09:00 To prove it, start your day in Little India (southern end of Serangoon Rd), a million miles from Singapore’s famed uniformity. Explore the cramped little shops, breathe in the intense aromas, and pick up a fried chapatti from a street stall for breakfast.
10:00 Challenge the stereotypes further with a hike around the MacRitchie Reservoir, at the centre of the 2000-hectare Central Catchment Nature Reserve. There’s a 12km route, or a series of shorter trails to choose from, providing a scenic escape from urbanity with tangled greenery and whooping monkeys.
14:00 Singapore’s hybrid heritage is perhaps most keenly felt in the food, for which it is rightly famous. We recommend you forget the five-star fine-dining and find a hawker centre for lunch. These open-air complexes are thronging with food stalls serving up great street fare at budget prices. If you don’t mind a bit of a journey, try Changi Village (Loyang Ave Changi 4, Tampines Central 5) for its renowned hawker centre by the bus terminus. The village atmosphere makes for a particularly pleasant pause.
16:00 That’s enough of all that peaceful lark. Now pound the pavement at Orchard Road, Singapore’s shopping centre mecca. Alongside the consumerist frenzy are plenty of bars for refreshment.
18:00 Live the cliché and head to Raffles for a Singapore Sling. Built in 1887, the world-famous hotel is an exemplary example of colonial architecture, and the best place to sip the signature drink.
20:00 Check your pulse and fill your belly at the Imperial Herbal Restaurant (1 Harbourfront Walk; imperialherbal.com). The in-house Chinese physician gives you a check-up and prescribes a particular meal to satisfy body and soul. Be careful not to piss off the prescriber – there is scorpion on the menu.
22:00 Treat yourself to some decadence Singapore-style and head to Marina Bay Sands. The luxury resort is home to the world’s largest atrium casino, with an astonishing 500 tables primed to pilfer your money. In keeping with Singapore’s hard line on vice, Singapore citizens and permanent residents are charged SG$100 (about £50) to enter the casino in order to discourage gambling, but tourists are admitted for free.
22:00 It’s probably best not to fritter away any more cash, so walk a few minutes on foot to Rucksack Inn @Hongkong Street to catch some kip. There’s a free breakfast, 24-hour hot showers and wifi, and the staff are exceptionally friendly. From £14.98pn in a 10-bed dorm.
10:00 Start your morning with a stroll around the fringe of the Singapore River, then head into Chinatown, where restored buildings and temples conjure Singapore’s past. Continue the cultural discovery at the Asian Civilisations Museum (1 Empress Pl; acm.org/sg), with fascinating exhibits that focus on Southeast Asia, West Asia and China to piece together Singapore’s foundations.
13:00 Grab a local lunch at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre (cnr South Bridge & Maxwell Rds), one of Chinatown’s finest. The boisterous merchants and eclectic crowd combine to give you a meal and a show.
14:00 After a thoughtful morning, switch the brain to disengage and stroll around Singapore Zoo (zoo.com.sg; admission from £10). The world-class attraction keeps the animals in naturalistic surroundings with hidden barriers, and boasts more than 300 species. You can even take the weight off your feet and enjoy the sights on a boat tour.
17:00 Chug some Asian-accented beers at Archipelago Brewery (archipelagobrewery.com), just off the semi-seedy Circular Road. Serving microbrews from Asia Pacific Breweries (the folks behind Tiger), it’s a whole new way of appreciating the regional culture.
19:00 Try another Chinatown classic for dinner, Hong Lim Complex (Cnr South Bridge Rd & Upper Cross St Chinatown). With fewer tourists than most Singaporean streets, it’s packed with proper Chinatown folk and serves up some truly killer feed.
20:00 Get a few rounds in at super-hip craft cocktail bar 13 Wives (13wives.com), then say farewell to Singapore at its long-loved superclub, Zouk (zoukclub.com; admission £17 inc. free drink). With room for 2000 punters and tunes til 4am, there’s no better way to end an epic weekend.
Flights from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi, via Dubai and Colombo, start at £664 return with Emirates
Photos: Getty Images