Singapore, called the Lion City, is a multi-national, thriving collection of 63 islands with the main one being Pulau Ujong.
It has deep roots in Asian culture and very westernized, modern, polished finishes. Also known as the Garden City, its greening policy has created incredible parks, botanical gardens and green areas throughout the city, which make up 10% of the city . Having been colonised by Britain for 137 years and now celebrating 50 years of independence, Singapore is a fusion of east and west, which makes it very palatable for first-time travellers to Asia. The society is organised and peaceful, with the people not being fond of controversy. Political debates and cultural criticism won’t help you make friends and influence people here.
The climate is tropical and warm most of the year. In September, the average high temp is 30 and the low is 24, so comfortable and balmy is the status quo. The main languages are English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil, but most people under 40 speak good English. There are strict laws on drugs and very little alcohol abuse. Singapore is safe, super convenient and beautiful. An added perk is that food is of outmost importance to the locals and thanks to the combination of Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, the result is often mouth-watering hybrid dishes (for some recommendations, see below).
In and around the Grand Prix, you’ll hopefully have some time to take in the sights and smells. Here are the most impressive and memorable spots in Singapore:
This beautifully preserved and restored hotel from the colonial era circa 1887 comes complete with Sikhs for doormen, snazzy high tea and the famous Singapore Sling cocktail. For a taste of old-school class, come here.
Gardens by the Bay
These beautiful and futuristic gardens host an array of colourful plant structures from fairy-light super trees to sea-shell shaped greenhouses to flower domes and a total of 380 000 species of plant. The domes offer a cool respite from the heat of the day.
If shopping makes your heart beat faster, the 2.2kms of road housing a total of 22 malls and 6 department stores will make you pull a few G’s.
An area full of rich smells, colours and textures. Two reasons to go:
Mustafa Centre – if you can’t get something here, it doesn’t exist. This 24 hour market is cheap, cheerful and has everything under the sun.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple – A colourful and ornate 19thC Hindu temple that you’ll definitely want to get some snaps of. Incredible carvings and décor make it a must on the sightseeing list.
Opening hours: 08:00-12.30, 14:00-20.30. Avoid Tuesday, Friday and Sunday if you can as the temple is particularly busy on these days. Remember to dress respectfully.
For cheap souvenirs and delicious food, Chinatown awaits. You can also visit the Chinese Heritage Centre where you can see recreate scenes of streets, kitchens and bedrooms from 19th and 20th century China.
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-20:00
The mythical symbol of Singapore, the Merlion is a half fish, half lion which relates to the origin of Singapore as a fishing village and the ‘Lion City’ name by which Singapore is known. There are five officially recognised statues, but the main and original one is in the Marina Bay at Merlion Park, and is 8.6m tall and weighs 70tonnes. It is made of cement, with tiles making up its skin and little red teacups for eyes.
If vertigo doesn’t faze you, head to the second tallest observation wheel in the world, after the High Roller in Las Vegas. This wheel is 30m taller than the London Eye and will give you spectacular views of the city.
If you’re travelling with kids or you want to unleash the kid inside, pay a visit to Universal Studios where you’ll find over 20 attractions including two water rides and five massive rollercoasters.
Ever been to the zoo at night? To get the rare chance to see nocturnal animals going about their business, visit the 59 exhibitions with over 1000 animals from all over the world at the Night Safari. There is a Creatures of the Night show every hour or you can just wander around yourself, or both.
Opening hours: 19:30-24:00
Marina Bay Sands
In the heart of Marina Bay lies the Marina Bay Sands Hotel – an iconic landmark on the water. This massive hotel complex on the bay has a casino, science museum, shops, restaurants and a light show nightly at 8pm. It also just so happens to be across the road from the route of the Grand Prix.
If you want to cut some shapes on the dance floor, Zouk is the place to do it. With four areas – Zouk, Phuture (hiphop, R&B and urban music), Velvet Underground Dance and Velvet Underground Lounge, this epic club is the place to be. There is also a wine bar on the premises for warm up drinks and a bit of Dutch courage.
If the thought of going to McDonalds crosses your mind at any point during your trip, give yourself a swift mental bashing. Singapore is renowned for its fantastic food that can be found anywhere from a top-class restaurant to a street vendor. Don’t you dare even look at the golden arches.
La Pau Sat
A charming food market that is open 24 hours and where you can find many of the dishes listed below. After 7pm, the hawkers set up in Satay Street next to the market and you can try their skewers as well.
Crab cooked in a thick sauce – sweet salty and slightly spicy. A very typical dish and suitably delicious.
Fish Head Curry
This is what the title says. It’s a combo of South Indian curry and the Chinese tradition where the head is the most important part of the fish. A perfect example of the fusion food of Singapore.
Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway)
No tea and cake for you. Despite its name, these are actually rice cakes made with white radish (sometimes called the white carrot). They’re fried in pork lard and are crunchy and tasty and naughty.
Hokkien Prawn Mee
Prawns and noodles stir fried in prawn stock. Simple and good.
Char Kway Teow
A slightly more complex noodle dish. Stir-fry of rice noodles, egg, dark soy sauce, shrimp paste, chilli and sometimes Chinese sausage and blood cockles are thrown in for good measure.
The Brits have the full English. The Singaporeans have this typical breakfast of toast with coconut jam with padang leaves, and a soft boiled egg with coffee. You got your starch, your protein, your sweet and your coffee. What more could you want?
Another Malay-Chino creation – a broth of noodles, veggies, meat and sauce. Singapore soul food.
The name means ‘mixture’ and the result is a sweet, sour and spicy salad with prawn paste and palm sugar glaze, veggies and dumplings, and finished with crushed peanuts. The perfect mix.
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