CHINATOWN, LITTLE INDIA & ARAB STREETS
Take a stroll through these varied and unique pockets of architecture, customs, and colorful festivals. In Chinatown, glimpse the old ways of the Chinese immigrants who shaped and built modern Singapore. Rebuilding and restoring the old colonial shophouses has resulted in increased rents, causing many of the traditional businesses to move out, but it’s still a good place to wander, and contains some of Singapore’s most notable temples. Little India stretches from Rochor Canal to Lavendar Street. The best time to visit is early morning, when you can drop in on the spice merchants, watch colorful flower garlands being made, and visit a “wet market” to see sari-draped ladies haggling for fresh fish. Arab Street is the Muslim center where you’ll find batiks from Indonesia, sarongs, flower essences, hajj caps, baskets, rattan goods, and Singapore’s largest mosque, Sultan Mosque, on North Bridge Road.
JURONG BIRD PARK
Jurong Bird Park covers approximately 50 acres, including a 5 acre walk-in aviary, and is home to over 8,000 birds from 600 species. Exhibits include birds of paradise, nocturnal birds, a walk-through parrot aviary, and even penguins. You could easily spend an entire day wandering through Jurong Bird Park’s seemingly endless displays.
ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS & NIGHT SAFARI
Singapore’s world-class zoo has over 2,000 animals, representing 240 species on display in natural conditions. Have breakfast or high tea with an orangutan, ride an elephant, or stop by one or all of its daily shows. There is an excellent Night Safari on a 40 hectare site in secondary forest next to the zoo.
If you are looking for some designer label shopping or a cup of Starbucks coffee, this is the area for you. Orchard Road is also home to some of Singapore’s best nightlife. The surrounding area is filled with the mansions of Singapore’s elite.
Considered to be the premier architectural landmark in Singapore, Raffles Hotel is a cultural icon. Built in 1887, it quickly became one of the most famous hotels in the East. It has recently been restored to its former glory, maintaining an old-fashioned atmosphere of colonial Asia. The main lobby is open to the public, but proper dress standards do apply. While you’re visiting Raffles, it would be practically criminal not to indulge in the nation’s namesake drink, the Singapore Sling, which was invented in its classic bar.
One way to see the sights of colonial Singapore is to take a short cruise on the Singapore River. You will pass Raffles’ famous landing sight, the oft-photographed Merlion Statue and Clarke Quay, one of Singapore’s most popular dining and entertainment area.
The half-moon of quaint restaurants and cafes at this quay are wedged between the river and towering high rises. It is a delightful spot for a meal, ice cream or cold beer while watching the ferry boats pass by. Sure it’s touristy and prices are double what you’ll find in Chinatown, but it’s a classic way to wile away a few hours in this glittering metropolis.
Singapore’s glorious and surprisingly massive Botanic Gardens are a treat, Singapore’s glorious and surprisingly massive Botanic Gardens are a treat, housing 600,000 botanical species; among them 60,000 orchids—one of the world’s largest collections.
ASIAN CIVILIZATION MUSEUM
This world-class museum, where high-tech, interactive displays showcase ancient cultural artifacts from the multitude of Asian cultures that comprise Singapore’s population. It’s a one-stop-shop of knowledge, beautifully and clearly presented. Spend an hour, a day or a week—its riches just keep unfolding. You can take the ferry to the Colonial District to access this wonderful museum.