As stories go, the one on the history of Singapore is hardly long and illustrious. But when compared to tales of economic success, the ones about Singapore can fill more than a few epic-sized tomes. Having morphed from a sleepy fishing village once known as Temasek, the ‘City of the Lion’ as it is commonly referred to, Singapore is today the undisputed leader of Asia in every discipline be it business, information technology, telecommunication or even tourism.
The dreary fishing village went through a transmogrification post World War II and emerged into a spectacular city that boasts of shimmering skylines, glitzy skyscrapers, a sprawling port, a bustling business center and a popular tourist destination. A melting pot of cultures, Singapore with its eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay and Indians represents a variegated slice of Asia that is peppered with a unique blend of ethnic spices.
Though statistics show that only 3 percent of Singapore’s revenue is attributed to tourism, the city is teeming with travellers year-round. The climate is one of the main tourist attractions and there’s hardly a day on the calendar when temperatures there drop below 32 degree Celsius. Because it lies just 85 miles north of the Equator, the weather is warm all year, but frequent and heavy cloud-bursts do a fine job hosing down the island and its inhabitants. As a result, all of Singapore and its 57 surroundings islands are lush, the vegetation teeming with rare species of flora and fauna.
There’s a lot that Singapore has to offer a traveler – be it the hip single male and his adventurous female counterpart, an excited family, amorous honeymooners or backpackers aiming to bum around. The quintessential jet-setter, always on the move with never much time for a vacation, can also make the most of the city in as little as 24 hours. This safe, sensible and stunning city packs a host of attractions guaranteed to leave even the most jaded traveller well-sated.
Raffles and Fullerton Hotels
An easily navigable city, Singapore is very modern and is packed with steel and glass structures, a majority of which are skyscrapers. Most of modern-day Singapore was built post World War II and parts of the city still bare testimony to the years it endured under the hands of the British. One of the most prominent examples of this is the elegant statue of Singapore’s founder – Sir Stamford Raffles. Standing tall on the banks of the Singapore River, Raffles has the distinction of having the city’s finest hotel named after him. An old British post office received an upgrade in status when it was converted into the illustrious Fullerton Hotel, a well-appreciated sight as it stands regally in its new-found splendor along the river.
Clark Quay, a teeming river-front avenue, is a popular hangout for couples and single revelers. Its plethora of water-front bars peddle delicacies from across the globe, all served with an impressive range of spirits and beers on tap. A flamboyant Turkish ice-cream vendor occupies place of pride at this trendy stomping ground as he lures visitors to his kiosk with well-practiced ice-cream tricks. As the government cleverly revoked curfew in order to encourage more tourists to their city, most establishment here are open till the wee hours, making places like Clark Quay and Boat Quay popular night-spots for party-goers.
For families, Singapore has a plethora of attractions and entertainment options. Ranging from the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Dolphin Lagoon at Sentosa Island, the Singapore Flyer, Orchid Garden, Resort World Sentosa with Universal Studios, Gmaax Reverse Bungee, Snow City and plenty of amusement parks and play areas, they offer exciting interactive experiences at most of these venues that draw parents and young children by droves.
Considered one of the best and most innovative zoological gardens in the world, the award-winning Singapore Zoo houses more than 600 species and 8,000 birds in total. Spread across 70 acres of dense, well preserved rain forest, it houses some of the rarest species from majestic white tigers to ornery orangutans and genteel giraffes to rowdy chimps.
Dolphin Lagoon at Sentosa Island is another star attraction for families. Rare pink Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins have been trained to perform their natural behaviours in a well conceptualized 10-minute show that leaves the audience clamoring for an encore. A few lucky visitors leave with a chaste peck on the cheek, from the dolphin of course, while other relish the drenching they enjoy giving the audience as they whiz past while performing the spyhop or tail-flapping act.
For the adventurous, there’s a host of activities at Sentosa Island that have been created to suit the needs of audacious adrenaline junkies. From fun-filled forest adventure to an exhilarating luge and skyride, high-speed water skiing, a flying trapeze and artificially created waves to surf on, this is paradise for those who like to live on the edge. Pristine beaches, upscale resorts and a sublime walk through the depths of the ocean surrounded by sharks, rays and hundreds of other marine forms at Underwater World, are the star attractions on this island.
With the inaugural of Universal Studios at Resort World Sentosa, visiting traffic to this island nation had multiplied tenfold as eager visitors throng the venue to sample a slice of Hollywood, but with an Asian twist. With themed entertainment areas based on popular Hollywood flicks like Madagascar, Shrek and Jurassic Park being the star attractions, Main Street Hollywood and Festive Walk come a close second as adults let their hair down while posing with Frankenstein and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes.
CULTURE AND FOOD
With the best of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures incorporated into its essence, Singapore has quickly become a gourmand’s Shangri-La. The choicest Asian cuisine from regions as far and diverse as Fiji and Sri Lanka find their way onto the local bill of fare. Seafood, that is fresh and found in abundance, is by far the most popular choice among connoisseurs. Indian flavours are widespread and Little India, the hub of Indian culture in Singapore, resembles a page out of Chennai with its flower-laden market places and shops hawking ethnic ware ranging from colourful saris to glittering gold jewellery.
Orchard Road is the retail and entertainment epicenter of the city and used to once be bursting with groves of nutmeg, pepper and other spices. Today though the street is littered with neon signs advertising fashion brand and specialist shopping centers. A shopaholic’s paradise, Singapore’s malls range from elitist ones like Takashimaya and Ion Orchard to the slightly more affordable line-up like Wisma Atria, Wheelock Place and Tangs, the first mall to grace Orchard Road way back in 1934. The ritzy street comes alive at sundown with a dazzling laser display beamed off the Ngee Ann Center and the ebullient razzmatazz that electrifies the night.
From the pink carpeted halls of Singapore’s Changi Airport to the stunning Durian-shaped roofs of the Esplanade Theatres, the city is an architectural marvel and manifests meticulous planning and significance to detail.