With my parents living in this slick Asian country for more than 10 years, as a child cum teenager, they took me here to return to their much cherished city, to remember their past lives and to rekindle their romance with this metropolis. For me it was an entirely different experience to what I can imagine a visit would be like as a backpacker, and so I combine my backpacker eye with my childhood memory.
Now most backpackers I speak to declare that Singapore is too “expensive”, and you know what? It really is. Stepping outside of the usual travel journeys within Asia, Singapore seems a terrifying shock to the system. Although staggering prices, there is a reasoning behind it. Which is? Singapore is a glistening glossy city of towering sky scrapers, extravagant restaurants, extensive entertainment parks, lavish bars, enormous air conditioned shopping malls, and delicious open air food markets, and it works. As the artist Dan Flavin once said, “it is what it is”. Love it or hate it, this will always be the style of Singapore, and no matter how many people grumble against the pollution, the price and cleanliness, who can complain about the array of religions that affects this dynamic city through culture and cuisine? Or the perfect fluent English everyone speaks? Or drinking a tasty cocktail concoction over a city that is as lit up at as the night sky? I surely can’t. So it is is unlike the rest of Asia. So what? Come here to experience and appreciate the differences, then move on. It as easy as that.
Ignoring its odd and numerous rules, Singapore has many places of green public spaces and areas of nature and wildlife, surprising to hear by many. Head over to Singapore’s Botanic Gardens, a perfect place to escape from the beeps and horns of traffic, and large malls filled with consumerist items, whilst tickling your feet over the soft blades of grass. It is a UNESCO World Heritage sight because of its variety of natural splendour and vast amount of tropical plants that live here, as well as the ginger garden and the nation’s favourite, an orchid garden. If you want to visit a modern themed park head to Gardens of the Bay, where futuristic designs and electronic twists create this play ground for tech whizz adults. The “trees” light up at night, which although unnatural, is strangely picturesque. Whilst I was here, I also visited the Jurong Bird Park, which is highly rated in South East Asia. It provides an enjoyable afternoon for the family, as it is lovely to stroll and be amazed at the fantastic bird shows they organize. If your thirst for wildlife is not fulfilled from here, head to the Singapore Zoo, where I remember I spotted my first every white tiger. In my limited experience of zoos, (I am more of a fan of seeing them in their natural habitat), this zoo is maintained spectacularly and has a vast array of animals, perfect for children and any animal lover.
I also visited Orchard Road, the avenue famous for its expansive- and expensive shopping malls such as Ngee Ann City or The Paragon. Browse through the mega malls until your feet are sore, gorging at mass designs, fabulous retail wear and luxurious clothes items. If shopping isn’t your thing, (which wasn’t the case for me whilst I was here), head to the National Museum of Singapore where you can immerse yourself in rows and rows of history about the island and the people’s well deserved rise to freedom.
Reminiscences of colonialism can be found in the many areas of architecture throughout the city of Singapore, but the sight most well known, is the popular luxurious hotel of Raffles, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore. There are statues dotted around the busy streets of the CBD highlighting Sir Raffles presence, however a quick Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel invites you into a whole other world, an infamous icon of history, prestige and luxury.
Boat trips are also a popular activity to those that live or visit here as there are many islands neighbouring Singapore offering much scope and variety in change of scenery. Whilst I visited here, we travelled to the popular resort island of Sentosa, where activities and entertainment for the children are a plenty. Here, we spent the afternoon in beach clubs frolicking in the sea. We also ventured to another entirely different island, Lazarus Island and Pulau Seringat. With white sands and crystal azure waters, it seems miles away from the mirrored polished malls and boulevards of Singapore, and is a great place to close your eyes and ease your mind of worries.
Singaporeans are notorious for their fantastic diverse and deliciously tasting cuisine and pride themselves with just how great their dishes are. With an influx of religions and nationalities, this means that variety is not a problem here. With Malaysia on one side, and Indonesia on the other, there is no surprise that the cuisine in Singapore has similarities of Malay, Nonya, and Chinese roots, as well as Indian and Indonesian. Head into Chinatown for Chinese treats, Little India for some well missed spiced dishes, Arab Street for Malay/Arab tasting dishes, or the East Coast for Singapore’s delicacy: seafood, for the infamous chilli and black pepper crab.
Thinking back to when I visited, I remember being taken to a vast outdoor food market, where my eyes glazed over at each stall selling separate dishes all combined and created to perfection. I did not know where to look under the bright lights of the night, the sweet smelling Satay wafting up my nostrils and the amount of people bustling, pointing and.. well, eating. I had been taken to Lau Pa Sat, one of the most famous and historical hawker food stalls in Singapore, and if I can remember the juicy tasting meat on the Satay stick, the sweet nutty flavour of the Satay Sauce, as well as the wide variety of options in food there was, 10 years on, I advise you all to visit.