Imagine this: you are a beautiful princess from an unnamed European nation on a state visit to Rome.
Frustrated by your busy life, you secretly leave your country’s embassy and spend the night in the apartment of a handsome American journalist.
The next day, he offers to show you around Rome but you decline, opting instead to explore an outdoor market and get a haircut.
By coincidence, you meet this handsome journalist again, this time on the Spanish steps, where he convinces you to spend the day with him.
“Live dangerously. Take all day.
You and he recklessly drive through traffic on a Vespa scooter and then explore the city, ending the day with a kiss and a tearful goodbye as you resume your princess duties.
If the above sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s a brief synopsis of the 1953 American romantic comedy “Roman Holiday.”
Those of a certain vintage may remember this critically acclaimed film which stars the ever-royal Audrey Hepburn as the rogue-turned-princess Ann, and the dashing Gregory Peck as expat journalist Joe. Bradley.
Although it’s not a movie of my age or era (I’m a 90s baby), I know a good movie when I see one, not to mention this Hollywood classic that – without risk of being wrong – transcends generations.
So when my colleague Winnie offered me the chance to live out my “Roman Holiday” fantasies by taking a Vespa ride around Singapore on a weekday afternoon, I jumped at the chance.
Explore Singapore in a vintage Vespa sidecar
Explore Singapore in a Vintage Vespa Sidecar is a historic social entrepreneurship tour of Singapore Sidecars.
As the name suggests, the tour takes guests to heritage areas such as Kampong Glam, Little India and Chinatown, as well as other sites such as the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Civic District in a sidecar Vintage Vespa.
According to co-founder Simon Wong, the sidecar fleet had been engaged in fundraising since 2012, just a few years after Wong lost his wife to cancer.
In 2018, it became a social enterprise after raising funds for the reconstruction of earthquake-stricken Nepal.
As word spread and the tours began to grow in popularity, they eventually caught the attention of the Singapore Tourism Board, which backed them up with heavy marketing.
Today, Wong’s Vespa tours are so acclaimed that even Avengers: Infinity Wars director Joe Russo declared it “the best tour I’ve ever been on” when he came to Singapore in April 2018.
And for good reason, of course.
I mean, who would not Want to soak up the sights and sounds of heritage areas and admire Singapore’s elegant skyline, all while zipping around on an open-air Vespa sidecar?
We started our tour with a brief overview of the places we were going to visit, followed by some snaps with those red and silver vespa scooters at the entrance to the Capitol Theater.
Although we weren’t princesses or in Rome, Winnie and I played our game by dressing up in “Roman Holiday”-inspired outfits, complete with red lipstick, oversized sunglasses and pretentious scarves.
It was a shame we didn’t have our own “Joe Bradley” to travel with, but we enjoyed each other’s company nonetheless, as well as the “princess” treatment we received.
Our tour guides for the day, Wong and lead rider Yusri Sallim, were extremely accommodating throughout the “photoshoot”, guiding us on the best poses and angles we could adopt at various landmarks.
(Thanks to them, I managed not to look too much like a wrapped dumpling in all the photos we took.)
For the record, here is a list of the places we visited (in order):
- Victoria Theater and Concert Hall
- Sultan Mosque
- Haji Street
- Esplanade Pier
That’s what we learned at every pit stop.
Victoria Theater and Concert Hall
Located along Empress Place, the Victoria Theater and Concert Hall is a performing arts center listed as a national monument on February 14, 1992.
It is a complex of two buildings and a clock tower connected by a common corridor; the oldest part of the building was built in 1862 and the complex was completed in 1909.
The building was constructed during the Victorian Revival era which was popular in Britain at the time, and its design reflects this architectural style.
During World War II, the memorial hall was used as a hospital for victims of bombardment by Japanese forces.
When we arrived at this pit stop, I was impressed by how the theater and concert hall blended in with the other hypermodern buildings around it, as well as the rich history behind its walls.
Just as Ann and Joe visited the Roman Colosseum and savored its fascinating heritage and magnificent architecture, we also reveled in the beauty of this famous landmark.
Then, we skirted the roads and landed in front of the Sultan’s mosque.
With its huge golden domes and massive prayer hall, the impressive Sultan Mosque is a must-see if you’re in the historic Kampong Gelam district.
We discovered that the mosque was built for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first Sultan of Singapore, in 1824.
After a hundred years, it was redesigned to become the current mosque by Denis Santry of Swan and Maclaren, Singapore’s oldest architectural firm, and rebuilt in 1932.
With the help of Wong and Yusri, we took some photos of the arch leading to the entrance of the mosque.
After taking the photo, we continued our visit by strolling down the trendy Haji Lane.
Probably one of the narrowest streets in Singapore, this lane is filled with 19th-century shophouses that now house cafes, bars, lifestyle boutiques and independent boutiques.
Thoroughly enjoyed the ride here, washed down with offbeat fun and plenty of Instagram worthy photo opportunities.
Finally, we made a stop at the very end of the Esplanade Pier (between Makansutra Gluttons Bay and The Float @ Marina Bay), where we had stunning views of Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and the central shopping district. business.
This was probably one of my favorite parts of the tour because of the amazing views we had of the city skyline, as well as how a harmonious shot of Wong helped us take in MBS, the museum ArtScience and the skyscrapers of the CBD.
If you want to see Singapore from a different perspective, or even just soak up the beauty of our cityscape as a local/tourist, this place certainly won’t disappoint.
After about an hour and a half, we finished our tour and returned to our starting point – Capitol Piazza.
Even before Wong had a chance to debrief us, I was completely convinced by the experience.
Unlike Singapore driving tours, this Vespa tour allowed us to explore less traveled outdoor trails, with the ease and convenience that walking tours may not be able to provide.
I also got to imagine what it must have been like for Ann and Joe to zip around town on a Vespa scooter with new eyes and a tourist perspective.
If you want to recreate your own “Roman Holiday” experience right here in Singapore, you’ll be pleased to know that this tour is one of the many activities organized by the travel experience platform Pelago.
For the uninformed, Pelago by Singapore Airlines curates a wide selection of travel experiences, both in Singapore and in over 40 global destinations.
Users can easily earn and redeem KrisFlyer miles with every booking on the platform.
From now until July 31, they get S$40 back for every S$100 spent on all site experiences using promo code GOTRAVEL40Terms and conditions of application.
Those planning to book their next vacation soon can also click here to find out more about Pelago.
This Pelago-sponsored article made this writer feel like a princess gone rogue for an afternoon.
Best Pictures via Paramount Pictures and Melanie Lim