Any true blue Singaporean would concur that the best of the best local foods are to be found not in fancy restaurants or glitzy hotels, but in the embrace of the heartlands.
Thing is, these gems aren’t always the easiest to find.
Not sure where to start? Try the Makan (Malay for “eat”) Bus.
This specially curated tour takes you into Singapore’s most beloved heartlands to discover the best hawker gems, from Bak Chor Mee (minced meat and noodles) to Bak Kut Teh (pork bone broth). (Check out what the Makan Bus passengers are eating here!)
The bus service will take you to Balestier, Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh, among other places.
Pay a flat fee of $28 each for a one-day pass (children under 12 ride for free!), and you’re free to hop on and off these buses, which run from 11am to 7.30pm daily at 20-minute intervals.
You’ll also be given a brochure listing more than 20 eateries, mostly hawker stalls, as well as maps and the bus schedules.
A tour guide will be on board the bus. Besides talking about the stories behind the dishes and giving tips on how to order the dishes, he will also provide information about attractions along the route, such as MacRitchie Reservoir, Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and the Burmese Buddhist Temple.
Tour guide company MeGuideU’s chief executive, Mr John Ng Pangilinan, 36, says he started the service after noticing that tourists are increasingly interested in exploring off-the-beaten-track places in Singapore.
“They have become more budget-conscious and are looking for more value-for-money dining options outside the city. They also want to experience a slice of Singapore life by visiting shops and hawker centres in the heartland.”
While food tours are common here, Mr Ng Pangilinan says most of them are in areas such as Chinatown and Geylang and keep to a fixed itinerary and food line-up. They typically cost about $60 for a three-hour tour, inclusive of food.
With a “hop-on-and-off concept”, you can customise their trails by deciding which stops to check out at their own pace.
Plus, more routes will be added later this year, in addition to themed experiences for occasions such as Hari Raya.
By Kenneth Goh, The Straits Times, September 2016
Additional reporting by Pinky Chng