Historic districts, glitzy malls, verdant open spaces and good food makes Singapore a great nation for a stopover
Scratch beneath Singapore’s spotless exterior and you’ll find a whole new world, or several different ones. From the serenity of Gardens by the Bay to checking out local fashion brands on Orchard Street, Singapore knows exactly how to lure you in.
Walk the streets of Tiong Bahru: The gentrified suburb of Tiong Bahru comes dotted with quirky stores, funky cafes and an eclectic vibe. Visit ‘Books Actually’, a bibliophiles dream-come-true, stacked with local and international authors. But the major draw to the store is the ‘mystery book vending machine’ – the books come neatly wrapped in white paper.
Head to the Tiong Bahru Bakery for some warm, buttery croissants, sinful pastries and a steaming hot cuppa. Next, walk down the streets and take in the murals that serve as a lesson of Singapore’s past. Streaks of paint capture scenes from the life of immigrants, their jumble of cuisines and the forgotten bird song competitions.
Smell the roses at Gardens by the Bay: This futuristic garden consists of bio-domes that simulate different weather conditions to showcase plants from Africa to Antarctica. You don’t need to be a botanist to enjoy this nature park. All you need to do is find a quiet corner – and there are plenty – to take it all in.
The Gardens also recreates surreal mist-filled forests complete with artificial waterfalls. But the biggest attractions are the ‘supertrees’. These trees have gigantic stumps of concrete and steel. Yet ‘living skin’ has been embedded onto them to allow plants to creep around the man-made structure and embellish it in green. If this isn’t enough, the supertrees are solar powered and light up the night sky. There is plenty to feast on here: from hawker fare with a view to tea and cake in Flower Dome.
Feel like a movie star at Universal Studios: This theme park, the first of Universal Studios in Southeast Asia, allows you to ‘live the movies’. From being a transformer on a 3D ride, which will save humanity, to joining Shrek on a 4D adventure through the land known as Far Far Away, to seeing what it takes to simulate a hurricane on screen, or learning the make-up secrets behind your favourite horror flicks, there’s something here for every age group, and every type of movie buff.
Visit the Buddha tooth relic temple: In the midst of the bustling Chinatown is a serene Buddhist temple and museum. Devotees, and the curious, come here from near and far to glimpse what is believed to be the left canine of Gautam Buddha. The tooth was recovered from the Buddha’s funeral pyre in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was housed in a temple in Myanmar, but when the temple collapsed, it was brought to Singapore. Don’t miss out on the wonderful temple that houses it. Complimentary guided tours are a great way to discover more of the temple and ponder the ‘Four Noble Truths’.
Retail therapy at Orchard Street: Whether you’re scouring for thrifty souvenirs, or looking to sport a pricey brand name, you’ll find it on this stretch. Head to Naiise for some quirky ‘motion postcards’, which use lenticular technology to simulate a video on a card! Or head to Superspace, which stocks up on local brands while also doubling up as a salon.
Head to 1-Altitude: What awaits you are 360-degree views of a glittering city; the twinkling Crystal pavilion that floats on the waters of Marina bay and houses Louis Vuitton; the Singapore Flyer or the giant ferris wheel that looks over the city; and the clusters of buildings reflected on the placid waters. In addition to the panorama, 1-Altitude promises you catchy techno tunes, new-age crowds and an insight into the urban Singapore.
When to go: December-March is when you can expect the best weather in Singapore.
Words: Kiran Mehta