18 cheap things to do in the daytime

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Get out and see the city without breaking the bank: TOS staffers round up Singapore’s best budget-friendly activities for morning, noon and night, all costing just $10 or less. This list of daytime activities'll keep you busy and full of bucks

First published on 3 Oct 2011. Updated on 12 Feb 2012.

Learn the history behind the cable car
Look beyond the Swarovski crystals and the romantic ‘sky dining’ that defines the Singapore Cable Car Ride’s 7-Star VIP Jewelled Cabin to discover the story behind these high-altitude people movers. The newly opened exhibits at the Cable Car Museum trace things back to the 1974 launch. Check out a first-generation car, or step inside a life-sized Lego cable car: they say this took 380 hours to build. Imbia Lookout, Sentosa (6270 8855, www.mountfaber.com.sg). Daily 8.30am-5.30pm. $3.

Tai chi in the parks
It’s never too early to start. Join the old folk at East Coast Park (Mon-Sat 6.45-8.15am) or Duxton Plain Park (daily 6am) and relieve your soul of daily stress through tai chi. To have a go at alternative takes on this traditional Chinese martial art, visit the Botanic Gardens, where you can try Fan Dance (Mon, Wed, Fri & Sun 7-8am) or Sword Exercise (daily 8-9am) to swing into something new. www.nparks.gov.sg. Free.

All-you-can-lick gelato
Step up to the gelato buffet at Lippolis for $9.90++. Caution: may cause brain freeze. #01-06 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St (6333 9334, www.lippolis.com.sg). Buffet Mon-Sat 2-6pm.

Fancy a game of tennis?
Test out your backhand at a world-class facility. The Kallang Tennis Centre is where the official matches in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games were held. Players can rent courts at prices ranging from $3.50 to $9.50 per hour. The centre has 1,219 seats, so you can invite as many spectators as you like. BYO strawberries and cream. 52 Stadium Rd (6348 1291). Daily 7am-10pm.

Take a dip in a public pool
There are over 20 public swimming pools in Singapore, where admission fees range from $0.50 to $2. Don’t roll your eyes – have you seen the state-of-the-art facilities at some of these places? The Sengkang Swimming Complex (57 Anchorvale Rd, 6315 3574; Tue-Sun & public holidays 8am-9.30pm) boasts eight slides and a jacuzzi, while the Jurong West Swimming Complex (20 Jurong West St 93; 6515 5332; Wed-Mon & public holidays 8am-9.30pm) isn’t far behind, with a ‘lazy river’, jacuzzi and a slide.

Build a sandcastle
Snap out of your daydreams – sandcastles can be built on land, too; not-for-profit organisation Castle Beach conducts free workshops at Castle Beach in East Coast Park every Saturday and Sunday between 3.30pm and 7pm, rain or shine. Even when it rains, it doesn’t last for more than a half hour, and the sand gets prepped for building. Bring your own tools, though – it’s $38 to purchase a set. East Coast Park, near Carpark E2 and the Cable Ski Park (6346 2252, www.castlescanfly.com/castlebeach). Free.

Feel the heat of reiki
Sit in on a monthly talk by The Reiki Centre’s resident healer Elaine Gruny, who covers the finer points of this Japanese spiritual practice that’s meant to redirect your life-force energy. The goal is to make people more aware of their bodies and alleviate stress. It’s worth a shot when funds are low. 42a Joo Chiat Pl (6346 7030, www.thereikicentre.com.sg). Email elaine@reikicentre.com.sg to sign up. 19 Oct; noon-1.30pm. Free.

Plan a fancy (yet frugal) tea party
Ensconced in a corner of Simpang Bedok, the still-unsung Badoque (a frou-frou play on ‘Bedok’) can be hard to find, but this hole-in-the-wall café’s worth the schlep for its T-4-2 deal. Bring your closest confidant(e) for a feelgood tea party that includes a spread of eight different pastries, four mini sandwiches and as much tea and coffee as you can drink. The midday rendezvous only sets a pair of pals back $9. 298 Bedok Rd (6446 6928, www.badoque.sg). Tue-Fri 3-5pm.

Get your nails professionally polished
The ‘Express Mani’ promotion at Nails Bar is touted as ‘a sweet deal’, and we have to agree. All decked out in shades of pink, the chain’s newly opened branch outside Tanjong Pagar MRT is the place to get your digits painted for a fiver. #01-02 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link (6245 7266, www.nailsbar.com.sg). $5.

Get on the ice
It may be hot outside, but we got ice, ice baby; the Skating Rink is 600 sq m of solid fun – the ideal rink to try out Michelle Kwan-inspired triple axels and chassés (after all, she did fly in to christen it). Personal skates aren’t allowed, but make sure you bring a pair of socks. It’s $7 for admission, $3 for skates and – gasp! – $6 for foot-warmers, so save your shekels for a post-skate hot chocolate. Canal Level, The Shoppes at MBS, 10 Bayfront Ave (6688 8868, www.marinabaysands.com). Daily 10am-5pm, 6-10pm.

Taste an upgraded stall
Undergoing a complete makeover, as well as a transfer to trendy Duxton Hill, one of our new favourite lunch spots is Wok & Barrel, the renamed version of Madam Tan’s Nasi Lemak at Maxwell Food Centre. The trendy space displays photographs from Marcus Mok, a bright orange leather couch sits in the entrance and tables with plenty of room for groups. The lunch menu includes satisfying plates of crispy chicken ($7.80+) and the succulent five-spice pork ($8.80+), served with rice, salad and the restaurant’s own chilli sauce (beware of the fire-red one!). Imported craft beers ($11.90- $16.90) are attracting attention too but with our current budget, best for another day. 13 Duxton Hill (6220 0595, www.thewokandbarrel.com). Lunch served Tue- Fri from 11.30am-3pm.

Slurp up a cheap bowl of ramen
It’s not authentic Japanese soup stock, but we guarantee you won’t find a more gratifying bowl of ramen for less than a tenner. The brothers behind HomeBaked Dough started out selling home-made cookies, hence the peculiar stall name, but soon added Asian fusion ramen to the menu. Treading the fine line between ramen, Chinese hand-pulled noodles and er, bak chor mee (minced-meat noodles), HomeBaked Dough’s bowl of ramen in pork-bone broth ($5.50) comes with chewy noodles, discs of char siu (Chinese barbecued pork) and a generous helping of crispy beansprouts and chopped spring onions. It just doesn’t get any better than this. #02-04/05 Teck Kee Coffeeshop, Blk 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza (9437 7267, www.homebakeddough.com).

Monkey around at the Reserve
Often shooed away for trying to cop a snack or for being a general nuisance, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve’s agile long-tailed macaques actually live within tight-knit social hierarchies – much like we do. The park’s resident monkey experts offer peeks at the little-seen civilised side of these mischief-makers at no charge. Meet at Ranger Counter, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (6554 5127, www.nea.gov.sg). 5 Oct, 12 Nov & 10 Dec; 5-6.30pm. Go to www.nparks.gov.sg for future dates. Free.

Half-price movie tickets
Big-name blockbusters that might have passed you by can be seen for $5 at Golden Village Tiong Bahru’s ‘Catch Up Movie’ screenings. Go crazy and throw in an extra $5 for a small popcorn. www.gv.com.sg.

Check in for a massage
No disrespect to the no-frills joints scattered across the city – there will always be a need for last-minute, knotted-muscle relief – but there is something to be said for being able to visit a hotel spa for the same price. The spa at Hotel Re!, wittily named Re! Fresh, offers a ten-minute head-and-shoulder massage for the same price as that offered by its competitors or even less. Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill, 175A Chin Swee Rd (6827 8288, www.hotelre.com.sg). $10.

Fringe benefits
Mr Li, who offers $6 haircuts in the alley behind 23 Amoy Street (daily 10am-4.30pm), is a fixture on the Singapore scene – literally. His special barber’s chair is embedded in the pavement, in precisely the same spot where it has been located for some 50 years. Li is one of the few remaining street barbers in the area – and he’s honest to a fault. ‘I can only do simple styles,’ he says. And sorry ladies, he doesn’t cut women’s hair: ‘I’m afraid it’ll look bad and they’ll get mad at me.’ For an even better deal – in a salon, no less – try New Station Beauty & Hair (#01-06, 441A Clementi Ave 3; 6659 4048, two more outlets in town). Regular cuts start at $3.90. If you’re planning to go back more than four times, consider obtaining a year-long ‘membership’ (valid only at the branch where you sign up) for $15 – at that point, haircuts cost just $1. Oh, and ladies are welcome.

Relax your mind and body
After a hectic week, it’s reassuring to known that relief is available at a price that won’t add to your stress. Enjoy rejuvenation from the inside out by attending a workshop at Sahaja Yoga (Nirmala Yoga Centre, #05-02 Chye Sing Building, 87 Beach Rd; 9062 5254, info@sahajayoga-sg.org. Every Tue; 7.30-9pm) where you’ll learn to connect with your spirit, cope with stress and improve your general health. Another option is the evening walk-in meditation sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at the Kadampa Meditation Centre (134 Neil Rd; 6438 1127, www.nkt-kmc-singapore.org. $10). This Tibetan Buddhist organisation believes meditation is most effective when it’s analytical and focused on one subject. Sessions start promptly at 7.30pm, so don’t be tardy.

Spend the afternoon at a concert hall
Spend your day of rest at the Esplanade Concert Hall, treating your ears to tunes from local musicians. Once a month the free concert series, Beautiful Sunday, features performances by local musicians. This month the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band serves up jazz favourites, including pieces by Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr (www.esplanade.com). 23 Oct; 3pm. Free.

By TOS editors
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