Singapore Travel Guide


Arab St
The Muslim centre of Singapore is a traditional textile district, full of batiks from Indonesia, silks, sarongs and shirts. Add to this mix rosaries, flower essences, hajj caps, songkok hats, basketware and rattan goods, and you have a fair idea of the products haggled over in this part of the city. The grand Sultan Mosque is the biggest and liveliest mosque in Singapore, but the tiny Malabar Muslim Jama-ath Mosque is the most beautiful. There's fine Indian Muslim food along nearby North Bridge Rd and the foodstalls on Bussorah St are especially atmospheric at dusk during Ramadan.

Chinatown is Singapore's cultural heart and still provides glimpses of the old ways with its numerous temples, decorated terraces and its frantic conglomeration of merchants, shops and activity. Gentrified restaurants and expensive shops are gradually overtaking the venerable incense-selling professions.

Colonial Singapore
The mark of Sir Stamford Raffles is indelibly stamped on central Singapore. By moving the business district south of the river and making the northern area the administrative centre, Raffles created the framework that remained the blueprint for central Singapore through generations of colonial rule and the republican years of independence. Places of interest include: Empress Place Building, an imposing Victorian structure, built in 1865, that houses a museum, art and antique galleries and a chic restaurant; the incongruous Padang, where flannelled cricketers once caught, bowled and batted in the searing heat; Raffles Hotel, a Singaporean institution which has become a byword for oriental luxury; and any number of imposing churches, such as St Andrew's Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Jurong Town, west of the city centre, is a huge industrial and housing area that is the powerhouse of Singapore's economy. This might seem an unlikely spot for a number of Singapore's tourist attractions but it is home to the Haw Par Villa (an incredibly tacky Chinese mythological theme park), the beautifully landscaped Jurong Bird Park, Chinese Garden and the hands-on Singapore Discovery Centre.

Little India
This modest but colourful area of wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music is a relief from the prim modernity of many parts of the city. This is the place to come to pick up that framed print of a Hindu god you've always wanted, eat great vegetarian food and watch streetside cooks fry chapatis.

Orchard Rd
Dominated by high-class hotels this is the playground of Singapore's elite, who are lured by the shopping centres, nightspots, restaurants, bars and lounges. A showcase for the material delights of capitalism, Orchard Rd also possesses some sights of cultural interest where a credit card is not required.

Sentosa Island
The granddaddy of Singapore's parks, Sentosa Island is the city-state's most visited attraction. It has museums, aquariums, beaches, sporting facilities, walks, rides and food centres. If a day isn't enough to take in all the sites and activities, the island has a camping ground, hostel and luxury hotels.

Off the Beaten Track

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
North of the CBD, this reserve is the largest area of primary rainforest in Singapore. The park is filled with over 800 species of native plants including giant trees, ferns and native wild flowers. This is also where you'll see long-tailed macaques, lemurs, reticulated pythons and the racquet-tailed drongo.

Changi Village
There aren't too many places in Singapore that could be considered virgin wilderness but there are some that offer an escape from the hubbub of the central district. Changi Village, on the east coast, no longer has traditional kampong houses but it does have a village atmosphere.

Pulau Ubin
Changi Village is a convenient jump-off point for the northern island of Pulau Ubin. As soon as there is a quota of 12 passengers, a bumboat takes you across to the island where you can find quiet beaches, a kampong atmosphere and popular seafood restaurants.

The tranquil rural flavour of Pulau Ubin is as far removed from the cosmopolitan bustle of Singapore central as it is possible to get. The island is small enough to cycle around and this is still the best way to explore its fish farms, holy temples, coconut palms and deserted beaches.

Southern Islands
Although some of the southern islands are industrial bases, there are a few off-the-beaten-track islands where you can find a quiet beach. Sisters' Islands are good for swimming and, with their nearby coral reefs, are a popular diving spot. Other islands worth checking out are Lazarus Island and Pulau Buran Darat.

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