Singapore is often seen as just a stop-off destination, as a place to kill a few hours between flights. It’s also known as a commercial hub, as the home of a corruption-free government and strict, almost draconian laws, but what about the culture? Is Singapore lacking its own identity? It was only when I was invited to visit that I realised I knew embarrassingly little about the country. In all honesty, my first impression of the place was one of bewilderment – Singapore is part traditional and at other times almost futuristic in its modernity and almost everywhere I looked reminded me of another country or culture. After a few days stay the country started to get under my skin, here are ten things that I discovered about Singapore that make fantastic reasons as to why you should add this Asian country to your travel list…
Its distinctive districts
You know where you stand in Singapore’s many intriguing districts – the influences here are very clear. I personally loved Chinatown – the cuisine, the temples and the pretty lanterns that stood out against the azure sky. Another stand out district is the energetic Kampong Glam. Here there is an eclectic mix of fabric shops, hipster style gift shops, quirky clothes boutiques and independent cafés. This place has a real mix of cultures where you can pick up Swedish fika or even opt for Moroccan or Lebanese food.
Reflexology is really prevalent in Singapore and we got to experience it for ourselves. After being led to a dark area with four comfy leather reclining chairs and draped veils, the therapist gave me the most pleasurable and relaxing foot massage that I have ever had. Beyond that, it made me feel incredible and definitely helped with my intense jet lag! In fact, any time in the future that I take a long haul flight, I am going to book myself in on a reflexology session very soon after landing.
Peranakan Museum & culture
This former school is a fabulous building and the exhibits offer a fascinating insight into the Peranakans culture. The Peranakans are a cultural fusion of Chinese, Malay and European descendants which has resulted in a community with their own traditions, fashions and cuisine. The photo exhibition has a real humanity to it and shows a deep and intriguing look at an engaging culture and I loved the Peranakan dish of Laksa – a spicy chilli and chopped noodle soup with a coconut base.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Marina Bay Sands is a beautifully futuristic iconic building that looks incredible from a distance but from the top the views are out of this world! It is especially stunning at night when the city is illuminated by lights and the ships across the bay are lit too. It’s actually the world’s most expensive building with a rooftop affinity pool, hotel, classy bars and restaurants.
Gardens By The Bay
This place made me really fall in love with Singapore. The gardens by the bay are a one billion SGD worth of horticultural excellence, opened two years ago in a bid to put Singapore on the global map. One of the domes located here was deliciously cool and made a refreshing break from the intense heat outside. Here succulents and bright exotic floral displays thrived. It’s a beautiful, very well kept, serene city attraction which has staggering views of its surroundings.
Rooftop Bars – Loof, 1 Altitude
Rooftop bars are very popular in Singapore – they are a great way to utilize space but also offer astounding views of the city, particularly at night. Loof is a fun bar with a great drinks menu and probably some of the friendliest staff in Singapore. Playfully there’s a small shack that sells nostalgic toys and games so amidst the smoky lights, the blasting DJ and the cocktail list you’ll find groups of people sharing games and playing. We spent the evening sipping cocktails while seeing who could blow the biggest balloon from tiny tubes of rubbery paste and a straw.
Geylang – Market fruit and street food
Street food in Singapore definitely deserves a place on this list most street food in Singapore is fresh, reasonable and very quickly served. There are plenty of places where you can get fantastic street food in Singapore. We visited Geylang (Lor 9) and sat at a white plastic patio table on the pavement and enjoyed the local cuisine (Beef Kway Teow). After dinner it’s customary to visit the market stalls on the pavement which sell fresh fruit. Mango, lychee, mangosteen and durian are popular choices.
Dessert bars – 2am:dessert bar
This a wonderful idea where you can visit restaurants that literally just serve delicious desserts. Try the 2am:dessert bar located in the Dutch quarters (Holland Village) which is effortlessly stylish with an industrial down-played interior. The dessert menu is pure art and combined with the cocktails it makes for an indulgent experience. I chose the Cassis Plum (cassis bombe, elderflower yoghurt foam, plum liqueur and bamboo shoot) that looked like an artist’s interpretation of a bath bomb and tasted divine.
They are some places that you just have to visit when you are abroad and Raffles is one of them. The luxurious colonial-style building is pretty special but to be honest we really went to sample their Singapore slings at the very bar where they were invented. One of their famous cocktails from the Long Bar will set you back $28 and the drinks menu also offered some fun variations on your traditional Singapore sling. The drink was delicious and it was fun to munch on monkey nuts and litter the floor with the shells.
Last but not least I have to mention their airlines. Singapore Airlines are rated as one of the best flight passenger carriers in the world and after flying with them I was equally as impressed. I encountered attentive cabin crew, superb food and super luxurious business and first-class suites. Changi airport also offers far more than any other airport that I have visited with free entertainment (such as a 24 hour cinema), a number of tranquil gardens, shower and spa facilities, children’s play areas and calf massage chairs that will get your blood pumping ready for a long haul flight.
Reflecting back on my trip, I’m convinced! I believe it’s the diversity and richness of variety that makes Singapore such a captivating, exciting and inspiring location and would recommend it to anyone.