Ten top things which prove that Singapore is a place that is steeped in history while also being a futuristic wonderland.
Visiting a destination that is rich with history can be very enlightening. A place where the classical buildings, monuments and cobblestone streets give one a sense of what it was like to have lived decades or even centuries ago. On the other hand, it is thrilling to be dazzled by modern architecture and innovation. Arriving anywhere that is ultra modern or cutting edge - a place bordering on science fiction - will leave you exhilarated.
So, how do you chose?
Welcome to Singapore, where you don’t have to.
Singapore combines its past, present and future together into an easy to navigate, always interesting, sometimes mind-blowing destination that you can see a lot of in just a day or two. Here are ten things to experience that give you the best of old and new Singapore.
10. SOMETHING OLD - SIPPING A SINGAPORE SLING AT THE HISTORIC RAFFLES HOTEL
There’s no way around it, this one is a splurge, so if you’re not a drinker or are watching your budget or generally don’t care about this specific type of “history”, this is an easy one to skip.
For those who like this kind of experience, there is a lot to recommend it.
The Singapore Sling is a delicious, gin-based cocktail created over 100 years ago by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. He worked the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel.
The hotel itself is a beautiful relic of days past. It has been gorgeously restored and is on Singapore’s list of National Monuments. Strolling around Raffles gives you a sense of what it was like to be a person of means in the colonial days.
The Long Bar is another atmospheric window into a long distant past. With its shuttered windows, potted palms and lazily waving fans, it may transport you back to the early 20th Century. I half expected to see Somerset Maugham or Rudyard Kipling toasting me from the far end of the bar. I just couldn’t get enough of it.
There are some things you should be warned about however. Imbibing at the Long Bar is a VERY touristy and popular thing to do. There were super long wait times for a table. Luckily, I was alone so didn’t have too much trouble snagging my spot at the bar, which was where I wanted to sit anyway. I was even able to engage a little with the bartender. I’m not sure the people at the tables had that same experience with their harried waiters.
The other downside of this experience was the cost. A single Singapore Sling sets you back $26 (!!!). I know, it’s a lot (when I was in Venice, Italy and went to Harry’s for a Peach Bellini I think they charged about the same). I try to rationalize it as $10 for the drink and $16 for the experience and that makes it a little easier to swallow.
On the plus side, they give you a burlap bag full of peanuts to munch on while you’re there and you can eat your fill of those. Everyone throws their peanut shells right on the floor, which adds to the atmosphere - it’s the only place you can litter in Singapore without facing any severe consequences.
9. SOMETHING NEW - CHANGI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Singapore’s fabulous airport could be considered a destination in its own right. If you have a long delay or flight cancellation, pray that this is the airport you are stuck in.
I was blown away by Changi and it makes me wonder why all airports can’t be designed to enhance our travel experience as opposed to being a place that we dread being trapped at.
I visited Singapore right as they were debuting Jewel and the Rain Vortex - a section of the airport that features a live tree and plant forest as well as the world’s largest indoor waterfall. They were really promoting it at that time, as you can see by these advertisements:
I was able to see it (minus the “water”) and even silent, it was pretty incredible.
There are so many attractions at Changi Airport - their website currently lists 46 unique spaces throughout the terminals - where you won’t feel like you’re waiting in a normal, soulless airport. There are multiple gardens, art installations, giant slides, a butterfly sanctuary, trampolines, a hedge maze, a mirror maze, net- walking (?) and topiaries as well as endless world class shopping, spas and dining options. In my opinion, this should be the standard for airports, but since it’s the exception - get there early!
8. SOMETHING OLD - GET YOURSELF SOME OF THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION
Singapore is a true melting pot of people, cultures and religious beliefs. Scattered throughout this city-state are Chinese Temples, Cathedrals, Buddhist Temples, Synagogues, Hindu Temples, Churches and Mosques. Depending on your interest level in the religious, cultural and artistic offerings in these places of worship you could spend an entire day visiting them. These are some of the ones I visited:
Bonus feature - this is a free activity. Amen!
7. SOMETHING NEW - MARINA BAY SANDS
This iconic three-towered hotel and entertainment center is a must-visit when in Singapore. If staying at the Marina Bay Sands isn’t in your budget, there are ways to get a taste of what this amazing complex has to offer.
The rooftop SkyPark is where the final scene of “Crazy Rich Asians” was filmed. You don’t need to be crazy, rich or Asian to visit the observation deck, you just need to buy a ticket. However, I would suggest NOT buying a ticket to the deck. Instead, buy a trip up to the poolside bar on the floor just below the observation deck. The city views of are similar, but you’ll also get an up close look at the insane, “world’s largest” rooftop infinity pool. Even better, your entrance includes an adult beverage so you can sit and sip while taking in heavenly views of Singapore.
After spending time at the top of the Marina Bay Sands, make sure you wander around the complex - where you’ll find luxury shopping, gondola-style sampan boat rides, gourmet restaurants, an ArtScience museum - even a theatre featuring Broadway musicals and other performances.
6. SOMETHING OLD - SINGAPORE'S COLONIAL PAST
I know, intellectually, that colonization is bad - but I also like beautiful, old buildings. Singapore has many monuments representing its British occupied past and I enjoyed walking around the Colonial District taking pictures of them. This is a lovely part of the city and since I didn’t venture inside any of these buildings it was also a free activity.
5. SOMETHING NEW - MARINA BAY SANDS (AGAIN) LIGHT AND LASER SHOW
In the evening, head to the side of the bay opposite the Marina Bay Sands to watch a truly spectacular music, light and laser show. When I was there the show was ca