Singapore has come a long way from just a stopover for long haul flights from Europe and other parts of Asia to the Oceanic region. The small nation has reinvented and repackaged itself from a boring sterile place to one of the world’s hottest destinations. There are a lot of things to do in this tiny city state. There are rainforests teeming with exotic flora and fauna. For most visitors, however, Singapore’s principal attraction is its status as a retail heaven. Its malls are temples for shopaholics, packed with designer clothes, the latest electronics and generic economically priced brands.
Visitors to Singapore flock to its ethnic enclaves, of which Little India is the most visited. It has photogenic Hindu temples, appetising curry houses and shops retailing spices and exotic produce. The nearby golden domes of Sultan Mosque and Arab Street are also a must visit. Cross the river and you reach Chinatown with its fully restored Chinese mansion and shrines. The characteristic shophouses form an unique Singaporean attraction.
The British have also left their mark. The Colonial District to the north of Singapore river has a number of grand Neoclassical buildings like Parliament House, City Hall and the world famous Raffles Hotel. You can sift through history in the National Museum. The newest slice of the city is Marina Bay, with a namesake casino resort, an arts center Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay and Gardens by the Bay.
Singapore is expensive compared to other Asian destinations and comparable to Western cities. However, cheap accommodation is available and you can confidently survive on US$32 per day, with a small amount kept aside for sight-seeing. It is recommended you budget a minimum of $95 per day.
Singapore’s rich multicultural heritage shows up in its plate, mirroring the place’s cultural diversity with generous portions of Peranakan, Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines. Taking a stroll around the city means sniffing in delicious smells of South Indian thalis, Malay food, biryani, Peking duck, Cantonese dim sum, popiah or spring rolls and Hokien mee – a kind of fried noodles from Fujian Province in China.
The geography of Singapore is shaped like a diamond and adequately compact to explore in a couple of days. The southern part of the city state is its older part and called downtown by its residents. Its epicenter is arguably the creek of the Singapore River, the place where Raffles landed from his ship to shore in 1819. At present, it is a place to relax with its buzzing bars and restaurants converted from warehouses.
Singapore has a truly cosmopolitan population, a direct result of this nation’s geographical location and commercial success. The city state came into being on January 29, 1819, and its first avatar was that of a trading post. The fledgling town attracted merchants and migrants from the Malay Peninsula, China, Indonesia, the Indian sub-continent and even from Middle East.