Ask anyone who has been here, and they’ll tell you that Singapore is the cleanest city they’ve been to! I won’t argue that! But I found it’s also one of the most fascinating. It’s beautiful, historical, and a great blend of different Asian cultures all living and working well together. It’s so…well, efficient! Shopping, business, commerce, that’s what they’re known for. In fact, people come from all over the world to do just that: shop! Then there’s the great food! Singapore has so much to offer anyone who visits here.
One of Singapore’s most famous sites is recognized worldwide. You know how you’ll see something in a book or a magazine, and it looks interesting, but when you see it in person, it’s just amazing? Well, Singapore’s Merlion statue is that for me. I’ve seen it in books, I’ve seen it on stationary and on letterheads, but there is absolutely nothing like seeing the real thing. Measuring 28 feet high and weighing over 63 tons, the Merlion was designed as an emblem for the Singapore tourist board in 1964. It is a statue of a mystical creature that is half lion, half fish. The fish tail of the Merlion symbolizes the ancient city of Temasek, which means “sea” in Javanese, and the lion head represents a lion spotted by the same prince that named the island way back in 11 AD. This eye-catching attraction is also a popular fountain overlooking the water gateway into this city. Made of cement fondue, porcelain and small red teacups for eyes, the Merlion is definitely a wild looking creature and makes a great picture!
Speaking of wild, you’ve got to check out the Singapore Zoo! It’s a jungle in there and your kids will love it! Look, is that a black rhino or a white rhino? In the Africa section, you can see zebras and lots of rhinos, not to mention a variety of other animals native to that continent. They’re all out in the open, not in cages. That means no bars to look through and get in the way of pictures. This is what makes the Singapore Zoo so special, their open- viewing concept, which lets visitors see the animals in their natural habitat. There’s even a building with huge pythons and other exotic snakes slithering around behind glass windows. There are over 2,000 animals from 240 species in this beautifully designed and landscaped space.
You can ride in a tram or just follow a foot path around the zoo, taking rest stops under covered seating areas that have mist spraying down to keep you cool. (Remember that Singapore has a very hot climate, so you’ll want to dress for the tropics and drink a lot of bottled water.) They have a water preserve, a petting zoo, rides on elephants and you can even come for a “Jungle Breakfast!” The zoo puts out a lovely buffet of fruit, cereals, fresh bakery items…you name it! And then it’s time for the main attraction: some of the animals may join you! Imagine your kids’ faces when an orangutan comes out and has breakfast, too! If you are lucky enough to come in spring, some of the newborn babies may visit too! I had the chance to meet a brand new baby orangutan and have my picture taken just as the baby reached out and pulled my hair! This is a great adventure… definitely for the animal lovers! The Singapore Zoo also has a night safari, which happens to be my favorite…as you get to see the lions and other night predators ! That’s definitely a highlight!
When you just can’t get enough of the tropical theme, head over to the Singapore Botanical Gardens. With over 128 acres of land, this garden showcases incredible plant collections. It’s close to the heart of the city and a great place to balance your Chi. If you don’t have a favorite flower, I promise you that you will fall in love with one or two before you leave. I’m kind of partial to the orchid, and the Singapore Botanical Gardens has over 20,000 orchid plants on display.
This is really a pretty city, and for a perfect view, the place to go is Raffles Landing. Right on the Singapore River, you can watch the sampans float by a beautifully restored neighborhood of nineteenth century houses across the water I love this view of the old buildings lined up in front of the brand new architecture behind. It’s a fantastic contrast of old and new. The two and three story style buildings are called “shop houses”. Located mostly in Chinatown, they served as business quarters on the street level and as living quarters up top. Somewhat reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans, they were once an eye sore. However, many of these structures have been refurbished and I think they actually brighten up the city. One specialty of Singapore is its clothing trade, with skilled tailors here that whip up suits in no time. How long does it
You can ride around in a trishaw (a rickshaw that has the third wheel) and do your shopping without getting out at each shop. They come to you! What a perfect way to see Chinatown. And while you’re out shopping, you can take in some of the other sites in Singapore! For instance, the Majestic Shopping Mall was once the Chinese Opera House. As you wander around this shopping city, you’ll come upon Temple Street with its Hindu temple at the end. You’ll definitely want to take a look at this very ornate building amid the stores and stalls. The temple is adorned with hundreds of paintings and carvings, with the sacred gilt cows on the roof. take to make a suit? Two days? Can you believe it, a custom made suit, made to order in just 48 hours! Just make sure to allow enough time for one or two fittings!You’ll be amazed at the different shapes, sizes and color patterns these tropical plants have. Come to think of it, the entire island of Singapore is a garden. In fact, formal gardens pop up here like …well….weeds! Take for instance, the Fort Canning Park spice garden. It is a small replica of the original, which was established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, as the first experimental and botanical garden in Singapore. The city is dotted with lovely parks and gardens that are spotless anywhere you look. There is even a bird aviary amid this tropical greenery. The Jurong Bird Park puts you in the middle of more than 9,000 birds from 600 species. It’s the largest bird park in the Asian Pacific! In fact, there are species of birds here I didn’t even know existed.
Another place you have to see is one of the more colorful places in town called Arab Street! I love Arab Street, it’s colorful, it’s noisy, it’s alive! This is where to come for your shawls, your silks, your baskets and all your essential oils. It’s great! When you see Arab Street and smell its aromatic spices, you’ll start to realize how multi-cultural the City of Singapore really is. Expect the unexpected…but true shoppers revere only one very special place: Orchard Road, the sacred shopping street of Singapore. In fact, let’s have a moment of silence as we get our credit cards ready for action! Orchard road is less than a mile long, but it’s jam packed with consumer action! This is the place to discover what’s new and what’s hot around the world. Designer shopping for the latest fashion, electronics shopping for the latest digital cameras and computers, or shopping for the latest brand name watches, small home appliances or luggage, this is where you’ll find everything! Don’t forget, the Value Added Tax (VAT) of 5% can be refunded at the airport when you leave Singapore if your purchase qualifies, so there’s an incentive to shop a little more!
Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore with business and commerce in mind, so when it’s time for a break, what better way to honor that tradition than stopping by the hotel named for him and raising a glass in commemoration? Definitely try the drink that this city is known for at the Long Bar, inside the famous Raffles Hotel! When I was twenty-one, my very first legal drink at a bar was a Singapore Sling. So while in Singapore, I thought it would be fun to visit the source to see how this famous drink is made. The Singapore Sling was created in 1936 by a Chinese bartender working here in the Long Bar. Originally, back in the twenties and thirties, it was a ladies’ drink due to the pinkish red color and the recipe was a closely guarded secret. Today, it’s everybody’s drink and the recipe is known around the world. (It’s even given away on cards in the bar for free!) The Long Bar makes about two thousand concoctions a night, each with flare and theatrics.
Now that’s tasty! Singapore’s come a long way from a little fishing village. It’s the number one port in the world and a great way to get an overall scope of Singapore is to get out on the water. In fact, you can take an excursion to one of the islands here, “Sentosa”. An excursion to this island is a fun-filled day trip for the whole family. The cable cars are your vehicle onto this island, taking you across acres of incredibly green rainforests. You get a bird’s eye view from the windows and trust me…. It’s just breathtaking!
When your stomach starts growling, it’s time to think about something else Singapore’s known for…it’s incredible food! From Indian to Malaysian, from Chinese to French, the different styles of cooking reflect the various ethnic groups that live here…and a visit to the Hawker Center will give you an idea of how much there is to choose from!
The large Chinese population in Singapore makes Chinese cuisine the most common food you’ll find here. However, I discovered a different concept here. In Chinese culture, food is not only eaten for taste and sustenance, it’s used for health and well-being, sort of balancing the Ying and the Yang. Well, here in Singapore, you can go to a Chinese restaurant and be diagnosed by a Chinese doctor.
The Imperial Herbal Restaurant is known for its herbal Chinese cuisine, which basically means, it really is good for you! The in-house physician, whom they call Dr. Lee, will take a quick look at your tongue, check your pulse, then prescribe a Chinese remedy for whatever ails you. This prescription is then delivered to the chefs to prepare your meal in the restaurant. Things like wolfberry soup, which is supposed to be very good for people high cholesterol, is said to improve vision and prevents gray hair, according to ancient Chinese medicine. Prevents gray hair huh? Hmmmmm! In the pharmacy, if you can slip in to take look, you’ll see all these herbs some very strange ingredients. Like lizards, baby rattlesnakes, tiny scorpions, turtle, oyster shell and some kinds of a fungus. I’m sure you’ll be advised that you need a diet of not too many dry foods, more green vegetables, more fish and plenty of water, plus lots of rest. Seems to me I’ve heard that somewhere before!
There’s a lot for families to do in Singapore, from beach volleyball on Sentosa Island, to snow tubing on a man made mountain of indoor snow! There’s no place like Singapore for a fun family vacation.
Singapore has everything- great shopping, multi-cultural food, lots of sun and world class hotels. In fact, some people come for the great Singapore sales during the month of July. Didn’t I tell you Singapore was a great place to visit and that your kids would love it too? This is one destination you’ll definitely want to add to your “I want to go there!” list of vacation destinations!