Discover Singapore on a stopover
Singapore is something of an anomaly when it comes to Asian mega cities. Clean, maddeningly organised and unashamedly first world Singapore still maintains a vibrant, exciting character, more than holding its own amongst its more unruly neighbours. It has individuality worth exploring. Singapore is a common stop over port from the long haul to Europe and many people find themselves with some time to spare between flights. Experiencing the uniqueness of Singapore in a short time is possible.
Singapore has one of the world’s best public transport systems and it is worth taking advantage of this to get around the island nation. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system runs efficiently and for only a few Singapore dollars you’ll be able to catch a train from Changi Airport to Raffles Place, walking distance to the mascot of Singapore, the Merlion.
The Merlion is well worth a photo stop, if only so that you can prove that you’ve been to Singapore. Designed in 1964 for the Singapore Tourism Board and depicting a creature with the body of a fish and a head of a lion the statue stands at the mouth of the Singapore River. Five other Merlion statues are scattered across the island however this one is the original and sits close to other well known attractions including the Singapore Flyer and the newly built casino complex. Once your photos have been taken it’s time to indulge in Singapore’s favourite pastime and greatest pleasure, eating. And on the way to the Hawker centre you can debate the irony of a half fish ,half lion being the symbol of a city with some of the world’s most severe drug laws.
Hawker centers are scattered all over Singapore. They are where the locals go to get a cheap meal and while most leisure in Singapore doesn’t come cheap, hawker centers are a place where you can claw back some of your hard earned. Street food, so common in the rest of Asia was banned in Singapore many years ago and vendors were moved into these centers. For an evening meal close by Glutton’s Bay, just across the Esplanade Bridge offers lavish river views and stalls hand picked to best showcase Singapore’s diverse cultural influences. In the opposite direction and open 24 hours a day is the famous Lau Pa Sat. First established as a marketplace in 1825, it became a national monument in 1973 confirming Singapore’s obsession with food. Dishes worth trying include laska, Hainanese chicken rice and fried carrot cake, a savory dish.
Now that you have saved a few dollars on a meal it’s time to blow it while experiencing how the other half live at one of the city’s iconic hotels, Raffles. Go there to try a Singapore sling at its birthplace but stay to marvel at the turn of the century architecture. While the Long Bar gets all the hype if you are looking for a romantic roaring twenties feel head to the courtyard. Slip your drink, slowly, sit under a fan; listen to the soothing fountain in the background and pretend that you actually have enough money to stay here.
If you haven’t blown the rest of your holiday cash on 2 drinks at Raffles you can hail a taxi to take you back to the airport for your onward flight. If you do, check out the centre strip on the freeway. Have you ever seen so highly a manicured garden on a freeway? That’s Singapore!
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