Cover: Supertree Grove trees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull
While gazing at the sparkling Singapore skyline from the incredible Marina Bay Sands, my thoughts turned to the diverse collection of activities we’d experienced during our time in the Lion City. From Chinatown to ziplining now standing atop one of the top resorts in the world, visiting Singapore had been a fascinating mix of old and new, urban and nature, simple and complex.
It’s hard to believe that just a little over 100 years ago Singapore was a tiny fishing village. Now one of the most prosperous countries in the world, Singapore is a dazzling, metropolitan home to over five million and a popular vacation spot for over 15 million each year. While spending a week on the island as guests of the Singapore Tourism Board, we’d been amazed at how the mix of cultures and heritages had blended so well to form something unique and vibrant.
English-speaking, spotlessly clean and easy to navigate, the bustling city-state of Singapore has countless things to do and see. While well-known for its magnificent shopping, Singapore also has fabulous food to devour, enchanting cultural districts to explore, and a wide of array of activities and destinations, ranging from the adventurous to the relaxing to the refined.
Getting to Singapore
One of the busiest airports in the world, over 100 airlines fly in and out of Singapore’s Changi Airport transporting passengers to and from 300 cities worldwide. Home to a wide selection of restaurants and retail shops, Changi Airport also has showers, free internet, and, for those on a layover of at least 5 1/2 hours, offers a free Singapore Tour.
For our visit to Singapore, we flew Singapore Airlines, which began non-stop service from San Francisco to Singapore in October 2016 aboard their newest aircraft, the A350. The direct flight eliminates a stopover at Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea and has three levels of service: business class, premium economy, and standard economy.
Things to do in Singapore
Explore Singapore’s famous sites
A captivating city of contrasts, Singapore has so much to see and do. Where to start? We’ll make it easy – take a journey with us sightseeing in Singapore »
What’s on the agenda? You’ve probably heard of a Singapore Sling, but do you know the history behind it? Head over to the Raffles Hotel with us and discover how it’s made and the history behind it. Of course, there’s a stop at the Gardens by the Bay for the Supertrees light show, a sunset from the top of Marina Bay Sands, a stroll by the Singapore River, and a Bumboat ride.
National Orchid Garden, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
We also stopped and smelled the orchids, okay – they don’t smell – we photographed the orchids at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, ran into a couple of boa constrictors on Sentosa Island, went ziplining, checked out the art at the National Gallery Singapore, and, who wouldn’t want to catch a ride on the Singapore Flyer?
But, it’s now all about sightseeing in Singapore. In a place so culturally-rich with fascinating districts, stunning monuments, and iconic landmarks, one must explore the traditions, heritage and history that defines the beautiful Singapore of today.
Discover Singapore’s cultural districts
If Singapore is nothing else, it is diverse.
Within its 276 square miles/716 square kilometers, which is about 2/3 the size of New York City, multiple cultures and religions peacefully co-exist. The city-state recognizes holidays from each of its religions and celebrates the fusion of cultures and the people that have combined to create the – to use a Singlish term – “rojak” – or mixture that makes it the wonderful place it is today.
To gain an understanding of the ethnicities, culture, and history that make up the Singaporean culture, we explored each of Singapore’s vibrant cultural districts. From Chinatown, with its markets, shophouses, foods, and temples, to the hip and beautiful Muslim district of Kampong Glam, to the overwhelming sights, sounds and tastes of Little India, to Katong/Joo Chiat and the Peranakans, we visited, and loved, them all.
Shop ’til you drop
Ask someone to name the one thing to do in Singapore and they will most likely say shopping. From luxury boutiques to market finds, it’s in Singapore. Orchard Road’s 2.2 kilometers of department stores, malls, and shops are dazzling, and yet, only the beginning of exploring Singapore’s retail delights. Over 270 premium retailers and restaurants call the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands home. Singapore’s largest mall, VivoCity at HarborFront has 1.5 million square feet of retail stores, food courts, spas, restaurants, and entertainment and numerous other malls line boulevards throughout the Lion City.
Beyond the behemoth malls, the markets and shophouses of the cultural districts area a treasure-trove of finds. Souvenirs, antiques, apparel, and electronics abound on the narrow streets and alleyways of the districts, offering a great opportunity to meander and explore.
Devour some fabulous food
One of Asia’s hottest dining destinations, Singapore is a foodie’s paradise.
We set out to eat our way through Singapore, exploring Chinese, Malay and Indian flavors, as well as trying some Singaporean treats. Chilli Crab? √ Kaya toast? √ Egg tarts, durian, and fish head curry? √√√ But then, we also stopped by the uber-cool Janice Wong’s & the gorgeous Violet Oon’s National Kitchen, checked out the most popular dish to hit Instagram recently, the #FlyingNoodles at Hana, indulged in Mille Crêpes cake at LadyM, and finished off our visit at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen.
Know before you go
The four official languages of Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English, which is considered to be the working language for the city-state. A fifth “language” of sorts, Singlish, incorporates elements of many languages into an English-based creole language spoken in informal situations. Common phrases include:
- shiok (shee-oke): an expression of pleasure
- rojak: mixture
- lah: used at the end of the words or phrases for emphasis
- ta pau: take out, as in carry-out or to-go food
- steady: agreeing with an idea or suggestion
Want to learn more Singlish? Check out the SinglishDictionary.
Local laws, customs, and etiquette
It is customary to remove shoes when entering someone’s home or a place of worship. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore, so leave it behind. Other things that could result in fines or imprisonment include not flushing the toilet, littering, jaywalking, racial slurs, smoking in non-approved areas, spitting, nudity, and drugs.
Singapore lies very near the equator and it rains on nearly half the days of the year (an average of 178 days). The average daily temperature range is usually a maximum of 32ºC/90º F during the day and a low of32ºC/90º F at night. May and June are the hottest months and December and January are the coolest, but the year-round variation is minimal. The mean annual relative humidity is 84.0%. It is tropical – in other words, hot and humid, most of the time in Singapore.
What to wear
Sunscreen and a hat. Singapore’s sun is strong and it is hot, so apply sunscreen often. Sunglasses and a hat are also a good idea.
Cool comfortable clothing. Dress cool in breathable clothing. Shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts are great. Casual wear for the evening is good – most of the restaurants and bars are not formal. A shawl is good in case you run into a heavily air-conditioned spot.
Umbrella. It rains at some point nearly every day, so bring an umbrella.
The Singaporean dollar is the official currency. Money changing locations are plentiful.
Singapore power voltage is 220/240 V 50 Hz. Power sockets are type G.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.