Image Credit: Max Pixel
Singapore, the Lion City, the Garden city or the Little Red Dot, regards itself as a gateway between the East and the West. On this tiny patch of land at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the people of Singapore speak four languages, observe many different religions and pride themselves on their multiculturalism.
What was once an English outpost on the way to India has become a thriving city with green ambitions and a remarkably diverse people. When they won independence from England in 1963, people from India, China and Malaysia were already living together here and have done so peacefully ever since.
If you have travelled around Asia before, you may be used to these cultures, whose practices are so different from your own Western upbringing. But Singapore is like no other. As it straddles both Western and Eastern cultures, it has formed its own unique and beautiful identity, well worth exploring further.
Where to Stay
For budget boutique the area around Arab Street in LIttle India is a good place to start but Chinatown and Boat Quay are also known for upmarket guest houses. The advantage of Boat Quay is the number of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance. This area also boasts the Fullerton Hotel whose grand entrance and Art Deco interiors are a real sight to behold. If you are really into modern architecture, Marina Bay is another area to look into and is full of four and five star hotels. In fact, even if you don’t stay here, you must have a look round anyway.
If you want a longer trip or you have a large group, you might want to consider a house rental in Singapore. Many properties are available for shorter trips as well as long term stays and this will give you a greater insight into how Singaporeans really live.
Image Credit: Pixabay
Where to Go
If you are staying in Singapore for a short time only, there are all sorts of things you can cram into just a couple of days. A longer trip will give you more opportunities to sample the local and varied cuisines but 3 days in Singapore, will allow you to see and experience just enough to get a taste of the city.
A Singapore River cruise is a brilliant way to see the city from the water and get a real sense of the scale of the metropolis. There is a wide mixture of architecture on show here from the colonial buildings to the vast glass and steel towers that now dominate the landscape. The river bank is also an ideal location for finding delicious restaurants and bars to hop between in the evenings.
If you are a really foodie, you must visit Chinatown and Little India for a diverse range of dishes. Although Singapore is a multicultural city, there is not a lot of crossover between the dishes and foods have been kept in the traditional manner of their origins.
Nature lovers will also find themselves remarkably well catered for. Though Singapore is well known for being highly built up, it does in fact contain 4 national parks that have been given legal protection. Rather than simply bulldoze the land to create urbanized areas, Singapore has taken a bolder approach, dedicating some areas for recreational purposes and encouraging the use of clean energy too.
How to Get Around
Private cars are a rarity in Singapore as they have been restricted to curb pollution as well as reduce the congestion that would inevitably occur on such a small area. This means that there are plenty of public transport options to consider instead.
Buses, trains and one of 28,000 taxis will be an easy option for getting around the city but if you are one for the green lifestyle too, join the Singaporean residents who regularly commute across the city by bike. With so many quiet little streets and places to stop in and drink coffees, a bike tour is a perfect way to see all sorts of things in the city that you might have missed otherwise.
Image Credit: Pixabay
3 Things You must See
Even if shopping isn’t really your thing, Orchard is a spectacle to behold. With four different Prada stores and a multitude of other (cheaper) shops you will recognise from home all next to other names from around the world, this marbled floored mall is incredible. It is a huge maze that extends below ground connecting lots of tiny malls to create a giant shopping labyrinth.
In complete contrast to Orchard and yet only a few streets away, the Botanic Gardens is a tranquil space right at the heart of the city. While you are there, visit Swan Lake, the oldest ornamental water feature in Singapore and home to two swans from Amsterdam. The national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim is an orchid named after its breeder Agnes Joaquim, an Armenian horticulturist who lived in Singapore in 1893. The Botanical Gardens have long been associated with orchids too and host over 1000 species and 2000 hybrids in their Orchid Garden.
With it’s beetle like shell, this curving building is so different to the towering blocks surrounding it, that you won’t know what to make of it at first. The Esplanade is a theatre boasting spectacular performances as such as facade might indicate. Film, theatre, dance and visual arts are displayed here with a real mixture of cultures thrown in. Just what you should be coming to expect from Singapore.
If you can get to Singapore for a holiday, or even just take a few days here between flights, this culture will suck you in, shake you up and fill you with joy and wonder. With so much on offer and so much to behold, Singapore will never disappoint. The juxtaposition of urban skyscrapers against the botanical gardens, the long river leading you past bars and restaurants bursting with colour and flavour and the shopping haven that seems to contain everything you have ever thought to buy all give you the sense that despite being on such a small peninsula, Singapore has packed in the cultures of many much larger countries.
Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.