Singapore; where modern skyscrapers mix with historic sites in perfect harmony and beauty
Singapore is a small city-state in southern Peninsular Malaysia; it was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles and until 1965 it was considered a British colony. Now, this independent state of only 710km2 is one of the world’s financial centres. Although Singapore is a cosmopolitan, modern and trendy country, it continues to maintain a colonial character in its architecture, the traditions of its multicultural citizens still remains and the heritage of its multiracial ethnicity can be seen on the streets, houses and shopping centres.
The most fascinating and intriguing aspect of Singapore is the mix of the old and new; I was amazed to see all the skyscrapers on one side of the street and beautiful colonial houses on the other. Excellent planning and organisation has been carefully considered in the design of the city, although many people consider that the city-state is overdeveloped, no one can argue that one of the best infrastructures, efficient services to its population, good transport links and perfect combination of old and new architecture can be found in Singapore.
One of the things you will noticed in Singapore is the cleanliness of its streets, the city is absolutely spotless; there are strict laws in order to avoid littering, the best example is the chewing gum ban, “…this law was created because people disposed of gum incorrectly by sticking it under places like chairs or tables. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore under the "Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations." Except for chewing gum of therapeutic value, the "importing" of chewing gum into Singapore is banned…”
1) Sentosa Island
Easily accessible by monorail, tram or internal buses; Sentosa Island is the perfect venue to have a good time; the place is magical, the man-made beaches are outstanding (difficult to believe they are not natural) and the variety of attractions will keep you happily entertained. This recreational playground is the dream of every child and adult in Singapore; the theme parks, museums, outdoor activities and historical sights are just a few of the magnetism of Sentosa Island.
One of the start sights is the Underworld World, Asia’s largest tropical oceanarium; the design of the place (an 83m tunnel) will make you feel like if you are really underwater; there are over 2,500 species of marine life; the only problem is that it gets very busy during weekends so try to get there early in the morning; also make sure you try to combine your visit to the Dolphin Lagoon; the show is utterly great.
Siloso Beach is one of the hand-made beaches in Sentosa Island; the clean and peaceful beach, combined with the crystalline waters and golden sand will make you feel like being in the Caribbean; it is perfect for sport activities, there are also nice restaurants and good hotels if you decide to stay a day or two in this area. If you enjoy a good stroll, do not forget to cross the suspension bridge in Palawan Beach; it links the beach to the southernmost place in Asia.
Other sights in the Island:
a) Images of Singapore
b) Fort Siloso
c) Sentosa’s Songs of the Sea
d) The Dragon Trail
e) Merlion Walk
f) The golf club
2) Singapore Botanic Gardens
A visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is the perfect gateway from the busy city environment; this beautiful and peaceful sanctuary is located just a few minutes away from the city centre; the best time to visit it, is just after visiting Orchard Road (shopping area). The tranquillity of the idyllic gardens, the beautiful nature, the sing of the birds and the lake will make you feel in paradise. You can easily spend the whole day in this well-maintained 130 acres of land. If you are lucky you might be able to enjoy one of the concerts and performances in the Symphony Lake.
A stroll around the garden is something you will truly enjoy, a common view is watching people practicing Tai Chi; I was even invited to join them for a 30 minutes session, and the best part is that there is no entry fee. Although the beauty of the garden will keep you busy; you must save some time to visit the Orchid Gardens, the highlight of the place and the best hidden germ in Singapore; there is a small entry fee but it is worth it; the Orchid Garden is absolutely amazing and the variety of orchids is phenomenal; one of the most incredible and stunning display I have ever seen in my life.
3) Boat Quay and the Singapore River
Probably the most interesting thing to do in Singapore is the boat tour; leaving from the Singapore River Clarke Quay, will allow you to see the most fascinating landmarks of the city; the most emblematic buildings are located on the river’s bank; just to name a few, you will se the Merlion statue (symbol of the city,) the Esplanade Park, in Theaters on the Bay (an impressive building shaped like a durian, a typical fruit from this area), the Cavenagh Bridge (the only suspension bridge in the city), the Clarke Quay (colourful warehouses and shopping centres).
After your boat tour you can have dinner or a drink in one of the many trendy bars or restaurants in Boat Quay; the southern bank of the river and one of the most fashionable areas of the city; it is the point of concentration for businessmen and should be your point of start when you first arrive to Singapore.
Singapore, like all most major cities in South-east Asia is divided into quarters according to the origin of its inhabitants. The two largest neighbourhoods are Chinatown (strong Chinese culture and traditions are noticeable in this area) A unique experience and very different to the rest of Singapore; it has cheap shops, ideal to buy souvenirs; Chinese restaurants, and local pharmacies with the typical natural-remedies that can only be found here; the temples are a must visit). The biggest hawker centre in Singapore is also situated in Chinatown; even if you are not in the mood for shopping, there is plenty to see, do and eat.
5) Little India
The other famous neighbourhood is Little India, the Indian part of Singapore; it really reminds me to certain part of India; you will find Indian clothing market, flower stalls, lively restaurants, shops and extraordinary ornate temples and mosques; the perfect combination of sights, scents, sound and food. The melting pot of many Asian cultures is clearly evident in Little India, the colourful and distinguished colonial architecture on India and the Middle Eastern atmosphere with the Arab traders can be found here.
6) The Sultan Mosque
Designed by Irishman Denis Santry; this is one of the most impressive mosque I have ever seen before and definitely Kampong’s Glam main attraction. A visit to the imposing structure of Sultan Mosque is essential for any traveller visiting Singapore; it will allow you to understand more about on of the three main religions practiced in the city-state; the entry is free and the view of the mosque from Bussorach Mall, the street that leads to the Sultan Mosque is absolutely brilliant; you will see how the Mosque dominates Kampong Glam with its golden domes.
7) Best for shopping
For many people, Singapore is just a huge shopping centre, many of its streets contain some of the largest and most modern shopping malls of south-east Asia, especially in the famous Orchard Road, a long avenue extending from Tanglin Mall (a paradise for antique lovers) to Plaza Singapura (one of the oldest mall in the area). If you like shopping you should not miss a trip to Orchard Road, in the heart of the city and just a few miles away from the Botanic Gardens; all you can see here are shops, shops and more shops. The most famous ones are: Ngee Ann City, Wheelock Place and Peranakan Place.
8) Singapore Zoo “Night Safari”
Although I didn’t have to come to Singapore to visit a Zoo, the exciting idea of Night Safari was too much to resist; it is a very different and unique idea, and Singapore offers the world’s first zoological park built specifically for visits at night; you can see over 1,000 nocturnal animals on the tour, many of the species are native to south-east Asia. However, if you don’t want to be disappointed, try to visit the zoo on a weekday as it is normally very busy during weekends.
It is a very fashionable and trendy complex of shops, restaurants, galleries and bars. Singapore's cuisine can be defined as truly international: you can have Chinese food, Italian, Argentinean and Spanish, just to name a few; the best place to explore this variety of cuisine if the Chijmes. It will not disappoint you, but, in comparison to other countries in the East Asian part of the continent, the prices are much higher.
10) Raffles Hotel
A legendary and one of the most famous hotels in the world, the Raffles Hotel and Museum is considered a national monument for Singaporeans. The beautiful white landmark was opened in 1887 and still remains the charm and beauty that attracted so many famous people in the past. A visit to the hotel is a must and treating yourself with a Singaporean Sling, at around $31 USD is pleasure. The highlights of the place are the Lobby, the Ornamental Fountain, the Long Bar and the Museum.
If you love travelling, do not forget to read the travel guides I have prepared:
- Visit London; top 10 places to visit in the city of London
- Places to see in Manchester
- Kew Gardens "Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew"
- Marwell Zoo Review
- Places to visit in England - Brighton
- Visit Bourton on the Water
- Places to visit in Spain - Andalusia
- Bogota; top 10 places to visit in the city of Bogota
- Top 10 attractions in Budapest, "The Pearl of the Danube"
- Places to visit in Malaysia - Batu Caves
- Places to visit in Malaysia - Penang
- Enjoy a beach break in Costa Del Sol, Spain
- Places to visit in Spain - Andalusia