If you are looking for a weekend break away from the Big Durian, look no further than the melting pot of Singapore, a mere hour and fifty minute’s flight away.
Don’t be fooled by the shiny facades and branded shopping of Orchard Road (unless that’s your thing?), because Singapore has much to offer in terms of culture, heritage and culinary tradition too.
A Cultural Melting Pot
With influences from Indian, Malay, Chinese, Arabic and of course British culture, the Lion City’s real charm lies away from Orchard Road and amongst its historic neighbourhoods; China Town, Little India, Kampung Glam and Katong, for example.
British Colonial buildings like the world famous Raffles Hotel, named after Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, blend with charming, traditional shophouses, shiny skyscrapers and iconic landmarks like Marina Bay Sands with its amazing skypark and infinity pool overlooking the city.
Amongst this mish mash of styles and cultures, you will find the cute and quirky hipster haven of Haji Lane, nestled inconspicuously in the Muslim quarter. For those who prefer avant-garde attire and eco-friendly adornments to bland brands, this is the place to go!
World Class Attractions
Like the city, which is immaculately planned, Singapore offers a number of purposely-made, worl class attractions, many of which are perfect for those travelling with families.
Sentosa island, which is reached by a 10-minute cable car or a short bridge if you are travelling on wheels, is home to Singapore’s Univesal Studios. Featuring seven movie-themed zones where the kids can zip around, loop the loop, shoot up and plunge downwards at varying speeds on top notch thrill rides, this theme park will let them experience their favourite blockbuster movies in awhole new way.
Gardens by the Bay, with its two modern glass domes and towering “Super Trees,” is fantastic for a relaxing yet educational day out with the family. Carefully designed with eco-friendly principles in mind, the highlights are the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Marvel at blooms, trees and shrubs from all over the world in the Flower Dome. In the very middle, there is a changing display, April saw a gorgeous array of perfectly presented tulips. The Cloud Forest mimics the conditions up in the highlands of a remote rainforest; the air is damp and a huge waterfall (using recycled water of course) sprays passersby on their way up to the top of the dome.
For young art enthusiasts, the newly opened National Gallery of Singapore is a must. Housed in two buildings, which were formerly the Supreme Court and the City Chambers, Singapore’s National Gallery oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Southeast Asia. Works by Indonesian masters like Raden Saleh and Affandi stand alongside big European names like Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.
What’s really great about this gallery though, is that it has a dedicated kids’ museum complete with interactive art-related activities where they can role play in the artist’s studio or run wild in the colourful, hand illustrated, 3-D artwork playground area.
Food For All
It’s no secret that Singapore offers great food options; from local specialities like chilli crab and hainan chicken rice a la hawker centre, to renowned fine-dining options like JAAN at Swissotel at Stamford.
East Coast Seafood is the original home of Singapore’s famous salt pepper crab (although they also do a mean chilli crab with fried bread buns to mop up all that oozy, delicious sauce!). Head over in the early evening and take a stroll in the park just as the joggers and skaters come out to enjoy the coastal walkway and families arrive to use the BBQ pits. There’s even an shrimp pool where you can catch your own shrimps to take home and grill!
Another of Singapore’s foodie institutions is Zam Zam, a simple Muslim restaurant located just opposite the Sultan mosque. Famous for its biryani and lamb murtabak (a kind of bread stuffed with lamb, spices and onions), Zam Zam has been serving up cheap but hearty and delicious plates of food to hungry Singaporeans for over 100 years.
For something a little more upmarket, head to Coriander Leaf, situated in Chijimes, a former convent which has been converted into a European still courtyard complex with numerous restaurants. Coriander Leaf serves up what they describe as “Pan Asian” cuisine in small, tapas style portions. Think dainty dishes like watermelon, turkish cheese and mint salad, Nepalese dumplings with white pepper puree and Thai inspired salads of shredded coconut, mango and coriander. This place is a must try!
For more information about Singapore, visit www.yoursingapore.com