Once a tiny fishing village, Singapore has become a bustling city and a melting pot of cultures and traditions. A city-state with over four million people, the city is host to Western style boutiques and global brand names are available in shops that stay open until 10pm, seven days a week. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, there are still shops to be found with that distinctly Asian feel.
KT Comer visits Shanghai Tang, a shop combining traditional Chinese design with a modern twist. This east/west style extends to home furnishings, accessories and fashion.
World-class public transport and inexpensive taxis make Singapore an ideal place to explore – especially if you have time to sit back and enjoy a leisurely ride in one of the city’s many tri-shaws.
KT heads towards China town, a relic of old colonialism but still a great place for strange and peculiar things to buy from snakes and scorpions in bottles to colourful fabrics and exotic fruits. Also available for sampling are the bars and restaurants on Smith Street, now commonly known as Food Street. Here visitors can try all types of Chinese dishes and, in KT’s opinion, it’s the crème de la crème of street food.
The legacy of colonial rule is still obvious in Singapore’s architecture. Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles founded modern Singapore in 1819 and one of the city’s landmark colonial buildings is named after him. Dating back to 1887, Raffles hotel became a home from home for many high-class travellers and British colonials passing through Asia. Nowadays, the hotel is renowned as much for its beauty, history and luxury as for the famous stars who once visited, such as Charlie Chaplin, Eva Gardener and Noel Coward.
From the opulence of Raffles, KT moves onwards and upwards to the ultra modern New Asia Bar, perched on the seventieth floor of the Stanford building.
The city also has a large, thriving Indian community. The first Indian settlers in Singapore arrived with Sir Stamford Raffles as assistants and soldiers back in 1819. Established along the Serangoon Road, Little India is the focal point of Singapore’s Indian community. Its spice-scented streets beckon you to a treasure trove of silverware, brassware, ethnic jewellery, jasmine garlands and silk saris. KT decides to some exotic shopping in Musafa’s, one of the worlds few 24-hour shopping malls.
From the frenetic pace of little India, KT decides to take a cable car ride to the more tranquil Sentoza Island, just south of downtown. A peaceful retreat, the island was once a colonial fort. Now, complete with imported sand and palm trees from Hawaii, it is also home to Singapore’s newest spa resort – Spa Botanonica, where one can indulge in a mud bath, revitalising waterfall or a massage. North of the island is the Mandai Orchid Gardens where visitors can view the 200 different species of Orchid that grow on the hillside.
Back in the city, KT takes a riverboat to explore the historic Singapore River. One of the riverfront’s newest attractions is the Esplanade Theatre. Situated along Singapore’s magnificent waterfront at Marina Bay, the theatre’s two domes house the National Arts Centre which took over six years to build and contain over 10,000 panes of glass covered in special shading pyramids; each one is positioned at an angle to keep the building shaded whilst maximising the view.
Cutting edge design can also be found in older parts of the city. The hotel ‘1929’ for instance, has been recently renovated to become one of Singapore’s ‘trendiest’ and ‘funkiest’ hotels. Built in 1929 and located in what used to be the towns red light district, 1929’s owner has kept the old façade of the hotel but given the interior a decidedly modern design.
Around the corner for 1929, KT visits Tea Chapter where she finds teas from China Hong, Kong and Taiwan as well as delicate teapots and cups ranging in price from $5 to $200. Tea Chapter also specialises in the art of tea making.
KT also visits Claire Chang’s shop of handy craft (brass, silver, textiles etc) and art replicas from other Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.
Singapore comes alive at night as people flock to the city’s bars and restaurants. One particular hotspot, Boat Quay attracts everyone from the rich and famous to young Singaporean kids. KT stumbles into the Sake Bar, where she samples sake from all over the world including America, Brazil and Australia. KT tries a good few, the best being the Tsunami, which she says tastes just like champagne.
The biggest dance party in the whole of SE Asia is in Singapore – KT checks out ‘Zookout.’ This annual two-day event sees international DJ’s and performers gather for an unforgettable experience which carries on until dawn. After all that partying, KT visits Singapore’s Botanic Gardens, spread over 54 hectares in the middle of the city and relaxes at the end of a frenetic trip.
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