Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, populated by Malays, Chinese, Indians, and a large group of workers and expatriates from all across the globe.
Singapore has a partly deserved reputation for sterile predictability that has earned it descriptions like William Gibson's "Disneyland with the death penalty" or the "world's only shopping mall with a seat in the United Nations". Nevertheless, the Switzerland of Asia is for many a welcome respite from the poverty, dirt, chaos, and crime of much of the Southeast Asian mainland, and if you scratch below the squeaky clean surface and get away from the tourist trail you'll soon find more than meets the eye.
As Singapore is located a mere 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, the weather is usually sunny with no distinct seasons. Rain falls almost daily throughout the year, usually in sudden, heavy showers that rarely last longer than an hour. Spectacular thunderstorms can occur throughout the year, any time during the day, so it's wise to carry an umbrella at all times, both as a shade from the sun or cover from the rain.
The temperatures are relatively high in the day (average around 34°C), as expected in a tropical country, but windy conditions are expected at night (average around 25°C).
Explore: Culture & Modernity
In the morning
After breakfast, lace up and prepare for an exciting immersion in the historical neighborhoods of Singapore. First stop is Kampong Glam, a former seat of Malay royalty and now preserved as one of Singapore’s major heritage districts. The shimmering Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque) will hardly go unnoticed, so make this monumental structure your centre point while walking around the area. From the mosque, proceed to the Malay Heritage Centre. Although there’s a nominal fee to enter the museum, you are free to roam around the garden and the small exhibition area. From the Malay Heritage Centre, Aliwal Street, also known as Barber Street, is just a few minutes’ walk away. Continue to walk down Haji Lane to enjoy the colourful murals and artsy shop houses.
Tip: Don’t leave Kampong Glam without tasting the famous murtabak or martabak, a fried dough stuffed with minced meat, eggs and onions. You can have it at either Victory Restaurant or Zam Zam, located opposite Sultan Mosque. Both restaurants serve other cheap local food as well, so you might want to have your lunch here before proceeding to the next destination.
How to get to Kampong Glam: Take the East West (Green) Line or Downtown (Blue) Line and alight at Bugis Station. Exit B towards Sultan Mosque and Raffles Hospital. Walk for about 5-10 minutes to Arab Street. From there, the Sultan Mosque is already visible.
In the afternoon
From Kampong Glam, Little India is about 15-20 minutes’ walk away. This district is bustling with all things Indian from the food down to the shops and establishments. Be sure to drop by the massive 24-hour Mustafa Centre, too!
Spend the rest of the afternoon in Tiong Bahru, a laid-back neighbourhood full of quaint cafes and heritage gems. You may opt to follow the heritage trail or just chill out at any cafe you like.
How to get to Tiong Bahru: Take the East West (Green) Line and alight at Tiong Bahru Station, Exit B. From the station, the cafes, establishments and heritage spots are just walking distance.
Time for the modern side of Singapore! There is a walking route you can follow which is great for evenings. From Raffles Place, walk to Singapore River, pass by The Fullerton Hotel, cross the bridge to Esplanade, and walk on to Helix Bridge. You will then reach Marina Bay.
Catch a spectacular light and water show at the Marina Bay Sands every Sundays to Thursdays at 8pm and 9.30pm, and every Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, 9.30pm and 11pm. Then, proceed to Gardens by the Bay to see the bedazzling solar-powered supertrees.
Tip: For an affordable, yummy dinner, go to Satay by the Bay. It’s just a short walk from Gardens by the Bay.