Have you been to Singapore? If you haven’t been, maybe these simple guide can help you in your next vacation trip.
I can still remember Singapore when I went there 2009. The sights, smell and strange feeling of being in a different country yet you feel you are not, I felt like I was still in my home country because everyone speaks English and I saw a lot of Pinoys.
When modern Singapore begins to look a bit too much like a Western outpost, it’s time to bid a temporary farewell to colonial charms and the malls of Orchard Road and rediscover Singapore’s true attractions. With Singapore flights leaving more frequently and costing less, there’s no better time to make the trip than now.
Chinatown, Little India and Kamong Glam
Thriving ethnic neighborhoods are the heart and soul of Singapore’s energy. In addition to street after street of shops and eateries, Chinatown has two temples worth seeking out. A towering pagoda-style roof crowded with lavishly painted figures makes the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple memorable, while rooftop dragons and a black and gold interior are features at the Buddhist Thian Hock Keng Temple.
Synonymous with Little India is the Mustafa Center, a vast 4-story retail space that sells everything from gold to groceries to tailored clothing at bargain prices. Open 24 hours a day, it also gives the best exchange rates on currency and offers flight and hotel booking services.
Kamong Glam, also referred to as Arab Street, was once home to Singapore’s Middle Eastern community. Though many now live in other neighborhoods, their textile shops, rug stores, spice emporiums and golden domed Sultan Mosque remain, along with the Portuguese-style architecture of even earlier inhabitants.
Zoo and Night Safari
Singapore is the only place in the world that offers a zoo experience any time of the day or night. The day zoo, home to some 2,000 animals, stresses the “free and open” concept that allows animals to roam free in natural habitats. It has also devised clever ways to allow visitors to observe animals at close range while ensuring the safety of guests and zoo residents alike. Endangered species are well-represented here, allowing glimpses of the Malayan tiger, white rhino and others, while opportunities to feed and interact with animals make the zoo a special hit with youngsters.
Adjacent to the Zoo is the Night Safari, the first nocturnal zoo in the world. Here visitors can follow illuminated paths or ride a tram through jungles inhabited by sloths, tigers, lions, and over 900 other animals.
Botanical Gardens and Jurong Bird Park
Though visitors may not realize it, Singapore is by nature a rain forest, and nowhere is its lush greenery on better display than at the Botanical Gardens. Singapore’s colonial past is reflected in an English Garden and the Victorian gazebo overlooking Swan Lake, one of Gardens’ three lakes. The star of this park, however, is the National Orchid Garden, which features over seven acres of orchids and landscaped paths.
The rain forest is also on display at the Jurong Bird Park, said to be the world’s largest sanctuary of its type. The birds are all free-flying, in landscapes tailored to their preferences, and one of the Park’s unforgettable experiences is seeing a flock of hundreds of brightly-colored tropical birds passing directly overhead. The Park also houses non-indigenous birds, such as falcons, and features shows and exhibitions throughout the day.
One final highpoint: the food. “Local” is international in Singapore, and in addition to native Malay dishes, Chinese, Indian and Arabic cuisines thrive here, along with newer influences of Thai, Japanese and Filipino cuisines. Sampling the mélange of flavors is very much part of the Singapore experience.