Singapore is often written off by travelers as nothing special, as more of a stopover en route to better destinations. I ended up in this small island nation for a quick three days on my way back to Australia from Thailand, and honestly, my expectations were quite low. I feared that Singapore would live up to its reputation as an expensive and sterile concrete jungle, a far cry from the rest of South East Asia.
I was pleasantly surprised however, to discover that Singapore boasts a colorful and quirky side with a diverse and rich variety of people, cultures, architecture and natural beauty. The warm tropical climate, lush botanical gardens, and striking riverside drew me in at every turn.Now come along with me and soak in the kaleidoscope of colours that is Singapore!
Wander through streets of Little India, a bustling ethnic neighbourhood with Indian pop music blaring from shops and an aroma of incense, spices and jasmine garlands filling the air.
Indians were among the first migrants to Singapore in the early 19th century and continue to have a large presence. The Indian community in Singapore is one of the most traditional with many women still wearing a red dot on the forehead designating marital status.A stroll down Serangoon Road will lead you to shopping and food stalls galore, along with a mix of Hindu and Buddhist temples. Of course you must dig into an authentic Indian dish of tandoori or fish head curry from the Zhu Jiao Hawker Centre. The rainbow building above is actually a pharmacy, believe it or not! A narrow pathway called Campbell Ln will lead you to Little India Arcade, restored shophouses filled with traditional Indian saris, trinkets, bags, incense and sweet treats. You will also stumble upon many gold shops, a symbol of wealth in Indian culture.
Enjoy dinner and drinks along the riverfront over a stretch of five blocks of Clarke Quay. These restored warehouses that have been converted into popular restaurants and nightclubs, alonside floating pubs and eateries made from refurbished Chinese junks (tongkangs).
For a taste of history, take a relaxing boat ride along the Singapore River, fully narrated with the inner workings of this city state. The river water may be a tad murky but the row of pastel painted buildings sure make up for it!
A Hooters seemed an ironic find in such a strict city where pornography and even walking around naked in your apartment or changing in front of a window is illegal!
Haji Lane is a true fashionista’s paradise, tucked away in the heart of the Muslim quarter. It’s brimming with small, eclectic boutique shops with everything from funky accessories and clothing to design and home pieces. There’s something unique to be found for everyone!
Not long ago, Haji Lane was a row of rundown, abandoned shop houses, until Singapore’s creative minds came together and gave this little lane a funky makeover. With its trendy boutiques, street art and Middle Eastern cafés, Haji Lane is the polar opposite of the designer shopping stretch of Orchard Road.
Sri Mariamman Temple
Little India and Chinatown are home to many Hindu and Buddhist temples, free to the general public. It’s okay to observe the religious practices but do e respectful when taking photographs and abide by customs such as removing your shoes and dressing modestly.
Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman, was vuilt in 1823 in the heart of Chinatown. Built in the South Indian Dravidian style, the temple is richly embellished with six tiers of sculptures of Hindu deities. They are painted in a variety of bright technicolours, which adds to the visually spectacular quality of the architecture.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is a Hindu temple founded in 1881 and protected by the powerful and fierce Goddess Kali. The statues inside show Kali donning a necklace of human heads and standing on the corpse of her husband. Ironically enough, people view Kali as the “Destroyer of Evil” and offers her protection to people who are good.
Journey next to the Peranakan enclave of Joo Chiat to gawk at colourful pre-war shophouses along Koon Seng Road. Peranakans make up one of Singapore’s most distinctive cultures. The Peranakan heritage is a rich mix of European, Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and everything from their homes, to food, language and clothing is a dynamic fusion of these cultures.
Boasting a vibrant mix of red and gold lanterns, much like the Chinatown found in cities around the globe, this neighborhood is a mecca of cheap shopping and eats. The hawker centers that are packed with cheap food stalls where it’s possible to fill up on ‘char kway teow’ (stir-fried noodles) and ‘satay’ (barbecued meat skewers) for a couple of dollars – not bad for crazy exy Singapore!
And for the last stop on our tour we visit Singapore’s Changi International Airport! It has evolved into the global benchmark for design and passenger experience around the world. It offeres a wide range of amenities catering to passenger’s physical and emotional needs, with each terminal offering it’s own dose of shopping, dining and relaxation options.
Roam around to find gardens of butterflies, orchids, cacti and even a rooftop sunflower garden! There’s a swimming pool, movie theatres, 3D entertainment deck, a 4-story slide free foot massages, snooze lounge, hotels, and shopping galore! You will be begging for that normally dreaded five hour layover!You may just be passing through this tiny island-state, but if you have at least 6 hours to spare till your connecting flight, join a free 2.5 hours guided tour of the city! Let Singapore’s sights and sounds, colours enthrall you! The Heritage Tour showcases Singapore’s past and present architectural beauty in Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam. If it is past dark, instead join the City Lights Tour of Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, and Gardens by the Bay!