EXPLORING SINGAPORE'S UNDERGROUND

Singapore may be a relatively small city, but there’s a lot to explore when you consider that many parts of the country are multi-layered. Apart from ground-level attractions and high-rise malls, there's a sophisticated underground network of trains, shopping centres, passenger tunnels, underpasses, and the famous Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) which runs 20 meters under the seabed at its deepest point. So if you’re reluctant to get wet in a tropical thunderstorm, or just feel like escaping the heat, head underground and discover some amazing places.
underground tunnel

Singapore has its fair share of hustle and bustle, with several underpasses connecting the many buildings and towers to each other. Fortunately they are mostly well-signed, so if you become disoriented while making your way under a major intersection, you need only follow the signs to emerge at the correct point.

For some music with your underground commute, head to the underpasses around Orchard Road, where buskers perform lively tunes on guitars, small electric pianos, and even harmonicas. Many buskers choose oldies from the 60s and 70s and add plenty of sparkle to an otherwise busy passageway. A few buskers are visually handicapped so take time to marvel at their talents and, if you feel like it, show your appreciation by dropping in a few coins or notes.

mrt doors

With the music behind you, it’s time to ride the rails. Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is super fast and super organised and you may easily be surprised at how quickly you can find yourself out of the city and in another part of the country in just a few stops.

But before you board, have a look at some of the posters and artwork. Many stations feature great information on an upcoming performance, or a sale nearby. Some are decorated with work by art students who’ve been commissioned to display their projects. On weekends, a stroll past the station to the air-conditioned feeder tunnels may bring you to a collection of students practicing for a dance performance or play. Watching these kids do their thing is quite an experience!

mall bags

Many MRT stations are directly connected to underground shopping malls that spread under large parts of the city. So in effect, you can travel from part of the CBD to another and never emerge into the sunlight. And that’s okay for the serious shopper or foodie, because just about all these malls have food stalls that cater to every palette imaginable. There’s no eating on the trains but there’s plenty to chow down in these basement food markets.

In fact, you can begin your basement experience in Changi Airport itself. The B2 level at Terminal 3 is a long and wide expanse of retail and cafes, with supermarkets and convenience stores, lucky draws, and even a fountain to just sit and watch the world go by. 

shipping port

And speaking of water, if you’re heading to the city from the airport, ask your driver to take you via the Marina Coastal Expressway. It's a short detour but worth the trip. The five-lane underground highway is an architectural marvel that dives 20 meters beneath the seabed at its lowest point, before surfacing to a gorgeous view of Marina Bay to your right and the container port to your left.

When you finally do emerge, don’t be surprised to see the day already dissolving in a spectacular tropical sunset. That’s the time to head to the various night clubs and underground restaurants and bars around and near the river. A little exploring or a quick chat with a passerby may land you in a trendy new nightspot that’s not on the map.

Singapore has greater depths to offer than initially meets the eye, so go ahead and make your way underground. You'll get a new perspective and come to know the city on a whole different level.