Singapore’s reputation in the world is well known; orderly, clean, some might go as far to say a bit too sanitary for an Asian city or maybe it’s the equivalent of Brussels in Europe – nice enough but a bit dull (!)
My experience of the city so far has dispelled this apparently accepted truth.
I’m lucky enough to be staying with a friend from university – Jess, who has been a resident for the last two years – so the local perspective on the ‘real’ highlights is more than a bit helpful in experiencing the culture Singapore has to offer.
Singapore is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab and British ex-pats. Jess took me to see these early immigrant settlement areas to explore each individually, and see how they come together to make this city what it is. Little India, China Town and Kampong Glam – Singapore’s Muslim and Arab centre, are all well worth visiting for the coffee houses, Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and traditional cloth shops.
Many of the buildings in these areas are in the original colonial style with colourful window shutters and painted walls. Helpfully, they are all quite close together and easily walkable.
The British influence is hard to miss in the colonial district where Sir Stamford Raffles made his lasting mark on town planning. On the first day, we took ourselves on a self-guided walking tour around this area and squeezed in a quick pit stop at the Fullerton Hotel, the building of which was built in 1928 to serve as the post office, for some much-needed air con. It is a very luxurious setting and THE place to stay in the city, so just be warned, even the soft drinks come with a hefty price tag. If you’re on a budget like me, the 7eleven around the corner is a cheaper option!
And of course, when it rains here it pours, so thankfully there is lots to do inside if you get caught in a shower. A Singapore Sling cocktail in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel is on most tourists to do list and is well worth the S$30 (£15) just for the experience.
It is also the only place in Singapore where littering is positively encouraged as you throw your monkey nut shells on the floor. As well as being the birthplace of the famous fruity cocktail, Raffles has a more dubious claim to fame, as the site of the killing of the last Singaporean tiger, underneath the billiard room in 1902. The tiger is now a motif used by the hotel on its merchandise.
If you’re looking for something completely different for a rainy day, I would recommend the Art Science Museum in the lotus shaped building just outside Marina Bay Sands. We went to one of the free exhibitions which was well curated.
Food wise, the choices are endless and I’ve eaten really well here – Australian brunch, Italian pasta and Chinese dim sum. If you’re on a budget and want a more Asian experience, hawker centres are a must do – think big food markets with everything on offer. We went to the Lau Pa Sat in Raffles Quay for a Sunday dinner of chicken and rice which comes with sides of soup and greens (a local speciality) mutton satay (only 30c per piece) and carrot cake (a savoury omelette made with a local root vegetable) – washed down with some ice tea and the whole meal costing less than S$10 per person (£5) – delish!
ArtsScience museum – 6 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore, 018974
Fullerton Hotel – 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore, 049178
La Pau Sat – 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore, 048582
Raffles Hotel – 1 Beach Road, Singapore, 189673