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The lion city roars loudly: There’s so much to see in Singapore

Merlion statue at Sentosa Merlion park in Sentosa island, Singapore (iStock)
Merlion statue at Sentosa Merlion park in Sentosa island, Singapore (iStock)

SINGAPORE is dubbed ‘Asia for beginners’ for all the right reasons.

The lion city has so much more to offer than a stop off for a few days before going elsewhere, so it’s time to make it a proper destination.

With its tropical climate, the blast of heat hits you as you leave the plane.

The taxis here are very trustworthy and relatively cheap, since Uber has come about they’ve really upped their game, so it’s pretty easy to grab a cab.

Whether you’re here for a few days or are making it your base to travel around other parts of Asia, you’ll experience an infusion of different cultures here.

The population is made up mainly of Chinese, Malay and Indian, but to keep everyone together, and having once been under British control, the main language is English.

Summer of 2015 marked 50 years since Singapore became an independent nation and for a round-up of the country’s history, check out The National Museum of Singapore. It’s best to get a guide to take you around and they’re all passionate volunteers who can tell you a lot more about it than you would have known if you just did it by yourself.

For a city full of skyscrapers, there’s a lot of greenery here.

With trees and plants sprawled across buildings, Singapore is big on sustainability.

The Merlion fountain in front of the Marina Bay Sands hotel (iStock)
The Merlion fountain in front of the Marina Bay Sands hotel (iStock)

Being situated where it is, the country is renowned as a hub for the best food in Asia. From Chinese, Indian, Malay, Korean and Japanese, this place has got you covered. The most famous dish here is undoubtedly Chilli Crab. The sauce is the star and if you order some steamed buns, called ‘Mantou’, you can soak up all its goodness. If you want a guaranteed good one, more central there’s Newton Food Centre and way off the tourist track in the East Coat is ‘Hua Yu Wee’. Go back in time at this colonial bungalow and watch the locals, who come here for celebrations.

 Night view of The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay (iStock)
Night view of The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay (iStock)

Once you’ve acclimatised to the hot and sticky weather, it’s time to really explore. The best place to get a real sense of the cultures is to visit the neighbourhoods.

There’s Little India, Arab Street and China Town, but one of the best places to do this is Bugis.

If you survived the walk through the packed market at Bugis Village, there is both a traditional Chinese temple and a colourful Hindu temple filled with statues, that are worth having a look inside. Outside, you’ll see old men, known here as ‘uncles’, selling healing lotions, fortune tellers and and tons of stalls with yellow umbrellas which are fortune tellers. There are tons of touristy things to do, with a visit to Sentosa island, a picture with the Merlion, a hike along the treetops at MacRitchie Reserve, a trip to Gardens by the Bay, art galleries and day trips to nearby islands.

But to really get to know your surroundings, there are the typical city bus tours and river cruises, but nothing beats a trip up the Singapore Flyer.

It may not look or even feel like it because there’s no building’s around it, but it’s the world’s largest observation wheel. On a clear day, you may even see Malaysia and Indonesia. Want to go higher? A visit to the famous surfboard at Marina Bay Sands will do just the thing.

Street View of Boat Quay during twilight in Singapore (iStock)
Street View of Boat Quay during twilight in Singapore (iStock)

Back on the ground, Club Street has a large number of bars and restaurants, and if you go to Ox and Co there’s Pina Colada on tap and the Screening Rooms serves up great Lychee Martini’s.

If you’re feeling slightly worse for wear the next day and a tad homesick, you can head to Smith’s for a chippy – get a can of Irn-Bru too.

When it comes to hotels, there are plenty of places to stay that won’t break the bank. But if you’re looking to splash the cash, book in to The Fullerton Bay or the famous Raffles.

There are plenty of budget hotels like the towering Swissotel, which at one point was the highest in the world.

So think about Singapore for your next holiday, because a quick stop won’t be enough.