Quick and Dirty Guide to Seeing Singapore
Situated geographically, historically and culturally at the crossroads of Southeast Asia, Singapore is a truly fascinating place, a city state that brings together many diverse international elements into one relatively tiny space just off the coast of Malaysia. A business-minded island, Singapore has undergone rapid modernization over the past three or four decades, sometimes making it feel a bit like a city from the future, with its outdoor escalators and blinking LED lights and modern, air conditioned malls. Famously safe—and strict on things like chewing gum and spitting—Singaporians still know how to have some fun. And they definitely know how to eat, with one of the richest food cultures in the world. Take a look at my suggestions for what to do in Singapore.
Once you arrive, start your adventure on Orchard Road, Singapore’s premiere strip for great shopping and restaurants, home to, among many other things, Ngee Ann City, the island’s largest mall, which houses everything from high-end spots like Chanel and Burberry to Takashimaya, Singapore’s largest bookstore. From there, take a taxi or the clean, sleek subway to the Marina Bay area. Lined on one side by the glassy, modern eminences of the city’s central business district, this large lagoon is the namesake for Singapore’s largest casino-hotel complex, the striking, enormous Marina Bay Sands, where a long, surfboard-like expanse bridges all three of the complex’s towers and provides amazing views from its observation deck.
Or, if you’re in the mood for a ride, head nearby to the famous Singapore Flyer, the largest and tallest observation wheel in the world—at the top of the rotation, you can see as far as away as Indonesia and Malaysia.
But perhaps the best thing about a visit to this city state is the opportunity to try many different tastes in a short time. Some of these can be found in a formal restaurant setting—Wild Rocket, for example, is a place where many of the influences (Malaysian, Indian, Peranakan, Portugese) that came across Singapore during its time as a stop on East-West spice routes are fused together in delicious combinations. But often—for the very best food—you’ve got to get outside. Southeast Asia is famous for its dazzling array of street food, and in Singapore, large “hawker centres” provide some of the best.
Stop by the centrally located Maxwell Food Centre and join the throngs of Singaporian office workers queuing up for popular staples like rojak, ondeh-ondeh, or the biggest favourite of them all, chicken rice. Then wait until the sun dips down into the South China Sea and head to the Raffles Hotel, a landmark property—and birthplace of the Singapore Sling. Sidle up to the Long Bar and order one of these surprisingly potent drinks; and if you have a few too many, book into one of the hotels spacious (and salubrious) signature suites, which celebrate the many famous personalities that have laid their head here.
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