Thursday, March 22, 2007

Destination Singapore. A fine city for all the right reasons

Destination Singapore. A fine city for all the right reasons.
by: Matthew Lawson

You may have heard the saying “Singapore is a fine city.” You get fined for this, fined for that… you could even get fined for chewing gum (it caused a major door drama that stopped the MRT subway running). While there’s no doubt that Singapore takes a tough stand on fines for anti-social issues and basic public behaviour, Singapore is also fine city for a tourists on a stopover or vacation break.

In fact, Singapore is one of the world’s most popular destinations. A tiny island with mighty appeal, lying between Malaysia and Indonesia. Just 14 miles from north to south and 26 miles wide from east to west, it’s slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Singapore lies in the heart of exciting Southeast Asia, a bridge between east and west and a place that buzzes 24/7.

It offers visitors a world of fantastic possibilities. Its ultra-modern skyscrapers and towers of glass contrast with the colonial charm of historic buildings, secret laneways and Chinese shop houses.

It’s a confusion of culture with slick style and business energy. A melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian races. Safe, fun and friendly, the perfect place for a break. Singaporeans are super helpful to visitors and just about everybody speaks English as this is the main language of business and everyday life.

Singapore is also just a few degrees from the equator, so it’s always a hot and happening place literally. Tip: dress for the tropics with light comfortable clothing.

Seven great things to do and see.

Singapore Shopping. A buyer’s paradise.

The number one attraction is undoubtedly shopping. Stroll down the main boulevard of Orchard Road and you’ll find plenty to tempt you and your credit card, but window shopping costs nothing. Each side of the road is lined with glossy designer boutiques, big stores and fabulous malls, not to mention shops displaying the latest digital wizardy.

Don’t miss exploring the other side of Singapore either. It’s fun to spend a day wandering the different locales and historic backstreets of Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street.

Enjoy a Singapore Sling at Raffles.

“When in Singapore, feed at Raffles”, that was the advice of the renowned English author, Rudyard Kipling, and it still holds true today. The legendary Raffles Hotel is consistently voted as one of the top hotels in the world. It attracted a bevy of literary talent to its doors, from Joseph Conrad to Somerset Maugham to Noel Coward who were inspired by its unique atmosphere. First opened in 1887, Raffles has undergone extensive restoration over the years but today it’s still as stylish as ever.

Now film celebrities, royalty, sports stars and anyone who’s anyone, chooses to stay Raffles. Even if your budget doesn’t allow an overnight booking, you could probably stretch to a refreshing Gin Sling in the Long Bar – it was invented here. Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created this deliciously different cocktail close to a century ago.

Food glorious food.

Making money is not the only things on people’s minds in Singapore. The subject of food is a national obsession. After breakfast has finished, where to have lunch and dinner are the big topics of the day. As a visitor, your taste buds are spoiled for choice with plenty of food halls, stalls, cafes and upmarket restaurants.

Nonya or Peranakan food is the closest Singapore has to a “national” cuisine. It combines Chinese, Malay and other influences into its own unique blend. The resulting dishes are imaginative, tasty and often extremely subtle.

Travel tip: If you’re heading this way in the month of July, the annual Singapore Food Festival is in full swing. A gastronomic feast of workshops, places to eat, amazing recipes and things to try are all on the menu.

Singapore Zoo Night Safari.

Forget a typical zoo experience, this is an “open” green environment where animals are allowed to roam in acres of lush jungle and parklands. Oppressive cages are absent.

The animals are actually kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures, separated from visitors by dry or wet moats. The moats are concealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of vision.

At night, Singapore zoo takes on a totally different feel with the famous Night Safari. A unique experience of exploring wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. Through subtle lighting, you can view over 1,000 nocturnal animals from 100 species in their habitat. It’s well worth spending an evening out here. Show time starts at 7.30 as the sunset in this part of world is very reliable, thanks to the position, close to the equator.

Sentosa. Singapore’s premier island resort getaway.

Just 15 minutes from downtown Singapore, you’ll find the resort getaway that is Sentosa Island. A stunning blend of leisure and recreational facilities, sea sports, golf and peaceful retreats. Get there by cable car (fantastic views) or bus, taxi and car.

A canopy of secondary rainforest covers 70 per cent of the 500-hectare island and it’s home to monitor lizards, monkeys, peacocks, parrots as well as other native fauna and flora. With is long stretch of white sandy beach, this is the only place in Singapore with real beachfront accommodation, such as Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort. You’ll find this property (and many more choices all over Singapore) at sites like

Clarke Quay. Night moves and grooves.

When the sun goes down, Clarke Quay, on the Singapore River, comes to life. During the 19th century, this was a commercial waterfront area, bustling with merchant vessels. The rich heritage is alive and kicking. The Quay been restored to create a colorful and stylish meeting place, filled with cosy cafes, bars, music and restaurants. Trendy night spots attract a big crowd, especially at the weekend.

Reflexology. Traditional Foot Massage.

Transport-wise, Singapore is easy to get around, by subway, bus or taxi, but you’ll probably pound the sidewalks taking in the sights and sounds of this great Asian destination. Make time for some pampering.

Reflexology or foot massage has long been part of Chinese tradition and culture - a superb way to relax after a tough day bargain hunting. You’ll find plenty of places to enjoy a massage, at exclusive Hotel spas, or the more reasonably priced specialty outlets all around Orchard Road, in shopping centres and Tanglin Road.

Singapore hotels to match every budget.

Singapore is one of the world’s top travel destinations, especially for stop overs. (U.S. citizens can stay up to 90 days without a visa.) Accommodation-wise, you’ll find a wide range of hotels to suit your budget – from major 5 star international names to smaller hotels offering great value rates. Book online and see the deals you can find.

During holiday time, Chinese New Year and during special festivals, it pays to book ahead because Singapore is always a fine experience.

Web sites such as have dozens of choices, in the shopping, business and nightlife districts.

About The Author
Matthew Lawson heads up and is an avid traveler.