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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.