School holiday plans: A farm stay and animal adventures right here in Singapore’s ‘countryside’

How To Not Waste Your Annual Leave starring Chua Enlai is a guide to escaping work-from-home fatigue. Singapoliday in Mandai and Kranji, anyone?

Chua Enlai and Karen Tan go on a Singapoliday to rediscover the wild side of Singapore. Watch the video embedded in this story! PHOTO: SPH

If you're feeling a little cooped up from working from home or simply need a break from fast-paced city life, the northwestern part of our island is filled with hidden gems for a tranquil Singapoliday. Think farm-to-fork dining experiences, farm-hopping and plenty of fresh air to spare!

SPH Brightcove Video
How To Not Waste Your Annual Leave starring Chua Enlai is our series about better ways to spend your annual leave instead of working (even more) from home. This week, take a Singapoliday on the wild side of Singapore and rediscover Mandai and Kranji.

You'll discover a new side of the island that you never knew existed, and even achieve some much-needed rest and relaxation. And for parents who want to get the children off their electronic devices this school holidays, and want to have active kids well occupied, the Mandai and Kranji countryside is an ideal place for some family bonding that isn't another mall outing. It's also a great way for the grownups to disconnect and consume your annual leave days effectively.

There's no need to wait for the weekend. Put on your explorer hat, unplug and get back to nature as you venture to these eight unique places in the serene Mandai and Kranji areas for your very own scenic Singapoliday - sunscreen recommended!

Experience idyllic farm life

Staycations are all the rage now and if you're searching for something more unique, you can't go wrong with a farmstay at Gallop Kranji Farm Resort.

A sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city, the expansive pet-friendly resort comprises a cluster of 35 rustic-style villas, and various amenities like a prawning area and fish pond where you will get to feed the aquatic animals through a milk bottle.

If you're not keen on staying overnight, you can simply make a day trip out of it. Entry is free for the public to explore the grounds. The resort is a good jumping-off point to explore the vicinity, as you can take its scheduled shuttle buses to attractions like Bollywood Veggies, Hay Dairy goat farm and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, just to name a few.

Where: 10 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718813
Tel: 6898-9228

Splash about with bullfrogs

Home to an army of around 10,000 American bullfrogs, Jurong Frog Farm is our island's only heritage frog farm. It started out in the 1980s as a production farm, but is now also an activity-filled place for curious folk to get up close and personal with these slippery amphibians.

Leap into the Catch-A-Frog pen for a more hands-on experience (the farm provides gumboots so the kids will love splashing around), or feed the hungry creatures with a container of frog feed, at $2 a box.

You can explore the farm at your own pace or opt for a guided family tour (starts from $15), led by their resident frogologist, which includes a fun show-and-tell, photo opportunities, a frog-feeding session and even a sampling of the farm's own fresh produce like frog meat.

In addition to these attractions, many may not know that this heritage farm is also a green powerhouse. As part of its sustainability efforts, the farm has spent over 20 years developing innovative products so that nothing goes to waste. Besides getting your hands on frog meat, do try its popular bottled Hashima dessert drinks made with harvested frog oviducts, as well as purchase its collagen skincare series launched in collaboration with a biotech company.

Where: 51 Lim Chu Kang Lane 6, Singapore 718864
Tel: 6791-7229
Opening hours: 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesdays to Fridays; 9am to 5.30pm, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (free and open to general public); closed on Mondays

Dine with a view

Waterfront dining exists in the countryside, too! Surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking a large pond, Bistro by GardenAsia is one of the most scenic dining spots in the area.

The bistro brings to the table a delightful mix of Western and Eastern favourites made with farm-fresh ingredients sourced from renowned local growers, such as fish fillets from The Fish Farmer, vegetables from Yili Farm and eggs from N&N Agriculture.

Try its highly-raved-about assam chowder soup, ribeye hor fun or enjoy its signature fish and chips made with fresh sea bass - locally farmed, of course! Then, end your meal with a warm chocolate lava cake or a refreshing scoop of ice-cream, as you forget about your inbox and soak in the serene and rustic atmosphere.

Worried about the lack of air conditioning? Water jets around the pond regularly spray mist to keep the surroundings cool and pleasant.

Where: 240 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718898
Tel: 6898-9111
Opening hours: 10.30am to 4.45pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 10.30am to 9.45pm, Fridays and Saturdays; 10.30am to 4.45pm, Sundays and public holidays; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Support local farmers

Bring the farm-to-fork experience home by doing some retail therapy at The Local Farm, a grocer conveniently located within the same GardenAsia compound.

The store offers a careful curation of products made with fresh produce that has been grown and harvested from renowned local farms. For instance, the ready-to-eat Dashimaki Tamago is made with eggs from Egg Story farm.

There is also a selection of convenient ready-to-cook items like The Soup Spoon's Assam Fish Chowder - perfect for busy working folk who want to eat wholesome meals at home - as well as everyday items made from sustainable materials, such as a cutlery range made with non-toxic rice husk fibre, to help you kickstart a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Where: 240 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718898
Tel: 6898-9111

Culinary day out

Driving is the best way to get around the sprawling Kranji countryside but if you don't drive or prefer a more curated journey, consider joining a day tour organised by local tour agency Wok 'n' Stroll, which specialises in food tours around the island.

Its new From Farm To Table tour is a five-hour mouthwatering escapade that lets you savour the best of local produce at Bollywood Veggies and Open Farm Community, while gaining a deeper appreciation for sustainable farming in Singapore.

Led by lively and passionate food explorer Karni Tomer, each trip is peppered with unique pit stops such as a vertical farm, which is also the world's first low carbon hydraulic commercial farming system (where you also get to see pink mushrooms!), and a visit to the island's oldest surviving dragon kiln.

Where: Meeting point will be set after the tour booking
Tel: 8338-3571

Relish comfort food for the soul

Comfortably nestled within local farm Bollywood Veggies, Poison Ivy Bistro is a farm-to-table eatery where you can tuck into a variety of hearty local nosh at wallet-friendly prices. Healthy eating is made possible here as the restaurant has a no-MSG, pork and lard policy, and uses less salt in its cooking, while most of its ingredients are sourced from local farms, including the Bollywood Veggies garden.

Must-tries include its famous banana bread (made with bananas grown onsite), melt-in your-mouth kueh kosui (steamed tapioca cake in palm sugar, topped with desiccated coconut), tantalising banana curry, as well as a nasi lemak platter featuring Insta-worthy blue pea rice.

Where: 100 Neo Tiew Road, Singapore 719026
Tel: 6898-5001
Opening hours: 7.30am to 5pm (last order at 4pm for kitchen), Wednesdays to Fridays; 7.30am to 7pm (last order at 5pm for kitchen), Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Find the "Hidden Mickeys" at the River Safari

For animal lovers, no trip to this part of the island would be complete without a visit to our state-of-the-art wildlife reserve parks in Mandai. Say hello to our beloved giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia and wave to the playful manatees at The River Safari, Asia's first and only river-themed wildlife park that's home to 7,500 creatures.

But besides the usual attractions like the animal show and the Amazon River Quest boat ride, take the kids on a special Disney-themed Explorer's Trail launched just in time for the school holidays. Pick up your trail booklet for $5, before embarking on a quest where you learn about various animal habitats while completing activities in both River Safari and Singapore Zoo, to redeem exclusive Mickey and Minnie charm keychains.

Also, keep an eye out for the Hidden Mickey photo ops along the way - snap photos with at least three to redeem an exclusive gift! The campaign runs on weekends and public holidays until Dec 27.

Need to refuel? The Mama Panda Kitchen located within the Giant Panda Forest zone serves yummy Chinese food - the panda pau is an adorable option.

If the kids can't get enough of the animals, they can sign up for My Animal Buddy, a virtual programme where they can watch live videos of their favourite animals, as well as engage in interactive sessions with zookeepers and find out what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Where: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826
Tel: 6269-3411
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm (last entry at 6.30pm) daily

Go on safari… at night

The fun does not have to end when the sun goes down! A visit to the Night Safari, the world's first nocturnal wildlife park, is the perfect way to end your Singapoliday excursion. But besides exploring the park on foot or taking the usual tram tour, did you know that you can also witness the creatures of the night via a cosy buggy ride?

The Safari Adventure Tour lets you travel at your own pace in the company of a personal safari guide, who will regale you with the park's best kept secrets and answer all your burning questions as you journey on both buggy and guided walking trails.

Highlights of the tour include an exclusive elephant feeding session, a chance to get up close to the Malayan Tapirs, as well as enjoying reserved seating at the popular Creatures of the Night show. You may also get to spot the park's latest resident, the Aardvark!

If you prefer paving your own way, download the Breadcrumbs app and choose from four walking trails, where you get to "meet" and take photos with animals via augmented reality and complete activities to unlock rewards. Available on both iOS and Android.

Note: The parks are operating at limited capacity due to Covid-19 measures, and all visitors are required to book a time slot in advance. Visit this website for more information.

Where: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826
Tel: 6269-3411
Opening hours: 7pm to 11pm, Thursdays to Sundays; closed Mondays to Wednesdays

Karni Tomer, an avid food enthusiast who founded the food tour company Wok 'n' Stroll, has 10 years' experience taking tourists and local visitors on culinary adventures around the island. She recommends three key tips to maximise your visit to the Kranji countryside.

In partnership with Singapore Tourism Board

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