Shiny Singapore, with its futuristic architecture, neon-flecked high rises and steamy climate is an alluring hub of decadent living. Alongside its slick contemporary visage, the city state also retains much of its traditional culture, especially evident in its bustling street life, temples and colonial buildings. Eating out is a big deal here, and you can feast like a king whether seated at a fine dining table or a street food stall.
Singapore’s infrastructure and public transport system are world class. The easiest way to get around is via the efficient MRT subway system. There are four lines and it runs until midnight from the centre to suburban areas. A couple of hundred traditional trishaws zip around tourist areas and are a fun way of getting from A to B.
Newcomers to Singapore are inevitably struck by its futuristic architecture. Indeed the buildings of the city centre and financial district are rather majestic. The hump-back whale-like Gardens by the Bay is one of the most impressive new buildings, both outside and in, where there are no supports; as part of a government plan to make Singapore greener, these enormous greenhouses are filled with horticulture and exhibitions about climate change.
Notable buildings also include the triple-towered Marina Bay Sounds – the huge platform atop it has clubs, restaurants, parks and the world's longest infinity pool – and the Esplanade: Theatres on the Bay, which resembles a gigantic durian fruit. Meanwhile, retro architecture lovers will enjoy the horseshoe-profiled Pearl Bank Apartments block and the brutalist OCBC Centre, both dating back to the 1970s.
Although Singapore has seen a huge surge in modernity in recent years, parts of the colonial era remain. The tax-free port Sir Stamford Raffles established in the early 19th century has largely been papered over by new constructions, but some old buildings remain, not least that which houses the National Museum and the grand Raffles hotel itself. The previously seedy district around Bras Basah Road is also home to several art museums.
Beyond the glittering modern architecture, what makes Singapore fascinating is its cultural mix. Home to ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indians, the communities have formed distinct neighbourhoods. Singapore's Chinatown dates back to the colonial era and features many temples and pagodas; hipsters have also moved in, opening cool restaurants, bookshops and bohemian cafes. East of the Singapore River, check out distinctive Little India, as it was named in the colonial era. The restaurants here are some of the best in Singapore, and there are plenty of interesting clothing and food shops and Hindu temples.
The cultural blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian, as well as to a smaller degree European, makes for an always-exciting dining experience in Singapore. Street food abounds in the city state, and the locals like it spicy, so beware. It's possible to eat pretty authentic Chinese or Indian food at dedicated restaurants, but perhaps the most interesting Singaporean cuisine is that which merges different influences. Chicken rice is thought of as the national dish, found everywhere from local joints to high-end restaurants. Also look out for crab in chilli sauce, fish-head curry and laksa, a broth of chicken or fish with coconut milk that combines Chinese and Malay elements.