Well-organised, spotless and orderly, this island city state has a squeaky clean reputation which makes it a delight for tourists to discover. With English widely spoken and an easy to navigate transport system, Singapore is perhaps the most accessible of Asia’s grand cities.
Above all, Singapore is a culturally rich, multi-ethnic mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and other influences, all of whom retain a strong sense of tradition and identity against the backdrop of modern Singapore. Famed chiefly for its fantastic shopping, Orchard Road still consists of miles and miles of malls, with most international brand names found here.
Many hotels line this strip and it remains busy throughout the day. Other key shopping areas include Marina and Suntec, both near the financial district. For smaller shops and a more traditional atmosphere, the areas of Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street are a world away from the glasspanelled malls and international coffee houses of Orchard Road. Sim Lim Square is also famed for its array of electronic goods.
Although space is at a premium on this crowded island, nature lovers can still find respite from the skyscrapers and malls. A particular highlight is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, with some lovely outdoor walks, a dedicated orchid section and an excellent restaurant. The Jurong Bird Park, the Butterfly Park and the night safari at the Singapore Zoo also offer an opportunity for some outdoor activity.
For culture lovers, Singapore also offers some of Asia’s best museums, including the fantastic Asian Civilisations Museum which traces the history of cultures across the continent and the newly renovated National Museum of Singapore. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is also an interesting museum dedicated to the crowded shophouse style living of turn of the century immigrants from mainland China. The unmistakable Esplanade Theatre with its durian-like architecture also hosts world class concerts and has fabulous acoustics. Food is also a huge draw for visitors to Singapore with a mouth-watering and extensive array of cuisines on offer. Naturally, Singaporean restaurants excel chiefly at Asian food, in particular Malay or Indian curries, Chinese food and classics such as dim sum. Famous dishes such as Hainanese chicken and rice can be sampled anywhere from a top class restaurant to one of Singapore’s iconic hawker centres. Some of Singapore’s most interesting cuisine can be found at fusion restaurants – particularly the regional cuisine named Peranakan, which is a fusion of Malay and Chinese food and is absolutely delicious. Singapore is also home to some of Southeast Asia’s best nightlife, in particular the lively Quays and Mohammed Sultan Road – choose a hip bar at Robinson Quay, dine out in Boat Quay or take a junk ride on the river from Clarke Quay. Singapore also offers super clubs such as Zouk which have gained recognition on the international party circuit. Finally, if the city gets too much for you, cross by cable car to Sentosa Island, or take the ferry to nearby Indonesia.