East meets West in Singapore, where you can enjoy all the flavours and colours of Asia with a helping of Western home comforts.
It’s a shopper’s paradise, a food-lover’s dream and, in this blogger’s personal opinion, one of the best cities to visit in the world.
In a way, Singapore is like a smorgasbord of Asia. Parts of the city are unashamedly bright and colourful, exotic and exciting, while central Singapore and its concrete jungle of towering skyscrapers makes for an awe-inspiring monument to capitalism.
The food in Singapore is legendary. At the city’s many wonderful hawker centres you’ll be able to eat cheap and cheerful food from all parts of Asia – or I recommend heading over to Little India for some excellent Indian food.
Singapore is a former British trading colony – you’ll see remnants of British rule all over the city, including cricket pitches and the colonial-style Raffles Hotel – so there is plenty of Western food and drink on offer, too, although you’d be remiss to eat at a Hooters, say, when there is so much else on offer.
The legendary Orchard Road is the main shopping street in Singapore, where you can get lost for hours in a vast underground maze of huge shopping malls. It’s hard enough work walking from one end of Orchard Road to the other without lugging shopping bags with you, but for some people this part of Singapore is heaven.
Me, I’d rather spend my time down by the Singapore River and Marina Bay. It’s here that you can get the best view of the Singapore skyline and watch the spectacular Marina Bay Sands light show. I recommend taking in the sights from a Singapore water taxi, which will take you from Clarke Quay to the Esplanade.
There are usually free shows on at the Singapore Esplanade and you simply have to check out Merlion Park, where you can check out the official symbol of the city – an 8.6m mermaid/lion hybrid that spouts water along the south bank of the Singapore River.
For antipodeans, Singapore is a perfect stopover destination on a long flight from Australia or New Zealand to Europe. And for anyone looking to dip their toes in Asia for the first time, Singapore represents a very travel-friendly and non-threatening introduction to the charms of the region.
Unlike Bangkok, say, or Hong Kong, Singapore is very clean and, reputedly, safe for such a massive city.
Then again, this is one city where you’ll definitely want to play by all the rules. Unlawful jaywalking is enforced, heavy fines are imposed on people who spit or litter, and the death penalty is mandatory for anyone who traffics drugs into the country.
It’s easy to get around Singapore – all signs are in English and there are heaps of expats around to help point you in the right direction. The city’s Mass Rapid Transport system (MRT) is really easy to use, too.
Singapore is certainly one of the most impressive cities in the world – but it can also be one of the most expensive.
Even if you don’t plan to shop up a storm along Orchard Road, budget backpackers will do well to save their binge drinking for cheaper Asian countries such as Thailand or Vietnam. But there are plenty of cheap and cheerful things to do in Singapore.
It’s a bit of an all-rounder, then – perfect as a city break for a couple of days or as a jumping-off point for an adventure in mainland Asia.
What’s your opinion of Singapore?