The shopping hub of Southeast Asia, plucky Singapore is a tiny island state with an enormous sense of achievement. Comprising of four main ethnic groups, it boasts grand colonial architecture, a Chinese work ethic, Malay cultural influences and a Tamil character, all blended as finely as a steaming laksa curry.
Sensible planning and efficient determination has created a great value-for-money tourist destination with plenty of family attractions, great shopping and good infrastructure. And it’s not all high-rises either, but hardly backpacker budget-friendly. Sentosa is a great escape from the concrete jungle with its pretty beaches that sit in contrast to Orchard Road’s megamalls.
Gastronomes will find themselves in heaven in the ethnic pockets of Little India and Chinatown while brain boxes can amuse themselves in Singapore’s top museums. Real nature is few and far between today but not to worry as Singapore has re-created wild habitats at the city’s night safari and zoo. But the real draw to this tiny city-state is its shopping so be sure to keep tabs on any ladies in your party.
Why You Should Go
The symbolic Merlion statue, wining and dining along the Singapore River, taking the family toor the Night Safari, shopping on Orchard road, cultures of four different ethnic groups that make up the population of organised and friendly locals.
Hot and humid weather, expensive hospitality, Singapore’s infamous petty fines obsession.
Getting There & Away
The island’s extensive and uncongested highway system is managed by a complex automatic vehicle toll fee radar technology that’s set up for local commuters. It’s too small to think about hiring a car really and the Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) rail system reaches all urban areas, backed up by efficient buses. Getting around is no problem and Changi International Airport is one of the world’s most efficient as well
as being a hub for Asia. Taxis are surprisingly affordable too.
Things to Do
- Colonial district
A legacy of centuries of british rule, the area north of the singapore river is a jolly civilised suburb of grand old buildings centred around the padang, a former cricket field.
Chinatown is a colourful district that hides in the shadows of the modern highrises, where the clack of mah-jongh tiles continues to epitomise the unchanged lifestyle in this area of bargain electronics shopping and cantonese cuisine.
Sentosa island is the jewel in singapore’s tourist crown, a leisure island east of the city that is packed with amusement parks, manmade beaches, golf courses and family attractions.
- Riverfront and Fort Canning
Dividing the city centre in two is the stout singapore river. it’s a wonderful stroll from the iconic merlion statue at the river mouth, past the trendy restaurants of boat quay and onto the after-work bars of clark quay, before climbing fort canning on a hill nearby for a view of the city.
- Little India
Little india is a calamity of sights, smells and shopping as migrant hindu workers flock to the suburb on their days off for cheap curries, bollywood movies and the pungent scent of home. a heady and altogether different singapore experience.
Despite being perceived as residents of an entirely urban and highrise environment, Singaporeans are an active lot and have created all sorts of leisure opportunities.
- Swimming at Changi beaches
These are a good place to relax and work on a tan. there are miles of modest beaches on the west coast, backed by pretty park areas, roller-blading and jogging or cycling paths and a good supply of restaurants and shops.
- Family excursions
To sentosa island, jurong bird park or the night safari are all fun-filled and rewarding, all part of the highly organised singapore ‘tourist brochure’.
Is a highlight in singapore, where electronic goods are so much cheaper you could well save enough to justify the flight over! chinatown is best for bargaining, while orchard road is far more chic.
- Sipping Singapore slings
At the famous writers’ long bar in raffles hotel, pretending you are somerset maugham, joseph conrad or rudyard kipling.
- Visit museums
To escape the heat; there are nearly a dozen recommended, which are well presented with exhibitions or collections ranging from malay heritage to local art.
The Singaporeans are an organised bunch and they put on some pretty good festivals despite the relatively small population.
Chinese new year is a major celebration among the majority ethnic chinese community, especially in chinatown (eu tong sen street). colourful and noisy.
Thaipusam, the dramatic hindu festival honouring lord subramaniam, is an intriguing and auspicious street procession from srimivassa temple..
The dragon boat festival in marina bay brings out all the ornately decorated traditional long boats in commemoration of a chinese saint.
Singapore arts festival is a biennial event (even numbered years) with a wide programme to suit all tastes including international acts of art, drama and dance.
Food festival is a favourite among the locals who love indulging in the food of the southeast asian region and practically making it there own. the four ethnic groups make this a literal melting pot of cuisines.
The great singapore sale puts singapore on the ‘world mall map’ with fantastic bargains, best found around orchard road; shopaholics shouldn’t miss this one.