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About Singapore
Singapore has traded in its rough-and-ready opium dens and pearl luggers for towers of concrete and glass, and its steamy rickshaw image for hi-tech wizardry, but you can still recapture the colonial era with a gin sling under the languorous ceiling fans at Raffles Hotel.

At first glance, Singapore appears shockingly modern and anonymous, but this is an undeniably Asian city with Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions from feng shui to ancestor worship creating part of the everyday landscape. It's these contrasts that bring the city to life.

One day you're in a hawker stall melting over a bowl of Indian curry, the next you're enjoying high tea in whispered environs complete with air-con, starched linen table cloths and gliding waiters. Super-safe and mega-clean Singapore may be, but its sultry rhythms wash inexorably beneath the regimented beat of big-city life.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8 (Standard Time)

When to Go

Go anytime. Climate is not a major consideration, as Singapore gets fairly steady annual rainfall. Co-ordinate your visit with one of the various festivals and events: Thaipusam is a spectacular festival, occurring around February. If shopping and eating are major concerns, April brings the Singapore Food Festival and the Great Singapore Sale is held in June.

Singapore Attractions


Arab St
The Muslim centre of Singapore is a traditional textile district, full of batiks from Indonesia, silks, sarongs and shirts. Add to this mix rosaries, flower essences, hajj caps, songkok hats, basketware and rattan goods, and you have a fair idea of the products haggled over in this part of the city. The grand Sultan Mosque is the biggest and liveliest mosque in Singapore, but the tiny Malabar Muslim Jama-ath Mosque is the most beautiful. There's fine Indian Muslim food along nearby North Bridge Rd and the foodstalls on Bussorah St are especially atmospheric at dusk during Ramadan.

Chinatown

Chinatown is Singapore's cultural heart and still provides historic glimpses with its numerous temples, decorated terraces and its frantic conglomeration of merchants, shops and activity. Gentrified restaurants and expensive shops are gradually overtaking the venerable incense-selling professions.

Colonial Singapore

The mark of Sir Stamford Raffles is indelibly stamped on central Singapore. By moving the business district south of the river and making the northern area the administrative centre, Raffles created the framework that remained the blueprint for central Singapore through generations of colonial rule and the republican years of independence. Places of interest include: Empress Place Building, an imposing Victorian structure, built in 1865, that houses a museum, art and antique galleries and a chic restaurant; the incongruous Padang, where flannelled cricketers once caught, bowled and batted in the searing heat; Raffles Hotel, a Singaporean institution which has become a byword for oriental luxury; and any number of imposing churches, such as St Andrew's Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Jurong
Jurong Town is a huge industrial and housing area that is the powerhouse of Singapore's economy. This might seem an unlikely spot for a number of Singapore's tourist attractions but it is home to the Haw Par Villa (an incredibly tacky Chinese mythological theme park) and some beautiful parks.

Little India

This modest but colourful area of wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music is a relief from the prim modernity of much of the city. It's the place to come to pick up that framed Ganesha print you've always wanted, eat great vegetarian food and watch streetside cooks fry chapatis.

Orchard Rd

Dominated by high-class hotels this is the playground of Singapore's elite, who are lured by the shopping centres, nightspots, restaurants, bars and lounges. A showcase for the material delights of capitalism, Orchard Rd does possess some sights of cultural interest where credit cards stay sheathed.

Sentosa Island
The granddaddy of Singapore's parks, Sentosa Island is the city-state's most visited attraction. It has museums, aquariums, beaches, sporting facilities, walks, rides and food centres. If one day isn't enough for all the sites and activities, Sentosa has a camping ground, hostel and luxury hotels.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

North of the CBD, this reserve is the largest area of primary rainforest in Singapore. The park is filled with over 800 species of native plants including giant trees, ferns and native wild flowers. You'll also see long-tailed macaques, lemurs, reticulated pythons and the racquet-tailed drongo.

Changi Village
There aren't too many places in Singapore that could be considered virgin wilderness but there are some that offer an escape from the hubbub of the central district. Changi Village, on the east coast, no longer has traditional kampong houses but it does have a village atmosphere.

Pulau Ubin

Changi Village is a convenient jump-off point for the northern island of Pulau Ubin. As soon as there is a quota of 12 passengers, a bumboat takes you across to the island where you can find quiet beaches, a kampong atmosphere and popular seafood restaurants.

The tranquil rural flavour of Pulau Ubin is as far removed from the cosmopolitan bustle of Singapore central as it is possible to get. The island is small enough to cycle around and this is still the best way to explore its fish farms, holy temples, coconut palms and deserted beaches.

Southern Islands
Although some of the southern islands are industrial bases, there are a few off-the-beaten-track islands where you can find a quiet beach. With nearby coral reefs, Sisters' Islands are a popular diving and swimming spot. Other islands worth checking out are Lazarus Island and Pulau Buran Darat.
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