You experience it from when you enter the airport until you leave customs when exiting this futuristic high-tech hub in Asia. Everything works smooth and efficient. No queues in immigration and my luggage were waiting for me as I arrived in the baggage claim area. The roads are built for an expansion in the number of cars and the public transportation system is a success on rails and wheels. The city is clean, and I mean that literally. There is no paper lying around and trains, buses, buildings, stores, offices are all spotless.
The mix of cultures is perfectly organized in different areas. Arab Street and the area around, with the beautiful Mosque and the traditional Arab houses for the Muslim community, is worth a visit. Chinatown with its heritage area is also a must. Take the MRT to Chinatown – coming up from the subway station is an experience not to miss. Little India is more chaotic, noisy and crowded as you would expect if you have been to India. Downtown is a beautiful mix of skyscrapers and heritage buildings from the Victorian era.
All areas are easily reached by the MRT subway and buses for a very low cost. I have friends living the expat life in Singapore and they housed me for the week I was there. They live just outside of town in a nice neighborhood and both buses and trains are easily accessible from everywhere for tourists and inhabitants alike.
A must visit downtown is Raffles Hotel and Long John Bar, where the Singapore Sling was first made. Try the famous drink and eat the complimentary peanuts. Crack them and throw the shells on the floor like they did back then – and still do today. After your aperitif at Raffles, cross the street and pass the Chijmes walls for an experience in fine dining from one of the world’s kitchens, or grab a bite and go for more drinks in a bar or lounge and continue with the nightlife of Singapore.
Downtown you also find the famous shopping street Orchard Road. If money is not an issue, this is where you can empty your wallet in branded stores like Tiffany & Co, Dior, Prada, Luis Vuitton, and other high profiled couture brands. The architecture compliments the brands using golden facades and state of the art architecture.
Moving down to the Marina Bay area, you’ll see the amazing skyline with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Stop by the symbol of Singapore, Merlion Park, to hear the story and take photos of the hotel. Stop by the Mall with an indoor lake before you head up to the pool bar at the top to watch the sunset and try the cocktails. You must pay S$20 to get up but you use the ticket to pay for drinks. The view is stunning. At 08:45, move over to the other side of the bar overlooking the Gardens by the bay. They have a stunning light show in the garden trees. You don’t want to miss this. Both the music and the light show is magical.
Another must try in Singapore is the Singapore Flyer. You get the view over the city as well as the ocean with all the ships waiting to load or unload for their overseas travels in the giant harbor. I went up early Sunday morning. It is like the London Eye if you have ever tried that. I also stopped by Sentosa Island. This is where you will find Disneyland Singapore and Water World. They also have a gondola going from the mainland to Sentosa Island.
From Marina Bay, there is a river going to Clarke Quay. This is a nice area packed with restaurants and bars by the river. You can walk from Marina Bay or take a boat. The boat also passes Boat Quay. This area of old low buildings in front of the high-rise skyscrapers is a beautiful contrast of old meets new. The boat also passes beautiful bridges, the parliament, and Fullerton Hotel. A short but picturesque boat trip making your feet happy on your way to nice wines and good food.
The transportation system in Singapore is an experience. I used both busses and trains to move around, and they are all super-efficient clean and safe. The taxis are also a good option, especially at night. The prices of transportation are cheap compared to the price range of other goods and services in Singapore.
Be prepared to pay what you would pay in Paris, Rome and Oslo for food and drinks around town. For local hawker food, you should try the food courts around town serving local specialties. Chinatown is one of those places and you can get a meal for S$5. Try the noodle man, where you can watch them make noodles by hand while you eat. One of the specialty dishes in Singapore is Chilli Crab. I tried it at the food court in Newton, easily reached by MRT one station from Orchard Road. The price was S$43 and a soda was S$5, so they have expensive meals at the Hawker food courts too.