The business card of Tong Mern Sern Antiques forewarns all who enter this black hole of bric-a-brac: "We buy junk and sell antiques. Some fools buy and some fools sell" (51 Craig Rd., off Neil Rd.; 65-6223-1037). Whichever you are, no visit to Chinatown is complete without a peek into this treasure trove, the contents of which overflow onto Craig Road. Climb to the back where expert restorers are rebuilding Singapore's history, one Art Deco side table at a time. For colonial souvenirs, try the well-priced Ancient Antique Furniture (16 Mohammed Sultan Rd., 65-6844-6006). Travelers drawn to the home-ware heritage of Indonesia may be overstimulated by the copious selection of Javanese hand-carved desks, woven cane planter's chairs, and Balinese princess beds at John Erdos Gallery (83 Kim Yam Rd.; 65-6735-3307; johnerdosgallery.com). Those who prefer the antique textiles of Burma, North Thailand, and Cambodia will appreciate Isan Textile Gallery (42 Jalan Kembangan; 65-6442-4278; www.isangallery.com.sg). It's located off the beaten path in Kembangan, but the museum-quality collection of owner and textile expert Percy Vatsaloo makes it work the trip.
Arab merchants and traders settled in this area of Singapore during the 1820s. Sidewalks still bustle with shoppers haggling over fabrics, spices, and leather. Even a few of the family longhouses known as rumah panjangs remain. But the latest trends are making their way into this historic 'hood along Haji Lane, a more intimate stretch running parallel to Arab Street, the main drag. Salad stocks playful yet practical home wares and casual frocks made for nearby beach holidays (25–27 Haji La.; 65-6299-5805). An intimate incubator for local talent, Pluck balances artful gifts, retro home furnishings, and a well-edited selection of vintage dresses–along with homemade ice creams and sorbets in indigenous flavors like tart soursop, red bean gula malaka, and the addictive Earl Grey and fig (31–33 Haji La.; 65-6396-4048; www.pluck.com.sg). Linger here before heading on to vintage-filled, closet-size spaces like Dulcetfig (41 Haji La.; 65-6396-5648). Check out nascent local brands like Soon Lee (56 Haji La.; 65-6297-0198; www.ishopsoonlee.blogspot.com) and well-priced handbags at Skyroom (84 Haji La.; 65-6392-4533; www.skyroom.com.sg). Don't let the retail madness overwhelm you, and make time to wonder at the shining dome of the Sultan Mosque, Singapore's largest and most majestic.
Scattered amidst the ports and warehouses of the Singapore River are jewelry-box-size gold shops; grocery stores spilling out into the street with abalone, dried sea horses, birds' nests, shark fins, and fruit; and signs in Chinese advertising calligraphers and lantern makers. The six-story Yue Hwa sells everything from Chinese tea leaves to affordable silk cheongsams and other curios (70 Eu Tong Sen St.; 65-6538-4222; www.yuehwa.com.sg). Sitting alongside the antique shops are hip boutiques like Front Row, which stocks up-and-coming Asian designers (5 Ann Siang Rd.; 65-6224-5502; frontrowsingapore.com). Peek into Flair (The Scarlet; 33 Erskine Rd., 01–02; 65-6538-7505; www.flair.sg) and Egg3 (33 Erskine Rd., 01–10; 65-6536-6977; www.eggthree.com) for fun gadgets and knickknacks. Architects, designers, and other local trendsetters appreciate the chic minimalism of dim sum eatery Dim Joy, where chefs from China's Guangdong Province keep the dumplings juicy and entirely authentic (80 Neil Rd.; 65-6220-6986; www.dimjoy.com).
01–30 Millenia Walk
9 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 65 6338 5191
This sleek all-white "lab" in the Millenia Walk mall stocks 100 bespoke chocolate bars in innovative flavors from bergamot to yam with almond. The bars, made from Belgian cocoa, include an unexpected center layer: Standouts include Sichuan Pepper, White Sesame, and French Vanilla from the Exotic Series, which is wrapped in animal-print packaging. The Connoisseur Series goes to the dark side at 40 to 76 percent cocoa, sourced from single-origin plantations in Ghana, Java, and São Tomé.
Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.
Visit Singapore's vibrant Indian neighborhood on a weekday morning before temperatures rise and the streets begin to swarm with local shoppers. Take in the fortune-tellers, flower garland vendors, and aromatic spice grinders; wander past lacquered Hindu temples and sparkling sari shops before heading into the warrens of Serangoon Plaza, which houses Mustafa Centre, a jumble of Indian imports like pashmina shawls, elaborate fabrics, and sandalwood beads plus bargain brand-name electronics (320 Serangoon Rd.; 65-6295-5855; www.mustafa.com.sg). When the smell of spices entices, head to Komala Vilas for satisfying South Indian vegetarian food like potato masala and dhal (lentil curry), which make up for the utter lack of ambience (76–78 Serangoon Rd.; 65-6293-6980; www.komalavilas.com.sg).
Singapore's main shopping drag is a riot of every brand imaginable and then some, mixing designer bags with American snack foods, bespoke perfumes with sassy party dresses. The sheer range of offerings can be overwhelming, so we suggest sticking to this relatively simple path: Nip into Exquisite by Salon 916 for a shampoo that feels more like massage, plus Singapore's speediest blow-dry (Orchard Parade Hotel, 1 Tanglin Rd.; 65-6735-2917). European and hot Indian brands abound across the street at Palais Renaissance (390 Orchard Rd.; 65-6737-1520), and the most aromatic treasures can be found below ground amid the bespoke perfumes sold at Flaming Queen (B1–12 Palais Renaissance; 65-6235-3918; www.flaming-queen.com). Detour down Scotts Road for deals that spill out from tiny storefronts inside Far East Plaza (14 Scotts Rd.; 95-9673-6477; www.fareast-plaza.com), especially the Indian skirts and tunics at Silkland Store (03–61; 65-6734-4843) and the jaw-dropping bikini bargains at Sheer Romance (01–96; 65-6235-8852). Wisma Atria mall (435 Orchard Rd.; 25-6235-2103; www.wismaonline.com) offers international casual-wear brands, but of the options there, it's a local name, Southaven, that's worth a look for well-cut and well-priced cotton frocks (01–12/13; 65-6734-6608). Eclecticism, also at Wisma Atria, is another must stop for party dresses and playclothes (01–07; 65-6732-0938; www.eclecticismshop.com). Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and the like can be found inside Ngee An City (391 Orchard Rd.; www.ngeeanncity.com.sg), but it's much more fun to cross the street and check out what Singapore's own talent is up to—for example, the sturdy yet stylish travel bags from ProjectShopBloodBrothers (03/41–44 Paragon mall, 290 Orchard Rd.; 65-6735-0071).