Visiting Singapore

Cover: Supertree Grove trees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our Singapore photo gallery


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.

Singapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands Rooftop, SingaporeSingapore skyline view from Marina Bay Sands Rooftop, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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.

View of Marina Bay Sands From the Boardwalk, SingaporeView of Marina Bay Sands From the Boardwalk, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Moving sidewalks at Changi Airport, SingaporeMoving sidewalks at Changi Airport, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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

Sightseeing in Singapore
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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 »

Purple array of Supertree Grove trees at Gardens by the Bay, SingaporePurple array of Supertree Grove trees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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, SingaporeNational 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?


Sightseeing in Singapore »


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

Exploring Singapore's cultural districtsPhoto: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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.

Sultan Mosque, SingaporeSultan Mosque, Singapore Photo, Cool Adventures: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

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.


Exploring Singapore’s cultural districts »


Shop ’til you drop

Shopping in SingaporePhoto: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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.

ION Orchard Mall, SingaporeION Orchard Mall, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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.


Put on some walking shoes and grab your wallet, we’re going shopping in Singapore »


Devour some fabulous food

One of Asia’s hottest dining destinations, Singapore is a foodie’s paradise.

What to eat in SingaporePhoto: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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.


What to eat in Singapore »


Know before you go

Language

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.

Climate

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.

Currency

The Singaporean dollar is the official currency. Money changing locations are plentiful.

Power

Singapore power voltage is 220/240 V 50 Hz. Power sockets are type G.


View our Singapore photo gallery


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.

Visiting Singapore
Visiting Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sightseeing in Singapore: Exploring Singapore’s famous sights

Cover: View of the Skyline through the glass dome at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our Singapore photo gallery


There are so many places to visit when sightseeing in Singapore – the only challenge is fitting them all into your itinerary. While most visiting plan on spending a great deal of time on two of Singapore’s most well-known activities – shopping and eating – there are also countless adventures to undertake, cultures to experience, and captivating sightseeing attractions to explore.

Singapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands walkway, SingaporeSingapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With regard to the latter, here are ten of the top attractions that are a must for your things to do in sightseeing in Singapore list.


We’d like to thank the Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests and providing an expert guide for us to experience all that Singapore has to offer.


Have a Singapore Sling at the elegant Raffles Hotel

Making Singapore Slings at Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, SingaporeSingapore Slings at Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Every visit to Singapore should begin with the world famous Singapore Sling at the place where it was created, the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. Operating since 1887, the Raffles Hotel is a display of elegance and grandeur and has been declared a National Monument by the Singapore Government.

While the hotel is refined, the Long Bar is casual and absolutely the spot to sample the Singapore’s most famous beverage. Making its debut in 1915, the Singapore Sling is considered the national drink of Singapore and was created by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. The tasty gin cocktail is a combination pineapple juice, grenadine, lime juice, Dom Benedictine, cherry brandy, and Cointreau. The two story watering hole is also the only place in Singapore where littering is allowed, with patrons tossing peanut shells on the floor in the stylish establishment.

Experience nature and watch the light show at Gardens by the Bay

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore
The Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Experience an abundance of nature in the center of Singapore at the 101 hectacres/250 acres of the Gardens by the Bay. While open throughout the day and evening, the best time for a visit is a couple of hours before sunset, providing enough time to explore the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and other areas of the gardens before the nightly Supertrees light show.

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore
Flowers at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Showcasing a vast array of flowers, plants and trees from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions of the world, The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Not to be missed are the thousand-year-old olive trees, the African Baobab trees, the intricate wood carvings, and the extensive collection of succulent plants and flower displays.

Wood carved dragon at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore
Wood carved dragon at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next, a visit to the Cloud Forest unveils plant life ranging from tropical highlands up to 2,000 meters above sea level and features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Illuminated Waterfall at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Illuminated Waterfall at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

To best experience the Cloud Forest, take the elevator to the top of the plant-covered, 35-meter indoor mountain, climb one flight of stairs and then casually stroll the elevated walkway to the bottom. Orchids, pitcher plants, and the Venus Fly-catcher are highlights amidst the lush landscape of ferns and mosses thriving in the misty, rainforest-like environment.

Cloud Forest, Gardens By the Bay, Singapore
Cloud Forest, Gardens By the Bay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the evening approaches, find a seat in the Supertree Grove and prepare to be dazzled as they come to life nightly at 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm.

External view of the Gardens by the Bay dome at night, Singapore
Night view of Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Constructed with nearly 163,000 plants, the 18 Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay contain over 200 species of orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and other tropical flowering plants and reach heights of up to 16 stories or approximately 160 feet/49 meters. Twelve of the SuperTrees can be found in the Supertree Grove and the other six are located at various points around Gardens of the Bay.

Supertree Grove illuminated in blue, green and red at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sky darkens, the Supertrees come to life in a stunning display of colors, dancing to the music against a beautiful backdrop of Singapore and the Marina Bay.

Singapore
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Watch the sun set at the top of Marina Bay Sands

View of Marina Bay Sands From the Boardwalk, Singapore
View of Marina Bay Sands From the Boardwalk, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the most spectacular spots to take in a sunset in Singapore is at the top of the Marina Bay Sands.

Built in 2010, the Marina Bay Sands is a destination unto itself, with a hotel, shopping mall, 80 dining options, a museum, a casino and a convention center. The hotel is comprised of 2,561 rooms and suites located in three towers capped by the Sands SkyPark, which gives the structure its unique design. The SkyPark is home to restaurants, gardens, an observation deck and the famous 57th-floor infinity pool.

Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the pool overlooking the Singapore skyline is only accessible to guests of the hotel, the SkyPark and the restaurants are open to the public and provide a perfect spot for gazing at the twinkling Singapore skyline bathed in the warm light as the sun sets.

Singapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands Rooftop, Singapore
Singapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands Rooftop, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a stroll along the Singapore River

A walk along the Singapore River, which winds its way through the center of the city, is an excellent way to get to know Singapore.

Sailboats and Bumboats on the Singapore River, Singapore
Sailboats and Bumboats on the Singapore River, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Approximately 3.2 kilometers in length, the Singapore River is divided into three areas: Robertson Quay, bustling Clarke Quay, and the historic Boat Quay. Singapore’s first quay, Boat Quay was the location of Singapore’s first trading houses and warehouses and the spot where Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles first stepped ashore in what is now the Lion City. Today, vibrant Boat Quay is home to numerous cafes, restaurants and entertainment spots.

Bumboats on the Singapore River, Singapore
Bumboat on the Singapore River near Clarke Quay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Formerly a center of commerce, Clarke Quay is a bustling area of restaurants, retail shops, and entertainment venues.  Further up-river, quieter Robertson Quay is also home to restaurants, alfresco dining, condominiums, and hotels.

Alkaff Bridge over the Singapore River at Robertson Quay, Singapore
View of the Singapore River at Robertson Quay, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the Singapore River is now a lovely area with a beautiful promenade, the river was once polluted with sewage and waste. In 1977, Singapore launched a campaign to clean up the river. During the nearly 10-year-long project, the river and surrounding areas were cleaned and restored, revitalizing the area and attracting the numerous hotels, restaurants, and businesses now located along the popular destination.

Five Boys By The River, by Chong Fah Cheong
Five Boys By The River art installation, by Chong Fah Cheong, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The long promenade that was constructed along both banks of the waterfront during the project is a perfect spot for a stroll in Singapore.

Alkaff Bridge illuminated at night over the Singapore River at Robertson Quay, Singapore
Alkaff Bridge over the Singapore River at Robertson Quay, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Cruise the Singapore River on a Bumboat

Bumboats on the Singapore River, Singapore
Bumboats on the Singapore River, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While walking along the river, you can’t help but notice the colorful boats traversing its waters.

Dating back to the 1600s in Europe, bumboats, which were also called twakows and tongkangs, were originally used in Singapore for transporting goods and cargo. In present day Singapore, bumboats are small water taxis or tourist tour boats.

Bumboat on the Singapore River, Singapore
Singapore Bumboat on the Singapore River Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A pleasant and relaxing way to view Singapore via the Singapore River, 24 bumboats are operated by Singapore River Cruises, passing landmarks such as the Fullerton Hotel, Merlion Park, Esplanade Singapore and the Marina Bay Sands along the leisurely ride.

Stop by Merlion Park

Merlion Fountain in front of the Singapore skyline
Merlion Fountain in front of the Singapore skyline, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the head of lion and the body of a fish, Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion at the mouth of the Singapore River has welcomed visitors to the city-state since 1972. A combination of “mer” for sea and “lion,” the symbol represents Singapore’s heritage as a fishing Village and the city’s original name, Singapura, or “lion city” in the Malay language.

Standing at a height of 8.2 meters/28 feet, the Merlion statue in Merlion Park weighs 70 tons, spouts water from its mouth and is located near the Fullerton Hotel.

Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens

National Orchid Garden, Singapore
National Orchid Garden, Singapore Botanic Gardens  Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the Singapore Botanic Gardens are a lush oasis in the heart of Singapore that dates back over 150 years.

The current site of the gardens opened in 1859 and since has played an important role in Singapore’s agricultural history through collecting, growing, experimenting and distributing potentially useful plants. With over 10,000 species of plants located across three sections of the 82 hectacre gardens, the attraction draws both local botany enthusiasts as well as nature lovers from around the world.

Purple orchids at the National Orchid Garden, Singapore
Purple orchids at the National Orchid Garden, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A highlight of the gardens is the highly-acclaimed National Orchid Garden. Home to more than 1000 orchid species and 2000 hybrids, the National Orchid Garden provides an opportunity to meander through a floral paradise.

Located throughout the Orchid Gardens are the popular VIP Orchids, named after visiting dignitaries and other VIPs. Since it began the naming program in 1957, the garden has over 200 VIP named orchids, including the Dendrobium Margaret Thatcher, the Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana, and the Dendrobium Joe and Jill Biden. Open from 5 am to midnight, the best time of day to visit the Botanic Gardens is early morning or in the evening to avoid the intense heat of the day.

National Orchid Garden, Singapore
National Orchid Garden, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Adventure to Sentosa Island

Tanjong Beach, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Tanjong Beach, Sentosa Island, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sentosa is a popular resort island just off the main island of Singapore with hotels, beaches, golf courses, a theme park, and… ziplining!

Accessible by car, cable car, or a monorail from VivoCity, our method of transport, Sentosa is 500-hectares of fun. Immediately upon disembarking from the monorail, I spotted a man with a couple of baskets that apparently contained snakes. Hmmm. Of course, I did.

Kim Hull with two burmese pythons, Singapore
Kim Hull with a boa constrictor and a burmese python, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Meet Rocky and Tony, a boa constrictor and an albino burmese python. Both of the boys are only three years old and are very friendly. What a photo opp – plus I got to wear the uber-cool hat and Tony even tried to come home with me.

Kim Hull with an albino burmese python, Singapore
Kim Hull with an albino Burmese python, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Onward to MegaZip, the adventure provider on Sentosa island.

Kim Hull ready for the MegaZip zip line, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Kim Hull ready for the MegaZip zip line, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First up, we tried the ParaJump, which essentially is jumping from a platform 15 meters/49 feet in the air. Think of it like a free fall parachute jump without the chute – okay, the line slows you down near the ground.

Kim Hull descending the ParaJump at MegaZip Adventure Park, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Kim Hull on the ParaJump, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up – time to zipline. From 75 meters/246 feet up, we stepped from the platform for an exhilarating 450 meter/492 yard long (the equivalent of nearly 5 American football fields) ride down to the beach.

Kim Hull snapping shots on the MegaZip zip line, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Kim Hull snappoing shots on the MegaZip zip line, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Reaching speeds of 6o kmph/37 mph, it is an amazing way to view Sentosa island, the jungle canopy and the spectacular beach of Fox Finish Point. Sentosa sightseeing CoolAdventures style!

Greg Hull shooting Hetal Vasavada at MegaZip Adventure Park, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Greg Hull shooting Hetal Vasavada at MegaZip Adventure Park, Sentosa Island, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Check out the National Gallery Singapore

Structural art at the National Gallery, Singapore
The National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you wake up to a forecast for rain or simply would like an air-conditioned event for the day, head over to the National Gallery Singapore.

Located in two of Singapore’s national monuments, the buildings housing the artwork are attractions unto themselves. The former Supreme Court Building and City Hall are bridged by a unique design that incorporates elements that harmoniously bridge the old and new architectural styles.

Inside the National Gallery Rotunda, Singapore
The National Gallery Rotunda, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With over 8,000 works of art, the museum has amassed the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian art. One could roam the National Gallery for hours, as the museum has something for every interest. If hunger strikes, several restaurants are located in the museum, including the phenomenal Violet Oon. A beautiful, stylish restaurant that delivers authentic Peranakan cuisine, it is a delightful spot to linger over lunch, savoring the flavors and ambiance.

Catch a ride on the Singapore Flyer

Soaring to over 165 meters/541 feet, the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer, provides breathtaking, panoramic views of Singapore. Visitors to the Flyer board a 28-person capsule and then sit back and enjoy the ride, which takes 30 minutes for each revolution. Since its opening in 2008, the Singapore Flyer has become one of Asia’s biggest tourist attractions.

View of the Singapore Flyer from Gardens By The Bay, Singapore
The Singapore Flyer at night Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


View our Singapore photo gallery


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.

Sightseeing in Singapore
Sightseeing in Singapore Photo: © Chasing Light Media

 

Buddha To

Places to visit in Singapore to explore Singapore’s culture

Cover: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our Singapore photo gallery


Singapore is a true melting pot of cultures. The integrated, diverse city of over 5 million people living harmoniously, while also treasuring their cultural heritages.  Dating back to the early 1800s, Singapore was a trading hub for India-bound ships. The ships from around the world brought many foreign influences, as did its nearby neighbor, Malaysia. Many people migrated to the island from British, Indian and Asian countries, resulting in a mix of languages, religions, cultures, and traditions.

View of Singapore from the Singapore River, Singapore
View of Singapore from the Singapore River, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Modern Singapore was founded by Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles in 1819 and remained a colony of Britain until 1942. Following many turbulent times between 1942 and 1965, Singapore gained independence from Malaysia and Singapore’s first and beloved prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, set plans in place to transition Singapore from a troubled “third world country to a first world country within a single generation.”

Lee’s social and economic policies based on meritocracy and respecting the differences of multiple races created the Singapore of today. While English is the common language of Singapore, bilingualism is mandated in schools, a critical step in preserving identities. Singapore’s public holidays include Christian, Muslim, and Indian holidays.

Kim Hull enjoying a walk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Kim Hull enjoying a walk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The incredibly clean and safe city-state and accommodations make Singapore an attractive place for visiting, especially for English-speaking tourists. However, in parallel to the modern offerings, multiple ethnic-based districts still exist, providing an opportunity to explore the ethnicities, food, traditions, and history that make up the Singaporean culture

Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


We’d like to thank the Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests and providing an expert guide to ensure we experienced all that Singapore has to offer.


Singapore’s Chinatown

Chinatown, Singapore
Streets of Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to Chinatown. The sights, smells and colors overflow from the shophouses that line the streets, spilling out into the vibrant neighborhood. With an abundance of restaurants, shops, temples, and attractions to explore, Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most popular areas.

Chinatown, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chinatown Heritage Center

Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore
Chinatown Heritage Center tour, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A good place to begin your visit is at the Chinatown Heritage Center on Pagoda Street. Housed in three restored shophouses, the center provides a glimpse into the lives of the early residents of the area. The center has re-created a tailor shop and the tiny resident living quarters of both the owners and tenants. The guided tour provides the background to understanding how the dreams, hardships, sacrifices, and aspirations helped shape the culture of the area and its residents.

Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore
Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chinatown street markets

Shopping in Chinatown Singapore
Colorful Chinatown Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The street markets and shops of Chinatown offer a wide variety of shopping options. From silk robes and trinkets to custom-made suits, you’re sure to find affordable items from hundreds of markets and vendors. As with street markets around the world, remember that fakes and copies are prevalent, compare prices between vendors, check the product for flaws, and, if you decide to purchase, feel free to try to bargain.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is housed in a beautiful four-story structure located in Singapore’s Chinatown.

Buddha with mustache, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Highly ornate, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Completed in 2007, the temple was built in Tang dynasty architectural style and is highly ornate and visually stunning. On the first floor, are the Hundred Dragons Hall and Universal Wisdom Hall.

Buddha with flower, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Buddha statue at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Singapore’s Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The temple houses the Buddha Tooth Relic made from 320kg of gold. The relic is located in the Sacred Light Hall on the fourth floor of the museum and can be seen from a viewing area. The temple is a place of worship and, as such, respectful attire is required inside the temple (no bare shoulders or legs). Shawls and covers for legs are provided at the door.

Prayers offered at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Worshipers at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sri Mariamman Temple

Entrance Tower of Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore
Entrance Tower of Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple, is located at South Bridge Road and Pagoda street in Chinatown.

Chinatown, Singapore
Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1827, the temple was built by immigrants from South India and was formerly known as Mariamman Kovil or Kling Street Temple. Now a national monument, a majority of the present temple is believed to have been built around 1862-1863. The temple is built in the South Indian Dravidian style and features a gopuram, with six tiers of Hindu deity sculptures and ornamental decorations, that marks the front entrance.

Chinatown, Singapore
Worship service at Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kampong Glam and Haji Lane

An eclectic district filled with food, history, and culture, Kampong Glam dates back to the early 1800s when it was a fishing village on the shores of the Rochor River. The name Kampong Glam stems from the Malay word “kampung” meaning village and a tree prevalent in the area, the gelam tree.

Today, the area is a bustling community with a strong Malay-Arab influence. In the shadows of the beautiful Sultan Mosque, the Muslim quarter is a trendy district filled with quirky shops, hip boutiques, restaurants and cafes, street markets and a rich historical past to explore.

Haji Lane

Singaporeevening, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media[/caption]
Haji Lane in the evening, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A narrow street in the heart of Kampong Glam, Haji Lane is the center of fashion and trend setting in Singapore.

A visit to Haji Lane is a perfect way to spend an afternoon shopping in the small boutiques which have a good selection from independent labels and sought-after local designers. Take a stroll to admire the brightly-colored street art and pop into some galleries to do a bit of browsing. Pick up some cookies or pastries. Or, simply grab a coffee or glass of wine and do some people watching and soak in the artsy vibe.

Malay Heritage Center

Once the Sultan’s palace, Istana Kampong Glam was built in 1843 by Sultan Ali, the son of Sultan Hussein Shah. As part of the development of the Malay Heritage Center, the Istana Kampong Glam was restored according to its original design in 2004. The Malay Heritage Centre, which now includes Istana Kampong Glam, officially opened in 2005. The center’s museum serves as a showcase of the Malay heritage and culture, providing insight and understanding of the community’s history.

Sultan Mosque

Sultan Mosque, Singapore
Masjid Sultan or Sultan Mosque, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An iconic landmark in the Kampong Glam district, Sultan Mosque, or Masjid Sultan, is the oldest mosque in Singapore. Dating back to 1824, the mosque was first built for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first sultan of Singapore. In 1932, the mosque was rebuilt with the huge gold domes and the large prayer hall. During the construction, glass bottles were contributed by poor Muslims and the bottle ends were used in the base under the domes so that all could contribute to the building of the new structure. The mosque was declared a national monument in 1975 and is visited by thousands of people from around the world each year.

Singapore’s Little India

Vibrant and colorful, a stroll through Singapore’s Little India is a feast for the senses. As merchants hawk their wares, shoppers buzz about bargaining over everything from flowers to jewelry to electronics. Scents of curry waft out to the street from the countless restaurants in the neighborhood. Fruits and vegetables of all colors and varieties are on every corner. Stunning garlands constructed of beautiful, fragrant flowers hang over head. A wonderful place to simply wander, Little India is chaotic, beautiful and fascinating all at once and shouldn’t be missed on a Singapore visit.

Deepavali festival

Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Festival of Lights, or Deepavali, is a Hindu festival occurring in the autumn to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. An ancient festival and major event in the Hindu faith, participants illuminate their homes, temples, buildings, and communities for the vibrant celebration.

If in Singapore during Deepavali (dates are set by the lunar calendar, but are typically around October), celebrate with the Indian community. The streets of Little India are dazzling during the festival, with thousands of colorful lights decorating the community. Especially beautiful is Serangoon Road, with the arch welcoming all to the festival. Then head to the Deepavali Festival Village, where vendors sell flower garlands, traditional treats, and items to decorate homes for the celebration, craftspeople display their wares, and local artists offer to paint intricate henna body art.

Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Deepavali Festival of Lights, Serangoon Road, Little India, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Henna tattoos

Popular in the Indian culture, henna has been used for thousands of years to adorn women with body art for social events and holiday celebrations.

While visiting Singapore during Deepvali, I decided to get a henna tattoo on my left hand. After viewing the artist’s book of designs, some of which were extremely elaborate, I selected one and she began. The artist drew the design free hand and within 15 or 20 minutes I had my beautiful swirling tattoo. Upon leaving, the artist told me to make sure I didn’t smudge it and to let it dry for at least 30 minutes. She also said if I applied oil after it dried it would stay longer and make it darker, which I couldn’t imagine how that would happen since it was black already. Arriving back at the hotel, I used a hair dryer to make sure it was dry before going to bed.

Kim Hull Getting a Henna Tattoo in Little India, Singapore
Henna Tattoos in Little India, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

During the middle of the night, I woke up to a bunch of little bumps that felt like tiny pebbles in the bed. Turning on the light, I realized the black part comes off, leaving the reddish brown color behind wherever the black henna paste was applied. After cleaning the bed, I applied some lotion (I didn’t have oil). I was careful with it while showering for the next few days and the pattern lasted about 5 days before it began to disappear.

Kim Hull admiring her finished Henna Tattoo in Little India, Singapore
Henna tattoo in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Joo Chiat/Katong

Shoe display in a Peranakan Shop, Singapore
Peranakan slippers in Joo Chiat/Katong shops, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home of the Peranakans, the Katong/Joo Chiat area is a charming district only about 10 minutes from the city center with beautiful shophouses, amazing food and great shopping.

Who are the Peranakans? Peranakans are descendants of Chinese immigrants and local women. Peranakans are locally born, distinguishing the group from the China-born Singapore Chinese. Peranakan males are known as babas and females are called as nonyas. Well-known for their nonya food, referring to the women who prepare it, Peranakan cuisine is distinctly tasty, using unique spices and cooking techniques with Indonesian and Malay influences.

The perfect spot to explore the Peranakan culture is the Joo Chiat/Katong area, a vibrant district with authentic Peranakan restaurants and shopping. The Peranakan women are also well-known for their embroidery and beadwork, creating stunning clothing, shoes, and accessories that are works of art, which can be found in the colorful, well-kept shophouses in the Katong/Joo Chiat district.

The Intan

The Intan, Singapore
Exploring all things Peranakan at The Intan, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the heart of Joo Chiat, the Intan, is a must visit for learning about the history, traditions & lifestyle of the Peranakans.

Awarded 2016 Best Tour Experience by the Singapore Tourism Board, the Intan is an exploration of all things Peranakan. More than viewing the amazing collection of Peranakan furniture, apparel and artifacts in the owner, Alvin Yapp’s, beautiful shophouse, a tour of the Intan is an opportunity to gain an understanding of the Peranakan culture.

Tea and Dessert at The Intan, Singapore
Tea and Dessert at The Intan, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While visiting the Intan, we enjoyed the most amazing tea and a vast assortment of desserts as Mr. Yapp relayed the delightful story of his heritage with passion and dedication. The Intan offers both the tea experience and a dinner offering. Visits to the Intan are by appointment only and can be arranged on their website.

Kim and Greg Hull at The Intan, Singapore
Kim and Greg Hull at The Intan, Singapore
Photo: © Chasing Light Media

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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.

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