5 things I loved about Singapore
I originally wrote this list a few years back, but earlier this year I visited Singapore for the second time (you can read about it here). I realised that the things I enjoyed about Singapore had shifted a little, and therefore I probably needed to update this list.
That's exactly what I've done, so read on for my 5 favourite things about Singapore
Singapore is the worlds only city state built completely on an island and competes with Hong Kong as the centre of commerce in the far east. It truly is a global city with amazing infrastructure, cleanliness that is rigorously enforced and a level of multiculturalism that would put London and New York to shame.
There is no doubt the city is expensive, perhaps a little too expensive for me to ever consider moving there, but with that taxation, the government has built a city to rival any other in the world. The city mixes colonial buildings, architecture from different cultures and modern skyscrapers almost effortlessly and the only other city I have been to that I can really compare it to is Dubai, and Singapore comes out on top (probably because it also treats its labourers much better).
5. Marina Bay Sands
It may not be the nicest hotel, and the Fullerton is where Formula 1 drivers now stay, but the Marina Bay Sands is Singapore's premier resort location and luxury hotel in terms of recognition.
This was one of the sights I was most excited to see, just because of its unique architecture and its one of the few buildings that's even more impressive in real life. In fact, the hotel is is now synonymous with Singapore, much like the Statue of Liberty is with New York, and the Houses of Parliament are with London.
It has a large footprint, it's basically three towers combined into one and going in I felt like a bit of a fraud, make no mistake this is one nice hotel. However, make sure you do go in because the observation deck is better than its equivalents in other cities. You can literally see a 360 panoramic view of the city; from the Downtown area to the Port and its not too expensive either, tickets are about £15.
One of the things Singapore has a reputation for is the fact that it is a 'fake' city, devoid of culture, similar to Dubai.
To those people, I say take a trip to Geylang. Parts of it operate as the red-light district, so avoid those (on even numbered roads), but here you have Malays, Indians and Chinese locals all living together with a small number of expats. Unlike the expensive cuisine in downtown and Chinatown, food here is very cheap and very good. Bars are a little gritty but that gives them character. Day markets continue on into night markets, and you really do feel like you're in Asia.
Honestly, one of the best Chinatowns I have ever been to. The area is best visited at night when it really comes to life.
Market Street is the entertainment centre of the area, with open food courts, bands playing, and also sorts of food vendors and restaurants lining the perimeter. It's very energetic, very loud, and can get pretty crowded. The nigh markets around Pagoda Street and Temple Street also have a tremendous buzz about them. The only negative is that some of the food here can be very expensive.
Chinatown also hosts the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. Built in the ancient Tang Dynasty style of architecture, the temple itself is relatively new, being built in 2002, however, it's most famous for housing a relic significantly older. On the fourth floor of the temple is, allegedly, the tooth of Gautama Buddha, discovered in a collapsed stupa in Burma in 1980.
A slightly older temple is a Dravidian Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple, located just a couple of minutes walk from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Established in 1827, the temple is South Indian in style and has become increasingly larger and more elaborate in the near 200 years since it was first founded as a simple wooden building. The entrance tower is spectacular, a pyramid of various Hindu deities and stories, flanked by larger plaster sculptures of Krishna and Murugan, popular Hindu avatars. Inside the temple there are more plastered sculptures, a covered hall for praying and eating, and an exterior that is walled off from the busy streets around it.
2. The most diverse cuisines in the world
Singapore is famous for its food and it doesn't disappoint. The city state is one of the biggest multicultural hubs in the world and at a cross roads in Asia. Immigration to the city is from all parts of the world, with sizeable Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Japanese and European populations and all this means that you can find pretty much any type of food.
The one thing to be aware of is a lot of the meat is Halaal, and as Halaal meat is one of the major no-go's in Sikhi, I did find it a little difficult to find meat that I could eat, however, its not hard going veggie for a few days in Singapore.
1. Gardens by the bay
There is no way to describe the Cloud Forest, I'd say experience it, but even when you're there it feels surreal. It's like something out of the film Avatar. Opposite the Marina Bay Sands complex are gigantic structures, resembling large trees, covered in lights. In the day they look odd but at night they become unlike anything else you will ever see.
A light show runs regularly after sunset where the entire park complex is transformed into a show. The trees light up different colours to the sound of music and are almost dancing. I know, if you think it sounds weird, wait till you see it. For a small fee (it was under £10) you can climb the walkways that connect the structures.
It was a little windy when I went and the walkways were rocking ever so slightly, but it was hilarious watching some people hanging on for dear life at the edge of the bridge. The walkways go straight past Marina Bay Sands to give you the best view of the complex you will get on the island. Security regularly walks across the walkways to ensure you don't spend too long but it genuinely is breathtaking. The views of the park, the tree like structures, the city and Marina Bay Sands is something that will stay with me for a long time.
The actual gardens are very nice, you can easily get lost in the grounds. Its surprising how green they have made the middle of the city but it definitely works. A word of warning, if you are travelling around the complex at sunset, make sure you bring mosquito spray, and if you're travelling during the day, wear sunscreen and bring water - it gets ridiculously hot.
Changi airport has won more awards than pretty much any other airport on the planet so its well worth getting to your flight a little early to take a look around. You will find all the usual shops and restaurants, however the design of the airport is quite impressive as is the service.
I stayed in Little India (during my first trip, and visited during the second) and really liked it. Ethnic Tamils make up the largest population here, but you can also find a mix of nationalities. The food is amazing and at times I thought I was in the subcontinent (or Soho Road).
The area around Arab St and Bugis Street is yet another ethnic enclave, this time containing one of the largest mosques in Singapore, which I visited during my most recent trip. The Bugis St area is more of an entertainment complex with a lot of bars, clubs and restaurants, but also markets during the day.
Clarke Quay is a great area for a night out, although it is expensive and full of expats - and the same can be said about Orchard Road, the Singaporean equivalent of Oxford Street.
There is still so much to see that I didn't have time for; from Singapore Zoo to Chinatown and I would love to see the Singaporean F1 Grand Prix one day. Is there anything on the list you didn't enjoy or anything that I have left out? Leave me a comment or Tweet me @travellingsingh
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.