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Founded in the early 1800s by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading outpost, Singapore has turned from trading mecca to an Asian port where people from varied backgrounds have mixed, creating an Asian melange of cultures. Arab, Chinese, Indian and Malay merchants have all made their home here, and combined with the influence of the British empire, Singapore has become a friendly, safe and beautiful island nation where a diverse set of cultures and religions have found a home.
The master designer of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, kept a core faith with Raffles' notion of a service providing a trading and cruise port and shaped the city into the metropolis it is today. The city’s current commitment to modernization adds futuristic touches as yet another element into the city’s mélange. Though modern Singapore is characterized by gleaming towers, Blackberries and vast air-conditioned shopping malls, it still retains that essential presence of all the traders who came over to make their way in Asia.
Located at 71 Bras Basah Road (6332-3222), this museum is home to over three thousand pieces of artwork and sculptures. Most of the displays are either Singaporean or Malaysian in style, and they are rotated frequently to keep them new and fresh for visitors.
This place was once the home and lookout point for Stamford Raffles, a local who had visions for Singapore as a great port city. The fort was destroyed in 1907, but the Fort Wall and Fort Gate stand in its place, as were built so sturdily that they could not be demolished when the actual fort was torn down. Today, Fort Canning Park is a place worth hiking and exploring in the historic district of Singapore along the Singapore River, whether looking at the fort or visiting the keramat, or sacred grave on the grounds.
There are a variety of beaches to take part of in Singapore. There are plenty of white sandy beaches along the East Coast of Singapore, although the areas around them remain relatively residential. If you want an island getaway for your beaches, there are three beaches on Sentosa and plenty on its southern islands.
There are multiple opportunities for shopping in Singapore, with the highest concentration of shopping malls along Orchard Road. However, there are also unique shopping opportunities, like Chijmes. Once a Catholic convent, it has been repurposed to become an entertainment district, with shopping, dining and even an art gallery. There is even an events hall that features weddings and shows. However, there has been great care to preserve the architecture.
For golf, your best bet is the Jurong Country Club, which is located at 9 Science Center Road (6560-5655). You should make arrangements ahead of time, as golf is quite popular in Singapore. Waterskiing on the Kallang River is extremely enjoyable, and to make arrangements call the Cowabunga Ski Centre, located at 10 Stadium Lane (6344-8813). Sailspirit is located at 1212 East Coast Parkway (6445-5108) and offers windsurfing and sailboat rentals. The lagoon is a wonderful place to do a little sailing, and this company is one of the most reliable in Singapore.
Brewerkz, located at 30 Merchant Road, Brewerkz (6438-7438), is a haven for beer lovers who love rare ales. Harry's Quayside is an extremely popular bar that can be found at 28 Boat Quay (6538-3029). A great dance floor and fancy cocktails are only the beginning, as blues, jazz, and rock n' roll are played nightly. If you are in the mood for some rip-roaring live music, visit the Crazy Elephant at 01-07 Clark Quay (6337-1990).
Singapore is so diverse with all the flavors of Asia and beyond that you will have no problem enjoying a completely different type of cuisine for every meal. For a unique dining experience, head to Imperial Herbal at 41 Seah Street (6337-0491). This ancient establishment specializes in preparing herb-based meals to cure what ails you. The menu is not set per se, in that you can order concoctions not found anywhere else. Simply tell the chef what your particular ailment might be, and he will cook up something with the appropriate ingredients. For prime rib and seafood, head to Harbour Grill at 581 Orchard Road (6730-3393). The cuisine is prepared with the finest ingredients possible, and the entrees have a distinct lack of fat or creams added to them.
Singapore is about 87 miles north of the equator, so its tropical temperatures remain high throughout most of the year. However, they also remain stable throughout, so anytime is a good time to visit.
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Singapore. This is truly a world-class cruise facility, completely renovated with terrific passenger facilities.
Singapore has an efficient bus system that will take you to many of the popular tourist destinations at a fraction of the cost of taxis. If you would prefer to take a taxi, contact CityCab (6552-2222). If you'd like to rent a car while in Singapore, contact Avis (6737-1668), but keep in mind that you need an international driver's license to operate a motor vehicle in Singapore.
Passport: All U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a passport to enter.
Language: The national language is Malay, but almost all the younger residents speak English.
Currency: Singapore dollar.
Store hours: Most shops in Singapore are open from 10 am to 10 pm from Monday to Sunday.
Tipping: In Singapore there is often a 10% service charge added to the bill. You don’t need to tip extra, but be aware that the person serving you will probably not receive this money as it goes to the restaurant. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, either, but you can round up the fare for convenience and this will not be refused.
Safety: Singapore placed second on TripAdvisor‘s 2012 survey of the safest cities in the world. The reason? Singapore operates under a very strict legal system, so pay heed as punishments can be stiff. For example, you better leave your chewing gum at home — it's forbidden in Singapore. There are also mandatory death sentences for some drug trafficking offenses. Crime isn't unknown, so be especially wary of pickpockets in shopping areas.
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“In fall 2015, a five-mile historic public art trail called the Jubilee Walk will be inaugurated, and the National Gallery Singapore opens in the grand former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, where it will house one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian art in the world.”
“An homage to Castilian cuisine from celebrated Brit chef Jason Atherton, this boisterous dine-at-the-bar tapas joint is crowded three-deep most nights. Be sure to order the melt-in-your-mouth ox cheek with hazelnut pesto. (16 Jiak Chuan Road)
“Café Hua Bee, which has served the same fishball mee pok (noodles) for 70 years, was recently saved from demolition by locals. The developer's compromise? At night, the café shuts down to make way for Bincho, a modern yakitori-ya serving grilled meats.”
“I like following in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway by sipping a highball at the Long Bar at Singapore's Raffles Hotel. It was behind this bar that the first Singapore Sling was poured sometime before 1915.”