Singapore is a really small place, a whole country on an island half the size of London. With a population of almost six million (5.78 million, 2018) people on this island, Singapore is 34% more crowded than Tokyo (in population density). But, it is also the number #1 place for Asia's Best Quality of Living (Mercer 2017).
Not long after World War II, in August 1965, island Singapore found herself in the pits of her defining moment in history. With zero natural resources, a super small economy, a declining port-based trade business and escalating domestic racial riots. Her people had to choose. To hang on to the hard won merger with Malaysia (just 2 years ago), deemed so desperately needed for trade and jobs, or choose the path of multiracialism and multiculturalism?
On 9th August 1965, negotiations with the Federation of Malaya broke down. News of "big surprise and shock" and "most painful and heartbreaking" was delivered to its people. Singapore would be separating away from Malaysia. A "dream [of union and growth was] shattered". Singapore's Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, overcame by emotions, broke down. Singapore was on its own.
Since then, the land mass of this tiny country has ballooned by some 23% to 721.5 sq km (278.6 sq mi). She is at the number 3 spot for "Richest Countries in the World" (Fortune, 2018), and is also mentioned in other top global lists in the top 3 spots: "World's Top Airports" (SkyTrax), "World's Best Airlines" (AirlineRatings), "World's Tallest Ferris Wheel", "World's Largest Aquarium", "World's Most Expensive Casino", etc. The rest, as they say, is history.
Have an awesome time visiting this diamond in Asia. Enjoy the cuisine and beautiful fusion of people in this urban cultural melting pot.
p.s. Name of an alcoholic beverage named after this country - Singapore Sling. Try it. :-)
(Cover Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash)
Welcome to Singapore! This is Singapore's (only) international airport. There are 4 major terminals here. Getting between them is best done via the following complimentary services:
1. Skytrain between Terminal 1,2 and 3
2. Airport Shuttle Bus service to and fro Terminal 4
Getting into the City:
Taxis in Singapore are very affordable and are available at the taxi stands at the Arrival levels of each Terminal. A ride to the city takes about 30 minutes and costs between $20 and $40. Fares are metered and there is an additional Airport surcharge for all trips originating from the Airport.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
This Buddhist temple and museum complex is located in the Chinatown district of Singapore. The temple founded in 2002 is a popular attraction.
Its intricate building design was conceptualised and designed by Venerable Shi Fa Zhao, and based on the Tang dynasty architectural style. It was built to house the tooth relic of the historical Buddha.
It is said that the relic of Buddha from which it gains its name was found in 1980 in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar. Head upstairs to level 4 and to view this relic.
Entry into this sacred place is free.
There is a dress code requirement here - no mini skirt, short shorts, bare-back, singlets, etc. Men and women should wear pants that are at least 3/4 length going over their knees. Ladies in dresses should also ensure their skirts are covering their knees as well. Photography is generally allowed in the temple, except for level 4 where the relic is kept.
A sub-zone and ethnic enclave located within the Central Area of Singapore, this area features distinctly Chinese cultural elements of Singapore.
Historically, Chinatown has had a concentrated ethnic Chinese population. This precinct does retain significant historical and cultural significance. Large sections of it have been declared national heritage sites officially designated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
You might find some gems of souvenirs to bring home from this rather touristy area.
Look for the food street smack in the middle of this area.
Visit Singapore's oldest Hindu temple. It is a picturesque agamic temple in downtown Chinatown.
Given its architectural and historical significance, the temple is a National Monument, and is a major tourist attraction.
Built in the South Indian Dravidian style, this temple features a beautiful painted gopuram that rises above the main entrance. It is richly embellished with six tiers of sculptures of Hindu deities, other figures and ornamental decorations. The tower tapers up towards to a moulded ornamental ridge. The scale of each tier and its sculptures is slightly smaller than that of the tier immediately below it. This creates the illusion of height and adds to the symbolic importance of the building. Flanking the gopuram are a sculpture of Murugan on the right and Krishna on the left (as one enters).
The focus of the main prayer hall is the central shrine of Mariamman, which is flanked by the shrines of two secondary deities, Rama and Murugan. The main prayer hall is surrounded by a series of free-standing shrines, housed in pavilion-like structures with decorated dome roofs, known as Vimana. These are dedicated to the following deities: Durga, Ganesh, and Shiva.
The shrine to Sita is the second most important in the temple, as she is central to the annual timiti or firewalking festival held in this temple. To the left of Sita are the five Pandavas from the Mahabharata epic – Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva and Nakula. They are presided over by Lord Krishna.
Another important element of the temple is the free-standing flagpole. A few days before major festivals or ritual ceremonies, a flag is raised here.
Train to Bayfront MRT Station (9 mins)
Escalators to the Rooftop Bridge
Use the series of escalators here to get to the rooftop of this shopping complex.
At the top, is a link bridge which will take you to the other side of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to the Gardens By the Bay.
Marina Bay Sands & SkyPark
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is a large integrated resort in the Marina Bay of Singapore. When it opened in 2010, it was billed as the world's most expensive standalone casino property (inclusive of the land cost) at SG$8 (US$ 6) billion!
The resort includes a 3-tower hotel complex with 2,561 rooms, a convention-exhibition centre covering 120,000 square metres (1,300,000 sq ft), a shopping mall (The Shoppes) with 74,000 square metres (800,000 sq ft) of retail, a museum, two large theatres, "celebrity chef" restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, art-science exhibits, and the world's largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines. You just might find something to do here.
The key feature of interest here sits over the hotel complex. The MBS SkyPark is a 340 metre long (1,120 ft) structure with a 150 m (490 ft) long infinity swimming pool (about 3 lengths of an olympic size pool) with the world's largest public (cantilevered) platform, which overhangs the hotel's North tower by 67 m (220 ft) or just over the length of an olympic size swimming pool.
Unless you are a guest staying at the MBS hotel, you'll need tickets to enter the SkyPark. Get same-day admission tickets only from Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Hotel Lobby Tower 1). The infinity pool on level 57 and jacuzzi area are for hotel guests only.
This is Singapore's premier urban outdoor recreation space, and a national icon.
A popular nature park opened in 2014, it spans 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land in central Singapore and is located next to the Marina Reservoir. There are three waterfront gardens here in the park. The largest is Bay Central (Garden) along with Bay East and South. Plenty of open spaces here to enjoy leisure strolls and for kids to run around.
If you are planning to walk over from the Marina Bay Sands shopping area, find the series of "hidden" escalators from the Shoppes (shopping mall, close to the convention centre area) which takes you to the rooftop of the malls, where you will find a bridge which takes you right *through* the centre of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel over to the other side - where you will see this Gardens by the Bay right ahead of you. For folks staying at this hotel, there is no easy/direct access to the Gardens by the Bay (go figure). Head underground to the Shoppes and find the "hidden" escalators.
Admission to the outdoor park areas is free.
This elevated walkway, dangles from the largest Supertrees in the grove. Go 22 metres (72 feet) up and enjoy a fantastic scroll above the canopy of the tree tops down below.
Lots of panoramic aerial views here from up high.
There is a small admission charge to get up here, but it's definitely worth it.
Hang on to your cellphones, cameras / selfie-sticks! Yes, no leaning on the rails of the walkway. Seriously.
Cloud Forest & Flower Dome
If the Botanic gardens is too warm and humid for you, you might want to head over to a cooled conservatory to enjoy some garden scenery.
Visit this Cloud Forest, a 35-metre tall "mountain" covered in lush vegetation shrouding the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. See plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000-metres above sea level. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and vegetation, in which case they are also referred to as mossy forests. Mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture introduced by settling clouds is more effectively retained.
Right next door is the Flower Dome, the largest glass greenhouse in the world (in 2015) and see plant life from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions of the world.
An entry ticket gets you into both the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome areas.
Visit over 300 stores and food outlets here at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Featured boutiques include brands Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Cartier, Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Emporio Armani, Chopard, REDValentino, Dior, Dunhill, Vertu, Miu Miu, Saint Laurent Paris, Salvatore Ferragamo, Montblanc, Blancpain, Vera Wang Bride, a Hermès watch boutique, Herve Leger, to name a few.
A canal runs through the length of the Shoppes, in the same style as The Venetian in Las Vegas. Sampan rides on the canal are available for guests and shoppers at the shopping mall, similar to the gondola rides available in the Venetian.
Also within the Shoppes are six of the ten Celebrity Chef restaurants - Bread Street Kitchen (by Gordon Ramsay), Cut (by Wolfgang Puck), Waku Ghin (by Tetsuya Wakuda), Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza (by Mario Batali), Long Chim (by David Thompson) and DB Bistro & Oyster Bar (by Daniel Boulud).
There are two Crystal Pavilions here. One of the Pavilions houses two nightclubs - Avalon and Pangaea. The other Pavilion houses the world's largest Louis Vuitton boutique, in addition to being on a floating island - which is connected to the Shoppes via an underwater tunnel.
There are free water and laser shows on the bay front, nightly.
Sunday to Thursday – 8pm & 9pm
Friday & Saturday – 8pm, 9pm and 10pm
(Please check for latest current showtimes on the marinabaysands.com website. Link below.)
Walk on an intricate, lightweight bridge which looks like a genetics experiment in action.
This landmark pedestrian bridge is wrapped by opposing double helix structures, made entirely from stainless steel. Its design - inspired by the geometric helicoidal arrangement of DNA - is symbolic of continuity and renewal.
This bridge spans 280 meters long, and is the first double-helix bridge in the world. It is part of the 3.5 km continuous waterfront promenade, linking the Marina Centre, the waterfront area and a large casino/hotel resort.
Do some or all of the following and end the night in Clarke Quay for drinks! (and dancing, optional)
Fancy getting onto a giant Ferris wheel with 28 air-conditioned capsules with up to 27 other passengers for 30 mins? Ok, you will get up to a high of 165 meters (541 feet).
It features breathtaking, panoramic views on Asia’s largest observation wheel, and possibly a romantic night out. Level up your experience and impress with the 4-course Sky Dining Flight or Premium Champagne Flight.
The Singapore Flyer is amongst the tallest Ferris wheels in the world. It was the tallest before High Roller in the Las Vegas Strip started spinning in March 2014.
Visit the interesting looking unofficial mascot of Singapore - The Merlion in situ!
The mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, is symbolic of Singapore and Singaporeans in general. It is widely used to represent both the city state and its people in sports (teams), advertising, branding, tourism. Back in the day, the Merlion was oriignally used in Singapore as the logo for the tourism board.
There is a nice park area here in the bay. Get your selfie cams ready and capture your photo along with the forward spray from this beast.
Best thing to do whilst you are here is actually to watch the crowd get creative with their photo taking. Ahh .. the life of a tourist.
A historical quay in Singapore. It is situated close to the mouth of the Singapore river and the financial heart of the country.
At one time, during the 1860s, it was the busiest part of the old Port of Singapore. Three-quarters of all shipping business was handled here.
The south of the river here resembles the belly of a carp. Chinese belief this is where wealth and prosperity lay, and hence many shophouses back in the day were built here, crowding the area. The shipping business has long since moved on from the area. These shophouses have been carefully conserved and today, they house plenty of bars, pubs and restaurants.
This area is fairly touristy and offers plenty of selection. But, if you are on a budget, do note the prices on the menu's before entering the restaurants here.
Clarke Quay is a historical riverside quay in Singapore, located within the Singapore River Planning Area. The quay is situated upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River and Boat Quay.
In the evenings, especially later at night on weekends, this place transforms into an interesting nightlife event.
Whilst prices are rather touristy here, the nightlife atmosphere here is a good one to relax into after a long day out sightseeing.
The only way to really travel over to Sentosa Island (or back to the main land) is via aerial ropeway!
This gondola ride has been operating since 1974, offering aerial harbour front views over the busiest transshipment port in the world.
Feeling the need, the need for speed?!
Jump on the tracks at Sentosa's Skyline Luge. There is the Jungle Trail, the Dragon Trail, the Kupu Kupu Trail and the Expedition Trail. I'm sure you'll figure what the various names of the tracks mean by the time you are done.
For the uninitiated, a luge is a downhill sled ride where you control your speed by pulling back on a pair of handlebars. At the end of the ride, ski lifts (Skyrides) take you back to the start point at the top, for yet another round of crazy.
Great fun for the whole family.
When you have had enough of the rides here, but not quite enough .. Head over to the MegaZip lines nearby and start your plunge from 75 meters (246 Feet).
Enjoy lunch at this food court packed with local food stalls.
Resorts World Sentosa (aka RWS) is an integrated resort on the island of Sentosa.
A number of major attractions are here ..
(1) Universal Studios theme park: a first in Southeast Asia, excellent for slightly your older children.
(2) S.E.A. Aquarium: one of the largest oceanariums in the world.
(3) Adventure Cove Water Park: features a hydro-magnetic coaster and a gigantic wave pool - grab a tube and journey down Adventure River.
(4) Casino: this is Singapore's first casino and one of the only two casinos in the country, nicely tucked away below ground with 500 gaming tables offering 19 different games.
(This rollercoaster at Universal Studios is pictured here.)
Spend your afternoon on one of the following:
Anyone: S.E.A. Aquarium
Kids: Universal Studios
History: Fort Siloso
This S.E.A. Aquarium (South East Asia Aquarium) is one of the world's largest aquarium.
It contains a total of 45,000,000 litres (9,900,000 imp gal; 12,000,000 US gal) of water for more than 100,000 marine animals of over 800 species. Ok, its big.
Its centerpiece, is the Open Ocean tank. There are over 50,000 animals in it. Looking through a world's largest viewing panel should get you feeling like you are at floor of the ocean. If not, you will need to spend a little more time, looking.
PLENTY of manta rays here - including the only giant oceanic manta ray in an aquarium. See Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, scalloped hammerhead sharks, Japanese spider crab, guitarfish, seahorses, etc. My favourite sea creature exhibit, was the jelly fish - swimming in all their glory in full beautiful psychedelic lighting. Get mesmerized.
Universal Studios Singapore
Visit the world renown Universal Studios theme park at Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa Island.
Featuring 24 rides, shows and attractions in seven themed zones, you know the kids are going to love this playground. Plan to be here the whole day!
WW2 military buffs will find this place quietly tucked away in a remote corner of Sentosa island interesting.
Fort Siloso is the sole restored coastal gun battery (of 12 such batteries) which made up "Fortress Singapore" at the start of World War II, and now a military museum open to the public. The Surrender Chambers in Fort Siloso was reopened in June 2017 with a refreshed exhibition.
Access this place via the Skywalk (for awesome views!) from the elevator tower only a few minutes walk from the nearby cable car station.
Admission is free.
Take the monorail train out of Sentosa back to the mainland.
Looking for a shopping experience that is "modern, stimulating and accessible to everyone, a place bubbling with energy and flowing with vitality"? Located in the HarbourFront precinct, this mall has its name from the word "vivacity" and was designed by the famous award winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito.
VivoCity is the largest shopping mall in Singapore and one of the top malls in the country (Forbes). There are plenty of restaurants and eateries here too. Enjoy!
HarbourFront MRT Station
North East Line --> Dhoby Ghaut Station (NE6)
9 min (4 stops)
(Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station)
change trains to ..
North South Line --> Orchard Station (NS22)
3 min (2 stops)
Exit the underground station into the ION Orchard Mall building basements.
This is one of the best shopping malls in Singapore, period.
Opened in 2009, you can try counting the some 335 food and retail outlets here.
A futuristic facade, huge food basement, fantastic all round retail therapy and plenty of luxury shopping (on the upper levels) means you cannot go wrong here.
No trip to Singapore is complete without a walk down it's central shopping district and epicentre of its local population on weekends.
Orchard Road is a 2.2 kilometre-long tree-lined major boulevard, filled with people, lights, traffic, shopping, eating places and more people, and yes, you'll want to be here!
Plenty of air-conditioned malls in the area (albeit congested), make for great ducking-into for a quick cooling off every now and then - paramount for survival in this urban "shopscape".
This shopping beltway and tourist attraction is best accessed by MRT (massive rapid transport) rail.
3 of the top 5 shopping malls of Singapore (by Forbes) can be found here, including: Orchard Central, Paragon and of course, ION Orchard.
If you are not a shopper, grab a cold beverage and enjoy the people watching - from just about anywhere on the stretch.
If you are into animals .. Choose 1 of the following:
1. Singapore Zoo
2. River Safari
3. Night Safari
If you prefer plants & a free walk in the park, do:
4. Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Zoo (aka Mandai Zoo) is a 28 hectares (69 acres) park within the country's heavily forested central catchment area. It is a very popular tourist attraction indeed.
See some 315 species of animals in the zoo - about some 16 percent of which are considered to be threatened species.
This place has its animals in naturalistic, 'open' exhibits with hidden barriers, moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. Resident here is the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world.
Into a water themed zoo? This place features freshwater attractions and river boat rides. A first of its kind in Asia.
See some 10 different ecosystems from around the world - the River Nile, Yangtze River, Mississippi, Amazon, Tundra, and others. With about 5000 animals of 300 species, including many endangered ones, the Giant Panda Forest and Giant panda Kai Kai are main attractions here.
Do the Amazon River Quest boat ride and experience over 30 different wildlife species from the Amazon River. Spot giraffes and Asian elephants. Enough said.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Looking to take a break from the city?
Step into this 158-year-old tropical garden right at the fringe of Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district. So distinct, it is the only tropical garden to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has received many awards and top ratings by various global brands including TripAdvisor and Michelin.
The National Orchid Garden, within the main gardens, is at the forefront of orchid studies and a pioneer in the cultivation of hybrids, complementing the nation's status as a major exporter of cut orchids. Aided by the equatorial climate, it houses the largest orchid collection of 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids. Early in the nation's independence, Singapore Botanic Gardens' expertise helped to transform the island into a tropical Garden City, an image and moniker for which the nation is widely known.
More than 10,000 species of flora is spread over its 82-hectares area.
(Optional: This place is open from 7:30pm to midnight.)
Visit the world's first nocturnal zoo. Which also happens to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore!
This place was officially opened on 26 May 1994 and occupies 35 hectares (86 acres) of secondary rainforest adjacent to the Singapore Zoo and Upper Seletar Reservoir.
See some over 2,500 animals representing over 130 species - of which 38% are threatened species.
If you are into learning the history of this small island country and regions; and/or would like to check out the local art gallery scene .. The following museums will be of interest to you. Each could take up a couple of hours on their own.
National Museum of Singapore
Curious to know more about the history of Singapore? Head over to its National Museum, also the oldest museum in Singapore, dating back to 1849.
This museum is one of four national museums in the country. The other three are: the two Asian Civilisations Museums at Empress Place Building and Old Tao Nan School, and the Singapore Art Museum.
This one is for you history lovers. Be inspired with stories of Singapore and the world.
National Gallery Singapore
Visit the largest visual arts venue and museum in the country.
Opened in November 2015, the National Gallery Singapore oversees the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian art of over 8,000 artworks.
Gain an understanding and appreciation of Singapore's culture and heritage and its relationship with other Southeast Asian cultures, Asia, and the world.
Located in Singapore’s central Civic District, this Gallery includes two national monuments - the buildings of the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall.
Asian Civilisations Museum
If you are into history and culture, this is a place for you.
It is one of the pioneering museums in the region to specialise in pan-Asian cultures and civilisations. It specialises in the material history of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia, from which the diverse ethnic groups of Singapore trace their ancestry.
This museum is a part of the four museums in Singapore - the other three are the Peranakan Museum at Old Tao Nan School, the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.
Entry is discounted on Friday evenings.
Budget shopping (optional)
This is a stretch of shopping outlets for the budget shopper, looking for good deals in less glamorous (i.e. non-5-star) streets.
If you find yourself sleepless in Singapore, and feeling the need to shop at a budget destination - yes, this is not a mainstream activity - jump into a cab/Uber and head for this 24-hour shopping mall(s) in the cultural district of Little India.
Not an exception area in and off itself, Mustafa Centre attracts many shoppers with its wide variety of products and services. Spanning from a main building to the adjacent ones, you can find plenty of budget to mid-range clothing, electronic items and all forms of household items here.
This is a street for (usually) budget shopping and those looking for traditional fabrics. For the well heeled traveller, your shopping needs will be better satisfied in the many other shopping streets around the island country.
Back in the day, during colonial Singapore, Indian immigrants would reside under the British policy of ethnic segregation in the Chulia Kampong area. That area got really crowded and many moved into this area which is now known as Little India. An area which was reported to have developed around a former settlement for Indian convicts.
Its location along the Serangoon River originally made it attractive for raising cattle, and trade in livestock was once prominent in the area. Eventually, other economic activity developed, and by the turn of the 20th century, the area began to look like an ethnic Indian neighbourhood.
There are plenty of great lost cost bargains to be found in the area. Fancy 3 little girl dresses for SG$10 (US$7.50)? You will want to come here - Tekka Centre!
Looking for electronics? This is the one place to get accessories or a new piece.
Do note that prices tend to be lower on the upper floors. Do be aware that prices can vary between floors and prices on more expensive goods can be negotiated (down), so it helps to be aware of the current going price.
An interesting place, Bugis was renowned internationally in 1950s to 1980s for its nightly gathering of trans women.
After some major urban redevelopment in the mid-1980s, Bugis Street has since been transformed into a retail complex of modern shopping malls, restaurants and nightspots mixed with regulated back-alley roadside vendors. The era of the colourful nightly transgender sex bazaar culture is over.
The New Bugis Street (formerly Albert Street) is a now a large street-shopping location, frequented by mostly locals.
Central Business District (optional)
This is the heart of Singapore's Financial and Business District. Not exactly a place tourists would like to be, except perhaps for a nighttime feed.
For the late night hungry, there is always this historic place smack in the middle of Singapore's financial downtown district.
The Lau Pa Sat (English: Old Market) is a renovated Victorian-style cast iron hawker (food) centre is always open (24 hours, select stores). A little pricier and hence quieter than most, you get to feed in a historic place. See the Wikipedia link for the history of this place, since it's early days as Telok Ayer Market back in 1879.
For an alternative eating location during the daytime, try Maxwell Food Centre, on the other end of the business district, where locals go.
A true colonial-style classic and luxury hotel in Singapore. This place was established in 1887 and is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
So, this is were it all began for the Singapore Sling. Enjoy this gin-based cocktail developed sometime before 1915, by a local bartender at this hotel.
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