For a rich person, Singapore must feel like a bit of playground. The whole city seems to be geared toward wealth and money. However, I found, that even a little money can go a long way here if you spend it wisely.
I've made two trips to Singapore now, and got to know the city a little better. Sure, it can be a little pretentious, a little in your face - and yep - it can seem a little fake (although not to the extent of Dubai). However, scratch the surface, and you have a beautifully complex city that has something for everyone. Neighbourhoods, with their own vibes and energy, and landmarks that leave you breathless. You can read about my first trip to Singapore here, my second trip here, and 5 things I loved about Singapore here. But this article will cover my journey through the city state in a series of pictures.
Travel advice for Sikhs
As far as ease of travel for Sikhs goes, Singapore would rank right near the top of any list. The airport at Singapore is constantly ranked among the best in the world, and the feel and layout of the airport automatically puts you at ease.
A large south Asian population means that knowledge of Sikhs and the Sikh faith here is fairly high, and all my experiences in the airport have been positive to date.
My experiences in the city itself have been nothing short of positive. No looks, no stares, and plenty of other Sikhs (particularly in the Little India neighbourhood) mean you can really relax and enjoy yourself here. Singapore is known as a melting pot of different cultures, and at least from a travelling perspective, I have nothing but good things to say in terms of my experiences as a Sikh traveller.
The Chinatown area is one of my favourites in the entire city. A large Chinese population in Singapore means a substantial sized Chinatown. The sights, smells and sounds are amazing, with Market Street in particular a centre of activity - in fact it reminded me of Khao San Road in Bangkok or Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur.
However, whereas many Chinatowns are quite cheap, the one in Singapore is relatively expensive. The priciest meal I had during my time was in Market Street. And while most Chinatowns can be slightly chaotic (even the one in New York), this was, in keeping with the rest of Singapore, much more orderly.
Just because it's called Chinatown doesn't mean there isn't buildings for other communities. The beautiful Sri Mariamman temple is a couple of blocks from Market Street but might as well be a world away in terms of its vibe and architectural beauty.
Built in the Dravidian style for the largely south Indian population, the almost 200 year old temple stands out for its pyramid-like structure filled with Hindu deities and stories. It's one of a number of Dravidian temples in Singapore.
The area is also home to the Buddha Tooth Relic temple and museum. This is a significantly newer buildings, although it's been given a traditional look as its built in the Tang style of architecture of the ancient Chinese Tang dynasty.
I really enjoyed exploring the temple and reading stories about different buddhist monks (even though the life-like sculptures were slightly creepy) - as well as getting to see the rooftop of the temple which houses a Buddhist prayer wheel as well as a relaxing garden for meditation. On the fourth floor of the temple is, allegedly, the tooth of Gautama Buddha, discovered in a collapsed stupa in Burma in 1980 - although it's behind so much glass that I could barely see it.
Singapore is full of cultural enclaves, promoted by the Singaporean authorities as a means of achieving racial harmony. Little India, is surprise surprise, dominated by Indians - more specifically, south Indians, although I saw a decent number of Singhs.
Little India seems more spread out than Little China, and therefore loses some of its energy. I found Little India less interesting - the main road (Serangoon) just reminded me of Soho Road in Birmingham. What Little India does have, though, is some incredible colonial era architecture, with uniform buildings dating back to the 19th and early 20th century.
The area is also home to the Veeramakaliamman Temple. Similar to the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown it features an ornate entrance tower, but it is smaller in size. Little India also features mosques and the central Sikh Gurdwara.
I hadn't eaten Panjabi food in a while, so I decided to try a Panjabi restaurant out and ended up with a mouth full of onions - not my favourite experience.
Not too far from Little India is Bugis Street (for the Indonesian population), and Arab Street. It's amazing how different these areas are. Chinatown was intense but expensive - Bugis Street intense and relatively cheap (with a few large indoor markets). Arab Street is a fairly small area, but it does contain the large Sultan Mosque.
I managed to go inside, but you are severely restricted in what you can/can't do (basically, you can only stand in the entrance way, reading leaflets on Islam).
The area surrounding the mosque is filled with small shops, restaurants and a lot of shisha lounges - the smell floating onto the surrounding pavements and streets.
For anyone who thinks that Singapore is sterile, or it doesn't have character, a visit to Geylang can help rectify that myth. Cheap food, street vendors selling all sorts of goods and a very laid back. calm energy made this area a particular favourite of mine. In Geylang you are away from the pretentiousness of the downtown core, or the Marina Bay Sands area - and you're with 'real' people.
Just make sure you stick to odd numbered roads - even numbered roads in the area are the hub for Singapore's red light district.
Singapore is a millionaire's playground, and the high end luxury stores is testament to that. In the downtown core, if you ignore the humidity, you could close your eyes and be in pretty much any Gulf or western city. Towering skyscrapers provide temporary relief from the sun, while air conditioned shopping centres are filled with locals and tourists. Everything is more expensive here, which reflects the fact that the area is home to large multinational companies and bankers from all over the world.
A short walk from the downtown, however, takes you to a place that is uniquely Singaporean. Centred around a luxury hotel, the Marina Bay Sands area is a reflection of Singapore, creating an architectural style that lends heavily from different cultures, as well as nature.
The Supertree Grove is a place that will stay with me forever. Evening light shows illuminate the futuristic looking treelike structures in the Gardens by the Bay area. The skywalk bridge is particularly incredible. I took a walk along the raised bridge and found myself walking from tree top to tree top, in a narrow, swaying bridge. I'm not that good with heights, but watching the faces of some of the other people was funny - one guy was clutching the sides as his legs had turned to jelly.
Marina Bay Sands itself is exactly what you'd expect from a luxury hotel. High end fashion stores and restaurants in the lobby, a rooftop infinity pool at the top and everything in between.
It's unique architectural style made this one of the landmarks I really wanted to see, and I wasn't let down. It's absolutely enormous, with a footprint as large as any building I've seen - which I suppose isn't surprising as it is three structures connected together.
The rooftop offers fantastic views all across the city, as well as the port area and the Gardens by the Bay on one side. It really did live up to expectations. Opposite MBS is the lesser known, but even more luxurious Fulerton Hotel - and the rooftop there is closer to the downtown, you feel you are almost surrounding by buildings. On one side, however, it has a fantastic unobstructed view of MBS and therefore, might be an even better rooftop to visit.
The Gardens by the Bay is something that has to be seen to be believed and I can't imagine that it would be anywhere else in the world but Singapore. It's on a whole different scale. Giant tree like structures dot the park with a huge greenhouse, the Cloud Forest, in the middle. Tall bushes and trees provide shade in an area that gets unbelievably hot and humid, but no words can do this place justice.
If you visit Singapore, take a couple of hours and visit the Gardens in the evening when it's a little cooler and the park is lit up. A light show in the evening brings the whole place to life and spend the roughly £10 it costs to walk the skybridge that connects the SuperTree structures, you won't regret it.
Orchard Road is the main high end shopping district of Singapore, and like its equivalents in other major cities I didn't really like it. I've never enjoyed shopping, and I certainly don't have the money to spend freely in a city as expensive as Singapore. That being said, there are a number of good indoor foodcourts that do incredible, if not slightly expensive, food.
Clarke Quay is a tourist trap, but it can be a fun one. I met some friends here for an evening out and it wasn't all bad.
Bars, restaurants and even a giant fun fair ride surround the body of water, which is itself lit up by all sorts of boats going in both directions like clockwork. It's loud and in your face, but in an ordered sort of way.
If there's one thing I admire about Singapore, it's the architecture. Despite being a relatively new settlement, the mix of cultures and their influences have created a city of diverse structures - from Chinese inspired Pagodas, to south Indian temples, colonial buildings and the modern skyscrapers.
However, my favourite style is the synthesis between the urban world and the natural world. Singapore is leading the way in making a city that works with nature, and dotted around the city are buildings full of greenery where plants and wildlife can thrive. Given the small size of Singapore, the conflict between humanity and nature is very one sided, but this unique approach at creating a symbiotic relationship is something cities around the world can learn from.
I hope you enjoyed my journey through Singapore in pictures - as always feel free to leave a comment, or follow me on social media using the icons at the top of the page.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.