SINGAPORE - So you have gone on walking tours of quaint neighbourhoods in Singapore, done a staycation or two, been on hikes and walks in parks and are now stumped for something, anything, to do.
Spend a day at the supermarket.
FairPrice Xtra at Parkway Parade, newly opened, is not the same-old, same-old. This hypermart on the third floor of the mall is packed with things to see, do and buy. If this is the shape of supermarkets to come, then grocery shopping will no longer be a chore to endure with gritted teeth.
Start the day with breakfast. Snag a table at the 50-seat eating area, then head to Tiong Hoe Coffee, one of many Singapore businesses represented at the store, to order a cappuccino ($5.40).
If caffeine makes you jumpy, get a bottle of Cold Brew Oat Zero ($8.50), made with single-origin Colombian beans and Oatly's Barista edition oat milk. The beans are decaffeinated but, because of a unique process using sugarcane, retain their power and oomph.
Coffee in hand, go over to House Of Bakers, which has a big selection of Asian- and European-style breads and pastries. I'd go for mini croissants filled with LNX Dried Scallop Hae Bee Hiam ($5 for three until Wednesday, usual price is $7.90 for three). The light, crisp croissants are filled with a good amount of hae bee hiam, which is made using actor Li Nanxing's family recipe. This is a chance to taste it before buying a whole jar ($15.90) - the store carries it, of course.
Fortified, it's time for exploration. The store is designed so that people in a hurry can nip in and out with no fuss.
Office workers looking to buy breakfast or lunch should take the entrance near the food and drink businesses, bypassing grocery shoppers. Those looking to get a prescription filled at the pharmacy have their own entrance too.
And all other shoppers might want to enter via the main entrance, with its inviting display of fruit and vegetables.
You will notice that in the vegetable section, you can buy garlic, shallots and chillies not in pre-packed trays but loose, in quantities to suit your needs. Stop by to admire the playful display of bananas, complete with foliage and plush monkey toys hanging together with the fruit.
The delicatessen, operated by Maxzi by Indoguna, is worth a stop to gawk at the cheese selection - the widest in any FairPrice supermarket.
There are also Italian prosciutto and truffles. Check out the Japanese snow-aged beef from Niigata, aged in snow-packed rooms so it tastes sweet, mellow and rich.
At some point, you will come upon a beautiful mural spread out over four panels and illuminated by natural sunlight from the store's skylight. FairPrice worked with Singapore creative agency Yellow Octopus and mural artist Jayl Chen, who grew up in Marine Parade, on the installation. Depicted on it is the food Singaporeans love.
Since it is Chinese New Year, check out the festive goodies selection. There is a lot on offer, but this year, you might want to buy the White Rabbit range of snacks.
Yes, these are by the same company that makes the milky candy so evocative of childhood. The range includes Cornflake Cookies ($12.80), Kuih Bahulu ($12.80) and Egg Rolls ($13.80).
At this point, the kids will probably be feeling restless, so they can head to the children's play area to work off some steam.
Grandparents and parents could head to Unity Pharmacy. The pharmacist can do health checks for customers and provide health and wellness advice.
Everybody must be ravenous. Send the kids off to chope a table at the dining area while you shop for lunch.
Grab pre-cut vegetables, a whole fish or other seafood, and some of that snow-aged beef and head over to Ban Tong Seafood - you don't have to pay for the produce at the checkout counter.
At the stall, you can have the ingredients cooked how you like. The cooking charge for seafood and meat is $8 for the first 500g and $2 for every additional 100g. For vegetables, the cooking charge is $4 for 500g. You can pay for the ingredients and the cooking charge at Ban Tong. I would pick a simple garlic stirfry for the vegetables, grilling for the steak, and the fish is excellent with sambal.
If stumped, the stall has a list of seafood, meat, rice and noodle dishes to order, plus burgers, steaks and a kids' menu. The Har Cheong Kai Burger ($16.80) is juicy and good, although I could do with a lot more shrimp paste.
To go with the meal, choose from two craft beers on tap ($6.90 for 473ml) at The Bar, the first cocktail bar in a supermarket and a tie-up with French spirits and wine producer Pernod Ricard.
For dessert, treat yourself to gelato from Alfero Gelato (from $6 a scoop).
My favourite flavours are Sicilian Pistachio and Smoked Scamorza Cheese. But really, what you should check out is the range of gelato sweetened with Allulose, a low-calorie sugar substitute with no trace of bitterness. The pistachio version is excellent. If feeling indulgent, get a giant macaron sandwich with gelato in the middle ($8 each).
You might feel like a siesta, but there is more to see and do.
The beer, wine and spirits selection is staggering, with 700 varieties of wine from 15 countries, 100 types of spirits and liquor and more than 70 varieties of craft beer.
Unusual finds include Abashiri Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft ($7.50), a blue beer from Japan that gets its colour from flowers and seaweed.
If you're planning to drink wine with dinner, get a bottle and take it over to The Bar, where staff can chill it for you for free within 10 minutes. You won't have to queue to pay for the wine either - you can pay at The Bar.
While you wait, have freshly shucked oysters ($15 for six) with a glass of sparkling wine ($7 a glass), a cocktail on tap ($12) or cocktails made to order ($15).
The FairPrice Fizz - made with gin, lemon juice, strawberry syrup, soda water and egg-white foam - is light and delicious.
If that does not appeal, then get the groceries you went to the store for and shop for dinner.
Head over to Jeya's Spices where, if you're lucky, Mr Jeya Seelan, 32, will mix a tub of spices for you. He learnt his trade from his father and runs a wet market stall in Yishun. Now, he has a permanent presence in the east too.
He doesn't just sell dry spice blends - he will custom-make spice pastes using ground shallots, ginger and other aromatics too.
Tell him if you want your rempah more or less hot, or if you're not a particular fan of one spice or another. Prices range from $1.50 to $5 for enough dry or wet spices to cook 1kg of meat, fish or vegetables.
His sayur lodeh rempah is terrific. He can make laksa, rendang, butter chicken and vindaloo spice mixes too, among many others.
After getting the spice pastes, go to the fresh section to get the ingredients for the rest of the meal. Use the Scan & Go function to pay, skipping the queues at the cashiers, before heading home.
During your visit, you would have experienced the future of supermarkets, supported Singapore businesses and brands and helped keep the traditional spice trade alive.
Not bad for a day out, right?
FairPrice Xtra is located at 03-28 Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Road, and is open daily from 8am to 11pm.