The Lion city – as Singapore is often referred to – was recently in the spotlight as the star of Amazing Hotels – the hit BBC2 series which featured Marina Bay Sands. This epic £3.5 billion resort caters for one million guests every year and was created as part of a government plan to triple tourist income to Singapore within 10 years. Still need more reasons to visit Singapore? Here’s 10 to get you started…
It’s a melting pot of cultures
Singapore’s diverse population means that the island state is a melting pot of Malay, Western, Indian and Chinese cultures – something reflected in the many compact, colourful ethnic areas like Chinatown, arguably the country’s cultural heart – the fascinating Malay quarter of Kampong Glam and Little India. If you can brave the crowds on a Sunday evening, the latter (when things get very bolly) is a photographer’s dream.
If, or when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road, saunter through the serene Singapore Botanic Gardens. Not too many tourists make it here, but those that do are definitely rewarded – the big city noise is left behind as you stroll around the tranquil green, gardens. Alternatively rampage through reservoirs like MacRitchie or Buki Timah Nature Reserve.
Down by the river
Singapore’s main draw is, without a doubt, the beautiful riverfront where Sir Stamford first landed two centuries ago in search of a strategic trading post. It’s here that you’ll find Singapore’s mascot Merlion – a water sprouting half fish, half lion.
Singapore has a public transport system that Londoners would kill for. Regardless of whether you choose to travel by bus or to take the MRT (Singapore’s subway and light rail system), both are graffiti free and, crucially, super-efficient. What’s more, if you return your MRT card at the end of your journey, part of your fare is refunded – result.
Must see sights
The US$240m Singapore Flyer – currently Asia’s largest ferris wheel – warrants a trip. At an impressive 165m tall, the flyer dwarfs the London Eye (a trifling 135m), at its highest point and offers passengers a different take on Singapore’s landscape as well as parts of neighbouring Malaysia, Indonesia and even the South China Sea. Need some culture? Consider catching a performance at the US$600m Esplanade – an opera house that was designed to look like the local durian fruit.
Shop to it
Excellent retail therapy is undeniably one of Singapore’s major attractions. Orchard Road is arguably the city state’s trendiest shopping street; there are enough malls (the mother of which has to be the super-sized Ngee Ann City, to clothe you for life, so prepare to empty your wallet.
Even if shopping doesn’t interest you, it’s worth going for the buzzy atmosphere alone: this is where the gorgeous people hang out – the entire strip seems to be full of lithe, leggy models.
Travellers’ taste buds are in for a treat. Singapore is without a doubt a foodie’s paradise and it’s hard, nay impossible, to go hungry. Do as the locals do and kick-start your day with some kaya – a divine coconut and sweet egg jam – spread generously over toasted bread.
For lunch, head to a hawker centre such as the Maxwell Food Centre: you’ll find all your Singaporean favourites here from fish head curry to Nasi lemak (coconut rice, anchovies, a slice of omelette and some chilli paste), laksa (rice noodles in coconut curry gravy with shrimps, eggs, chicken and cockles) and the like. Round off your meal by ordering an ice kachang – a ‘beat the heat’ sweet of beans and jelly cubes under an avalanche of shaved ice, washed in lashings of milk and ripples of rose syrup. It might sound strange but remember: when in Rome…
If you want to dress up while you dine, make a beeline to Boat Quay or Clarke Quay – two trendy waterfront venues.
Spend the night at a wildlife park
A trip to the world’s first Night Zoo Safari – where you can revel in the company of no fewer than 1,200 beasts including one horned rhinos and Asian elephants – should be high on every agenda. Meanwhile the more adventurous and gung-ho can travel on foot via walking trails like the Mangrove Trail – a free-ranging bat enclosure.
Sipping Singapore Slings
It goes without saying that no visit to Singapore is complete without knocking back a Singapore Sling (a successful combination of gin, cherry brandy, cointreau, pineapple and lime juice) from glasses the size of goldfish bowls at Raffles’ Long Bar – named so owing to its 40-foot long bar. For the low-down, click here.
Escape to Sentosa
If you choose just one excursion, plump for a trip to Sentosa, a real daytime island treat. Sure, Sentosa’s beaches can’t match those of Malaysia (Singapore’s next door neighbour) but there’s still powder fine sand to laze on while you enjoy a quick blast of sun. Sentosa is also the site of the award winning outdoor night show, the multi-sensory Wings of Time.