SINGAPORE Feb 7 Singapore was once famous for
three things: The banning of chewing gum, mandatory flushing of
public toilets and the caning of American youth Michael Fay for
car vandalism in 1994.
It has since shed some of its inhibitions as Asia's city of
"thou shalt nots" diversifies away from an economy heavy on
manufacturing and banking.
While Monaco or Barcelona it is not, tropical Singapore is
now known as a top-class casino-gambling destination, the venue
for the world's first Formula One night race and the bachelor
playground of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
Clean and safe, the prosperous city-state is also a magnet
for high-end shoppers and one of the most diverse food capitals
in the world. (Map: goo.gl/maps/54Glo)
Here are tips for getting the most out of a trip to
Singapore from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of
the world offer visitors the best local insights.
Singapore, whose name means Lion City in Sanskrit, was
colonised by the British in the early 19th century. Before that,
it was inhabited by no more than a thousand people.
The preceding centuries are shrouded in myth and legend,
with Chinese travellers and Javanese chroniclers alluding to a
lair for pirates and the sighting of a majestic lion.
The last 100 years marked an era of deep change as the
British empire unravelled, post-colonial Singapore was expelled
from the Malaysia federation and the tiny island suddenly became
a self-governing state with a tenuous future.
The little red dot, as Singapore is fondly known among
locals, has since overcome its smallness and lack of resources
to become an economic powerhouse - an evolution that critics say
has led to soul-sapping materialism, political apathy and
HISTORY, CULTURE & NATURE
History buffs and travellers with relatives who were part of
the Allied forces are often drawn to the World War Two sites
around the island.
A good place to start is the tranquil Changi Museum, which
documents the lives of prisoners of war during the Japanese
occupation. Then make your way south to Fort Siloso on Sentosa
island, before taking a short train ride to the stark but
stately Kranji War Memorial.
The Asian Civilisations Museum at 1 Empress Place showcases
culture and history from around the region. Current exhibits
include relics from China's Tang dynasty and Batak sculpture
from Sumatra. (www.acm.org.sg)
People intrigued by the colourful, energetic culture of
Chinese traders who settled in Malacca, Penang and Singapore
centuries ago will have a rewarding time at the intimate
Peranakan Museum at 39 Armenian Street.
For tourists game for a spectacle, join the male devotees
celebrating the fire-walking festival at the Sri Mariamman
Temple each October. The Hindu temple, Singapore's oldest, is in
the most unlikely of places - Chinatown.
Visit the Sultan Mosque in the Kampong Glam enclave near the
city centre to bask in the glory of the Malay aristocracy of
old. Then retire to nearby Arab Street for a drink at Blu Jaz as
you marvel at the boho patrons and their shisha pipes.
Outdoorsy types can explore the 200-acre (81-hectare) Bukit
Brown cemetery off Lornie Road in central Singapore. Named after
a 19th century English trader, the final resting place for
thousands of pioneering Chinese immigrants has sparked a rare
national debate on conservation versus development.
Other scenic spots include the 155-year-old Botanic Gardens,
the jungle trails at MacRitchie Reservoir (mind the long-tailed
macaques!) and East Coast Park's 15 km (9 miles) of seaside
biking and walking paths. (www.nparks.gov.sg)
See a play or live music at Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay,
which has a year-round calendar of cultural events, including
hands-on workshops for kids. Dozens of restaurants and food
stalls line the complex. (www.esplanade.com)
Listings of shows, concerts and other events can be found at
www.timeoutsingapore.com, www.is.asia-city.com and the Tourism
Board's website www.yoursingapore.com.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
Singapore prides itself on being a food haven, and for good
A morning excursion to Tiong Bahru market, in the heart of
Singapore's oldest public housing estate, is a must-do. Admire
the area's art deco charm as you sink your teeth into crispy,
thin toast covered with kaya - a jam made from coconut milk,
eggs and pandan leaf - and sip coffee in quaint porcelain cups.
For lunch, savour a plate of chicken rice, one of
Singapore's iconic offerings, at Boon Tong Kee at 425 River
Or try some laksa - a coconut-based curry with rice noodles,
shrimp and fish cake. Foodies quarrel endlessly over that
perfect bowl of laksa but a good version can be had at 328
Katong Laksa at 51 East Coast Road in the Tanjong Katong area.
Dinner would be a toss-up between chilli crab, the third
iconic dish, and Peranakan cuisine, a happy outcome of Chinese,
Malay and Indian influences.
A favourite chilli crab destination is Red House Seafood at
the East Coast Seafood Centre. It's best enjoyed with beer and
boisterous company. On a different night, sample Peranakan duck
soup, honey pork and spicy beef at Ivin's at 19 Binjai Park.
Brunch and tea? You can have your eggs Benedict or
Florentine, plus quiche, burgers and towering portions of cake
at PS Cafe at 28B Harding Road. Popular on weekends, the cafe
boasts a lovely outdoor sitting area with a leafy backdrop.
Those craving dim sum will find fulfilment at Lei Garden
Restaurant at Chijmes - a collection of eateries, bars and
boutiques in a historic former convent at 30 Victoria Street.
Challenge your palate with frog legs a la Kung Pao chicken
at Lion City Frog Porridge at 235 Geylang Road (Lorong 9). If
you are keen to try the king of fruits, the pungent and fleshy
durian can be savoured at many street stalls in Geylang.
Beyond Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine, Singapore offers
everything from boeuf bourguignon to Vietnamese springrolls.
Within walking distance of Esplanade is Morton's The
Steakhouse on the fourth storey of the Mandarin Oriental, a
fail-safe but pricey option. A good alternative is L'Entrecôte
at 36 Duxton Hill in the historic district of Tanjong Pagar.
At Marina Bay Sands, Pizzeria Mozza offers an extensive menu
and a team of star chefs.
For hearty French fare, there's Le Bistrot du Sommelier at
53 Armenian Street near the Peranakan Museum. Diners with deeper
wallets will take to Joël Robuchon Restaurant at Resorts World
For Italian fare, Basilico at The Regent has a terrific
lunch buffet, OTTO Ristorante at 28 Maxwell Road is a chic venue
and nearby Capricci at 27 Tanjong Pagar Road has a more casual
For authentic ramen, try Keisuke Tokyo at Parco Millenia.
Sushi lovers flock to Shinji by Kanesaka at Raffles Hotel. A
less expensive but equally elegant venue is Aoki at Shaw Centre
in the Orchard Road shopping district.
Let's start at the top.
The 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar, which claims to be the world's
highest al fresco bar, commands a 360-degree view of the
business district and Marina Bay.
On the 63rd floor of One Raffles Place, the bar competes for
high-elevation revellers with nearby KU DE TA on the 57th floor
of the Marina Bay Sands Skypark across the bay.
Pangaea, also at Marina Bay Sands, is frequented by the
well-heeled and conspicuously rich. Even if you don't have
thousands of dollars to blow on luxury cognacs, it's still a
worthy diversion with its self-conscious glamour and African
Equally bold but more European is Attica at River Valley
Road in the Clarke Quay area. No business suits please.
For those looking to hit the bottle at double-quick time,
Tantric Bar at 78 Neil Road in Tanjong Pagar is your port of
call. Lounge about in the green-lit courtyard as you down double
shots with no extra charge for the second. It's LGBT-friendly
Or chill out at Vida Vino at 29 Keong Saik Road. In a part
of Chinatown known as a red-light district in the 1960s, the bar
has a great tapas menu and laid-back Mediterranean feel.
Revellers and the thirsty can also explore numerous drinking
holes at nearby Duxton Hill and Club Street.
Catering to a visibly younger crowd is Home Club at Upper
Circular Road in the Boat Quay area. It's almost like a noisy
dormitory but in a good, fun way.
For beer under the starry sky, head to Brewerkz, a
microbrewery at Riverside Point in the Clarke Quay area.
For whisky, it's the Auld Alliance at the RendezVous Hotel
Gallery. Martini Bar at the Grand Hyatt on Scotts Road offers 30
varieties of that cocktail and more in a chic space.
Shopping along Singapore's famous Orchard Road can be
daunting due to the thick crowds and sheer number of shops. But
die-hard fashionistas can start at the ION Orchard mall at the
western end of the retail boulevard and work their way down for
as long as their stamina and bank balances allow.
For a more relaxed time, slip out for an early morning walk
around Marina Bay. Do your warm-ups at the Formula One pit stop
- where else? Stroll on to Marina Bay Sands via the
glass-and-steel Helix Bridge before throwing in the towel at the
Merlion Park waterfront at One Fullerton.
The Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo is no doubt a top
attraction, with more than 1 million visitors a year. It is also
the world's first nocturnal zoo where open-air enclosures and
careful lighting create the illusion that nothing stands between
you and that Indian rhinoceros. (www.zoo.com.sg)
Those looking to try their luck at a casino can head to
Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. Beyond gambling,
eating and shopping, the two resorts offer a variety of shows
and concerts. (www.marinabaysands.com) (www.rwsentosa.com)
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)