Any visitor will tell you that Singapore has an atmosphere of its own – a unique blend of East and West. It’s true, the way most cliche’s tend to be. Walking around town, you will recognize elements that can belong to any metropolis – but the sights, smells and sounds are distinctly Singaporean.
Take the language for example, how to pronounce ‘Singapore’? Wikipedia tries to give you the middle-of-the-road English version: /ˈsɪŋəpɔər/ si-ngə-pohr. We prefer the much more authentic, clipped Singlish accent: singah-poah (emphasis on the last syllable).
Don’t worry – we’re not a language lesson blog. As usual, we stick to what we know: how to show you the sights and atmosphere the best we can. There is so much to tell, we have had to split our City Walk into two posts. This week, we’ll start with the Must See. Next week it’ll be Accommodation & Restaurants.
Singapore Botanical Gardens. It is free, it is beautiful, it is big, it has the Orchid garden. Just go there, relax and take along your camera.
Orchard Road. Yes, it is true. Let the eyes pop out of your head. It is luxurious, it is big, it is awesome, it is expensive, it is busy. It has everything you ever want to buy. If you’re bored, go to Orchard Road and spend some cash.
Marina Bay. Hard to imagine, but the shops in Marina Bay are even more expensive and exclusive than on Orchard Road. If your credit card isn’t up to the task, you should still go there. The reason: the top deck of Marina Bay Sands hotel. You’ll never again stand on a deck that looks like a boat sitting on top of three hotel tower blocks. Better yet, it gives you a fantastic view of Singapore’s harbour – and on the F1 road circuit! We highly recommend going here by night-time – the images tell you why.
China Town. The tourist destination of Singapore, but still worth your while. The shops, the haggling with vendors, the plastic cheap souvenirs. It’s all there waiting for you! One of our favourites is the Tintin Store on Pagoda street. On the same street, you will find a little antiques shop that sells artworks by Bei Le Xian. Though we’ve only been twice, Ingrid has turned it into a tradition to bring back one or more pieces of Bei Le Xian’s paintings.
Little India. This part of Singapore has probably the best and the worst on offer for a tourist. You’ll find the most colourful sights around, but also the most dilapidated and dirty parts. We recommend everyone to step outside Orchard Road and explore Little India to get a full perspective of Singapore. Dive into the colourful shops and temples. Don’t stop at the shops but explore the back streets and alleyways as well (just avoid Tekka wetmarket).
Bugis. The former red light district of Singapore named for the Indonesian seafarers who found a shelter in this spot during the Middle Ages. After they were forced to abandon most of their regular trade routes to the Dutch, they found a way to open new routes with Singapore as their base. By the time of the Second World War, the original inhabitants of this part of town were replaced by seamen and marines from all over the world. It became the red light district of Singapore, famous for its very beautiful transgender women. Today, Bugis shopping mall carries the image of a typical Bugis ship as its trade mark.
Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium. This museum recently opened on Sentosa island. If you have kids and are looking for a highly entertaining and interactive (though rather superficial) museum experience, this is the one to go to. It describes the story of the Chinese admiral Zheng He who sailed to Africa, long before Columbus even conceived the idea of venturing towards the Americas. The route of his voyage via Singapore, India, Oman and Africa is now considered the ‘Maritime Silk Road’. The museum has a really cool movie experience, pay the few singdollar extra to experience this! The whole basement floor of the museum is a commercial tourist shop (which we thought should have been used as a museum, too). The Aquarium was not open yet when we visited.
Cable Car to Sentosa Island. It’s a nice experience, and you’ll want to buy a return ticket, as it’s only two singdollar cheaper as a one-way ticket. Yes, we laughed our heads off too, when we discovered this! You’ll have a really nice view on the harbour, Sentosa island and the Universal Studios.