SINGAPORE HAS LOADS OF CHARISMA. INDULGE YOURSELF IN THE VIBRANT MARINA BAY WHERE YOU CAN BE SPOILT BY MANY CHOICES OF THE INDIAN, CHINESE AND MALAY SUMPTUOUS CUISINES, BAZAARS AND ITS RAPIDLY GROWING ARTS SCENE.
When the sun goes down over downtown Singapore, as seen from the magnificent Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the glass of skyscrapers puts on a stunning display of gleaming lights. You could point your camera in any direction and be guaranteed a stunning view.
Little wonder, then, that this pocket-sized photogenic city-state has been the inspiration for so much art, literature, music and fashion. Yet, Singapore’s vibrantly colorful appeal goes way beyond simple aesthetics; this pulsating metropolis is a melting-pot of Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Arabic and European (mainly British) influences, which visitors can taste in the food, observe in the magnificent colonial architecture and hear in the sounds of the night bazaars, as they echo evocatively down the lanes of Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street.
Some consider it an introduction to Asia: it isn’t quite India, China or Malaysia, yet it accommodates a blend of those cultures and provides visitors with a taste of Asia at its earthy best.
I first came to Singapore in 2003 and have been lured back a number of times since then. I can say that Singapore is the most exotic, energetic, and culturally disparate place I have ever seen.
Besides, Singapore is a place of lush greenery existing side by side with a concrete jungle. In some ways, the city-state feels as if it belongs to another epoch, with its neat blend of sleek and stylish hotels, chic boutiques and plenty of smart hostels alongside vibrant bazaars, neon lights and historic colonial splendour. Yet at the same time, Singapore is a modern-day, forward-thinking metropolis with a growing collection of world-class museums, theatres, art galleries, high-end restaurants and a newly built sports stadium - impressive enough to out-class rivals such as London’s Wembley Stadium.
In my view, a great place to start is the upscale Orchard Road at the heart of the city. At one end of this street, home of Singapore’s most luxurious shops, homes and restaurants, is a sprawling green park, Fort Canning. Laid out in the 1820s by the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, it was home to many governors until 1859, when it was converted to a fort with an arms store, barracks and a hospital.
It was subsequently named after the Governor-General Viscount Charles John Canning, and spans over 18 hectares of monuments, blossoming trees, mini lakes and sweeping lawns.
New parts of the city, such as Marina Bay Sands, continue to grow, but nothing says Singapore quite like the Central Business District or the Colonial District. Here’s where you’ll find all the action; a heady mix of everything.
In time, while many parts of Singapore have become modernized and embedded in a concrete jungle, there is still a rich colonial heart that beats in the shadows of the tall skyscrapers and highways that adorn the city. The British left a strong legacy with some highly impressive examples of colonial architecture, mostly clustered around the city’s central business district.
Once a formidable statement of colonial splendour, the well-preserved terracotta and white brickwork of the Raffles Hotel commands as much respect as it did in its glory days during the British Raj.
The attention to detail with which the Raffles has been kept throughout the years is a symbol of how much the Singaporeans value tradition and live in harmony with a cluster of various cultures.
One tangible, essential element of a perfect trip is the people one meets, and in Singapore the hospitality is truly exceptional. Endlessly obliging and engaging, the locals couldn’t make a visitor feel more welcome. The people here are truly instrumental in defining its warm and easy-going vibe, and are generally open to making new friends.
Singapore has a glamorous high-life and the “me” culture is perhaps developed here more than any other city in the Asia-Pacific region. The luxury city magazines you can flip through in airport lounges and high-end eateries will tell you all you need to know about the highbrow culture of this booming global hub.
With the days dedicated to slogging away at the office, the city-state is well-known for its energetic nightlife, and Singaporeans like to while away their evenings with good food and music. Singapore is laid out on a simple grid-system with a river running through it, so it is easy to find your way around- even if you have directional disability, as I do. Therefore, sightseeing is straightforward here: Singapore’s biggest attractions these days are Clarke Quay and the hip and happening Marina Bay area. Both of these parts of the city are where Singaporeans, and tourists alike, love to enjoy good music, excellent food and heart-to-heart conversations. The most endearing aspect of Singapore’s social life, however, is its intergenerational and intercultural milieu. Whether you hit a café in Clarke Quay, walk in the park in the Colonial District or watch a performance at the Esplanade, you’re sure to find yourself interacting with people from 18 to 60, all with different backgrounds.
“Owing to its status as a former British cantonment, Singapore has always had a liberal way of life and a cosmopolitan attitude with clubs, parties and a redolent social scene,” says Michelin-starred chef Justin Quek. “It has been able to retain that quality of life, always accepting the influx from various corners of the world, and passionate about meeting new people and showing them a good time.” Quek, a born and raised Singaporean, is the Chef de Cuisine at the Sky on 57 eatery at the Marina Bay Sands, and he says he adores the vitality of Singaporean daily life.
In order to experience the city thoroughly, one must be sure to visit its parks and historical hotspots, which sit side-by-side with its pulsating social life. Vibrantly colorful by day and night, there is so much to explore in Singapore. To make the most of your visit to this fascinating city, here are some tips that give you an insight into its heart and soul.
If you want to trick yourself into feeling you’re not in Singapore at all, but instead on an exotic island resort, head to Sentosa. Just a few minutes of travel from ‘mainland’ Singapore, it is one of Asia’s most stunning man-made islands. Here, the throb of the city vanishes; the silence is broken only by the splash of boats playing on the water. You will find a number of attractions in this island. These include a gigantic 37-metre replica of Merlion statue, a free-standing observation tower called Tiger Sky Tower from which you can get panoramic views across the island, Singapore’s first adventure park- the MegaZip Adventure Park, one of the longest and steepest zip wires in Asia, and the historic Fort Siloso, which was built by the British in the 1880s to guard the island during the colonial era.
For an ultimate gastronomic journey, go to the Sky on 57, the signature restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands. The eatery presents Chef Justin Quek’s modern interpretation of Franco-Asian cuisine, and has a skillfully designed interior oozing elegance. Its cuisine spans a delectable range of traditional dishes from Maine lobster and baked miso cod to Cantonese broth – all with an Asian touch.
Neatly positioned behind Orchard Road, the beautifully designed and award-winning Quincy Hotel is quite possibly one of the trendiest hotels in Singapore. With its 108 generously spacious rooms spread over 14 floors, the luxurious Quincy is a full sensory assault, with colors, textures, motifs and the evergreen design eccentricity all vying for admiration. It offers rooms with included food, and a free limo pick-up from the airport.
Located close to the well-known Orchard Road, right at the heart of Singapore’s commercial and entertainment district, the stunning Grand Hyatt Singapore, complete with its 677 spacious rooms and suites, is an oasis of tranquility for business and leisure travelers. The hotel’s seven dining venues project an air of sophistication and are designed to reflect the hotel’s contemporary yet luxury design- leaving you totally spoilt for choice.
HOW TO GET THERE
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Singapore-Istanbul flights daily.
For information: turkishairlines.com