Cautiously, cleverly, Singapore is shrugging off the stodgy mantle it’s worn for decades and morphing into a cool, even chic, place to live it up in Asia. Forget the old jokes about chewing gum and caning. The ambitious city-state is wooing the global glitterati with flourishes like the world’s first Formula One night race and a sparkling new casino resort in the heart of the city. This is a place for good food and a colourful cultural mix, heavily Asian but with an increasingly international zest as well.
Author Yu-Mei Balasingamchow Photography Dave Lauridsen
DAY THREE / After two days of urban action, it’s time to surround yourself with a little greenery. Ask the taxi driver to drop you at the Napier Road entrance to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Just inside the gates is the Taman Serasi Food Garden. Try the “tissue” prata or bak chor mee (noodles with minced pork). The gardens are popular in the morning, before the weather gets too hot, so you’ll probably pass ambling retirees or restless children as you follow the signs to the National Orchid Garden. Here, you’ll see more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of the orchid, including Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim.
Outside the gardens, hail a taxi to Sentosa, a resort island that’s about 15 minutes away. It’s chock-full of leisure attractions, but to get a feel for what it was like during Singapore’s colonial period, visit Fort Siloso, on its western tip. This preserved coastal outpost is now a museum of World War II artifacts and memorabilia, and it also has 17th-century guns and cannons on display outside.
When you get hungry, adjourn to Il Lido for a meal with a view. Nestled in the lush environs of the Sentosa Golf Club, this exquisite Italian restaurant looks out on the sea around Sentosa—perfect for savoring lobster tortelli or wagyu beef cheek with a glass of wine. Don’t mellow out too much. There’s still the Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon to take in. This oceanarium is the highlight of Sentosa’s modern attractions and showcases thousands of fish and other marine creatures. Hop on a travelator that takes you through a tunnel inside a giant aquarium and watch the sharks and rays swimming coolly by. The ticket price includes admission to the Dolphin Lagoon, so catch the Red Line Bus over for the 3:30 p.m. dolphin show.
It’s your last day in Singapore, so plunge back into the urban bustle—but this time to shop to your heart’s content. Orchard Road is Singapore’s version of Fifth Avenue, with local and international fashion labels. Look out for the pagoda tower that marks Tangs, an upscale Singapore department store. Other shopping hot spots are Palais Renaissance and Paragon.
Head back to the hotel to refresh and unload your shopping bags. Dinner tonight is at the very elegant My Humble House, which serves “neo-classic” Chinese cuisine of the highest order. Try the poetically named A Duet, For Love, For Life (crisp-seared foie gras marinated with seven spices on caramelised watermelon) or Sauntering Among the Golden Leaves (crispy spiced Kurobuta pork rib in a sun dried–tomato reduction).
On your last night, you’ve got tickets to a show at The Esplanade, the waterfront arts centre. Whether it’s symphony music or Shakespeare, experimental music or avant-garde theatre, there’s something worth watching every night. It’s a fitting coda to your stay in the multicolored, multicultural mélange that is Singapore. Yu-Mei Balasingamchow is a Singapore-based writer who enjoys wandering around the city by day and loitering in Mustafa Centre by night. She is currently cowriting a popular history of Singapore.
Singapore experiences almost uniform weather conditions throughout the year, due to its location just north of the equator. The average temperatures for the city reflect its equatorial climate with mild lows and highs. Dress lightly for the high levels of humidity that persist in the city. Although there isn’t much change in temperature throughout the year, the summer can be more unbearable than the wetter and comparatively cooler winter months.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Singapore climatological details, visit weather.com.
Changi International Airport is about a half-hour outside the city. A taxi to the city costs S$20–S$30 (US$14–US$20), and the airport shuttle to any hotel costs S$9 (US$6) per person. Neighbourhoods are walkable, and there’s plenty of commuter information in English posted at bus stops and in train stations. When all else fails, hop into a taxi.
A Singapore Science Centre (science.edu.sg) Hands-on science and technology exhibits and an IMAX theatre
B Singapore Flyer
(singaporeflyer.com) The world’s largest observation wheel
C Singapore Zoo(zoo.com.sg) An openconcept zoo
D Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden (sbg.org.sg/bukittimahcore/childrengarden.asp)
E Children Little Museum(Tel: 65-9658-0290) Oldschool toys and games once common in Singapore