport, kindly check their shuttle schedule between the hotel and airport on Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy Shuttle Service

To find out more about Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy, you can simply visit its official website or give a call at +65 6344 8000 for enquiries or reservations.


I wish you have a wonderful trip in Singapore. Be sure to put Katong in your to-visit list. My accommodation in Katong was hosted by Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy (Accor Hotels). All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.