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An Exciting Exploration Of Singapore’s Holland Village With Lionel Chee

Holland village

The beautiful Holland Village is more than just a gastronomic destination in Singapore… Lionel Chee’s guide tells it all

Lionel Chee

With 5 years of guiding experience and 30 years working in the hospitality, food and beverage industry, Meet Food Explorer and Tourist Guide, Lionel Chee. In 2018, he was appointed as the Singapore ambassador by The World Food Travel Association. This Peranakan born, former restaurateur cum food tour guide, gives us an insight into the places to explore around Holland Village.

This is exciting! So, let’s begin!

Q: In your own words, why is Holland Village a sight to see and a must-visit destination in Singapore?

A: Holland Village is a classic example of good sensory mapping and tourist landscape. It puts all the correct ticks for a tourist to visit. Although small, it has everything from food, shopping, laid back groceries, newspaper stands, history, to more.
When taking into consideration of a location, one must also take note of the time factor. A tourist can experience the energy for a few hours and move on to another offering somewhere in the city. It’s like our Universal Studios where a traveler can complete the experience within a day and not a few days.

Q: How does Holland Village play a vital role in promoting Singapore Tourism? Please elaborate. 

A: Notice that Holland Village actually sits between the central and extreme west end of the island. This is probably one of the few places of interest in- between. I feel it is important especially it’s along the traveling routes of tour buses from Malaysia. Jurong Bird Park will be moved to the zoo by the end of 2022 which leaves nothing much other than Ice city and Science Centre to promote as a stopover. Most Malaysian tourists are on a tight schedule and I think Holland Village fits into the profile easily.

Night life in Holland village

Q: List 3 things to best describe Holland Village as one of the best food destinations in the country. 

1) Holland Village is within walking distance of about 10 minutes to everywhere.
2) Holland Village suits the budget of every visitor.
3) Holland Village has a variety of high-end foods all the way down to heartlands.

The beautiful stores in Holland village

Q: How can tourists get the best experience here? 

A: Follow a tour group and you’ll get to experience the history, taste, smell, and insights into Holland Village. You’ll get to walk and see local attractions and the local guides will provide information about the sights you’re seeing where you can explore Holland Village in an authentic and deeper travel experience. It is also a great way to meet new people.

Q: Some people travel for food, some for the beautiful spaces, and some for the hype. Based on your experience with many tourists, what are the common factors that attract them to Holland Village?

A: Many travelers would often visit Holland Village for its food and shopping offerings. The time factor also plays a factor as a traveler could almost find anything here at Holland Village which makes it convenient for them.

Q: List 5 hip & chic places that everyone should visit here.

1) 2am:dessertbar – Having established itself since August 2007 as one of the city’s foremost food and drink establishments at its Holland Village location, the 60-seater has once again redefined the dessert experience by pushing the boundaries between sweet and savoury with progressive, carefully researched offerings that are as delectable as they are beautiful.

Wine and dine at Holland village

2) Sumo Salad – This is an interesting salad bar located in the basement area of the train station. It offers a unique offering for vegans and hardcore health nuts like me a chance to try great salads without breaking the bank. It offers delicious salads, wraps and soups and it is capable of producing the finest blends of herbs and vegetables to provide a top-quality treat.

Salad corner at Holland Village

3) Sunday Folks – A ultra-chic dessert shop that will satisfy your sweet tooth. They offer not just any desserts but handcrafted soft-serve ice cream creations that are truly Instagram-worthy, in an array of flavours such as roasted pistachio, Madagascan vanilla, and good old dark chocolate.

More desserts in Holland village

4) Take a walk through time and visit the Holland Village Shopping Centre. Brings back a lot of nostalgia as you’ll find old school shops that offer art and crafts, novelty shops, imported kitchenware stores, ethnic home décor shops, and more.

5) Lim’s Art and Living – This place is the one-stop for arts and crafts.

Arts and crafts at Holland Village

Q: If a person has only two hours to go out and about around Holland Village, what would be the best suggestion for him?

A: A food tour would be two hours just nice. Walkthrough the hidden places and explore Holland Village’s eclectic food offerings together with a good local guide. There are some tour offerings from the Society of Tourist Guides Singapore that cover Holland Village which will be suitable for consideration once our travel border is open. 

Q: According to Chef Roy Yamaguchi, founder of Roy’s Restaurant and Hawaiian fusion cuisine, different countries express their culture through food. Is this true? Please elaborate. 

A: Welcome to the world of culinary tourism. The act of traveling for a taste of a place to get a sense of place. Anthony Bourdain once wrote: Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma.
Sometimes we can virtually see the entire travels and history of the people that visited us long ago for example Debal Curry which is available in Malaysia. Our oldest ingredient found in Singapore which is still available today is chinchalok dating back some 8-900 years ago. Spring Rolls can be found around the world. In Indonesia, it’s called Lumpia but we can also find Lumpia in Venezuela. The same goes for Satay which can also be found in Cape Town.

Q: More than just a gastronomic destination, Holland Village has been marked as Singapore’s bohemian enclave. Please list down your personal favorites that you think everyone should visit at least once. 

  • For those who are seeking for creativity and art supplies, they can visit Lim’s Art and Living.
  • For those who want to immerse themselves in Singapore’s local music scene together with local bands, they can visit Wala Wala Café Bar.
  • For those who want to shop for an eclectic collection of toys and be transported back to the 60s, they can visit Khiam Teck Store.
  • For a good dessert supper, 2am:dessert bar would be the perfect spot!
  • Or visit Fosters Steakhouse, an Old dame in Holland Village for Hainanese western steaks and soups.
Food and bar at Holland Village

Q: What is your favorite part of the village? 

A: Holland Piazza – which is the of the world in Holland Village District. It reflects an ambiance of nostalgia and progression of the city where it is a niche for the expatriates, youngsters & professionals. Featuring a 3 story newly refurbished mall with a variety of offerings that cater to people of all ages.

Q: If you could say, what are the untold secrets that people still don’t know about the Village?

A: Other than the Hakka Cemetery that has no bodies under the tombstone, a stone throw away is the Ministry of Education Heritage Centre where one can play snakes and ladder on a large open ground.

Q: What are your memorable moments throughout the years of being a tourist guide of Holland Village? 

A: Funny – When you see some enforcement officers coming round to check the establishments because booze cuts off at 10.30 pm, you can see everyone downing the beer as fast as they can!
Emotional – When many parts of the village get taken down for redevelopment like the One Holland mall which will be completed in about 2 years.
Happy – That old school dame Holland Village Shopping Mall along with Thambi newspaper stand continue to exist through good and bad times. The train station does help a lot for people who come down from the east.

Historical place in Holland Village

Wow, sounds pretty amazing already! With so many things to be seen, taste and shop, we honestly can’t wait to explore the beautiful Holland village soon.

Ezza Zainal

Be the storyteller that everyone can’t get enough of. Period!

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