Flying to Singapore is an adventure that I have long yearned for. Not only because it was my first time, but also because it’s a hub and destination for many high-end holidaymakers and businessmen. Singapore was able to establish its reputation as a truly modern metropolis in almost 50 years, after separation from Malaysia in 1965, when it became an independent multi-ethnic republic.
Flying on Singapore Airlines (SIA), which positions itself as the gateway to Asia, certainly makes this destination more accessible; traveling business-class makes it a further delight. In-flight entertainment had something for everyone and left no room for boredom. Meanwhile, the comfortable cushioned seats stretch out into restful beds. I know plane food can be a joke, but not on this trip; you look through a menu and choose your preferred meal, cooked by world-renowned chefs. Within one hour aboard the plane, all my worries about the 12-hour flight vanished.
Upon landing, I was bombarded by different impressions. At first sight, it looks like Dubai but at night it’s more like New York; the Singapore Flyer, which is a replica of The London Eye, adds a British flavor to it too. But after spending a few days there, I realized that despite the similarities, Singapore pulses with a creative energy of its own.
My suite at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore on the 26th floor made me gasp. Everything suggested luxury; the beige and golden tones were comforting and the king-size bed was very inviting. A large room with a huge bathroom fitted with an octagonal window took my breath away. My view framed the new glassy towers in the skyline and massive construction sites down below. Except for the scarcity of rubbish bins and tissue boxes, the hotel had thought of every detail.
Art lovers will also find this hotel a gold mine since it houses 4,200 art pieces tucked in every corner. The collection is considered one of the finest and most prominent of modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia.
My schedule was packed and the weather was working against me — incessant rain almost every day. Nonetheless, I was able to catch a glimpse of what this modern hub was all about. Little India, Chinatown and the Muslim quarter (where you can visit the beautiful Sultan Mosque built by Sultan Hussein Shah). These are parts of old Singapore and are a must-see, with their small neighbourhoods or miniatures of India, Malaysia and China.
Strolling through these streets, you can smell, touch and feel the magnificent blend of people who once populated Singapore. These pockets of past eras are a welcome retreat if you are tired of universal architecture and urbanism. Even after the official separation from Malaysia, and the declaration of independence, Singapore markets itself as “a Muslim-friendly destination,” according to one of the Singapore Tourism board’s guides.
Singapore is home to many breathtaking parks. There is the 148-year-old Botanic Gardens, the Singapore Zoo with over 3,600 animals, and the Jurong Bird Park. I was only able to make it to the bird park housing over 600 species, but despite being the world’s largest bird park it failed to impress me. I could blame the weather, the pouring rain, or simply confess that I’m not a bird person.
Another destination which is fun for both adults and young ones is Sentosa Island, an integrated resort with a variety of entertainment. I wandered through their newly inaugurated, one-of-a-kind in Southeast Asia Hollywood’s Universal Studios Singapore. Since I haven’t been to the original, I can’t make a comparison; but walking around the theme park was thoroughly enjoyable.
Sentosa is host to the “Images of Singapore Museum”, which tells of Singapore’s founding fathers (Malays, Indians, Chinese and Eurasian) and how they carved its history. Itshowcases their different customs, traditions, and celebrations — such a mosaic of culture is definitely worth seeing.
If you have already been on the London Eye which is the world’s highest cantilevered observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer still is a must-see. From this height, the view of the cityscape and fascinating architecture is awe- inspiring. The Flyer offers the option of sky-dining or drinking which takes the experience to new heights.
The most impressive aspect of Singapore is that it is very alive. I didn’t actually grasp the real feel of this word until I went dining on the weekend at Clarke Quay, sipping the Singapore Sling, the national drink. It’s at the heart of Singapore nightlife and is located upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River and Boat Quay. It is home to many restaurants, bars, and clubs, and the fun at Clarke Quay is contagious — everybody is eating, drinking and laughing.
Despite all the excitement and experiences, my favorite remained going back to my hotel suite at the end of the day for a bubble bath while enjoying the city view with a Singapore Sling in hand.