Without The Fear To Wander – Tourist’s Guide to the Urban Jungle Archipelago of Singapore

First Impressions

When we first arrived in Singapore a powerful storm was in full swing. Sheets of rain fell and fell like a city-sized waterfall and it was absolutely magnificent. Later on our visit we had the pleasure of lightning and thunder too – with the backdrop of towering skyscrapers and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The weather was mixed throughout our stay, but always incredibly humid.

We found our hotel at Clarke Quay in the sweltering tropical heat of the mid-afternoon, dumped our stuff and went foraging for a restaurant. To our astonishment there was little open because Clarke Quay is more of a night-time and early-morning scene. My mum and I circled the block a few times and decided rather ironically to have our first meal, in the food capital of the world, at Hooters. The very first Hooters in Asia, no less.

I sent a picture to my dad, who would often snigger during my adolescence when we drove past Hooters near home and remark – “imagine how furious your mother would be if I took you there”. The food was awful, but the service was impeccable – I’m still gay, though, sorry dad. I thought it was a rather pivotal moment for my divorced family unit, mum found it all rather hilarious and dad just raised an eyebrow. 

I absolutely adored Singapore, it was London 2.0 except with social etiquette and patience. The metro was spotless and frequent, the locals were helpful, respectful and kind, the views – breathtaking. Singapore is often described as an authoritarian democracy, and whilst I tend to be opposed to authoritarianism – they’re clearly doing something right. The welfare of citizens is a priority, and the nation embraces elements of liberalism alongside traditional values. 

I’d happily live in Singapore if they’d have me, and wouldn’t object to limited liberty so long as the trains run on time, it’s safe to walk the streets at night, and people can afford to eat. It would certainly make packing in the smoking a lot easier! As long as you follow the rules – you’re fine. Homosexuality is legal, so I personally wasn’t at any disadvantage. I don’t, however, and nor would I ever, trust our own government with this level of power.

One of my favourite things about Singapore was the signage. What a way to patronise. The signs were beautiful in their pure sense of paternal condescension, and clearly somebody had been paid rather handsomely to produce them. The ones below were form the Metro, the Singapore Mass Rapid Transport, or ‘the Smurt’ as we called it. Something else I appreciated about the Smurt was the lines and arrows indicating the proper way to board, allowing passengers attempting to get off the train space to actually do this. People living in and visiting London really ought to consider this most basic of logical and civilised protocols.

A Very Brief History of Singapore

Singapore’s history can be traced back to the 14th Century when it was known as Temasek, which means “sea town” in Old Javanese. A small trading settlement located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, over the centuries Singapore has been ruled by various empires and kingdoms, including the Malay Kingdom of Johor, the Dutch East India Company, and of course the British East India Company.

According to historical accounts, Temasek was a thriving trading port in the 14th Century, attracting merchants from China, India, and the Malay Archipelago. The island’s strategic location at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula made it an important centre for maritime trade prior to European colonisation, and it was renowned for pearls, spices, and sandalwood. 

In 1819, a British trading post was established and the city-state of Singapore was founded in 1824 by Sir Stamford Raffles of the East India Company as a colonial settlement and port of call for ships traveling between Europe and Asia. The islands grew rapidly as a centre for commerce, attracting traders and merchants from around the world. Singapore was occupied by the Japanese between 1942 to 1945 during World War II. After the war, she returned to British rule until finally gaining independence in 1965.

Since independence, Singapore has transformed itself from a third-world country into a highly developed and prosperous nation. The government has implemented policies to promote economic growth, social cohesion, and multiculturalism. The metropolis has become a global hub for finance, trade, and tourism, and is widely regarded as one of the most comfortable and modern cities in the world. 

Despite its success, Singapore has faced challenges throughout its modern history, such as tensions between ethnic groups, political opposition, and environmental concerns. The country continues to evolve and adapt to these challenges while maintaining its reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of trade.

Where To Eat in Singapore?

It’s surely no secret Singapore is an expensive city to live in, or even to spend 24 hours in. If you’re visiting for a short time and you don’t have particularly deep pockets – you will want to save money on food by eating at the Hawker centres rather than the infinite number of restaurants available. 

Everything costs money, and you may find the prices of tourist experiences and activities to be quite dear. By eating at Hawker centres you can save your money to experience everything the city has to offer – meals are typically 3-5 SGD. Hawker centres are a popular feature of Singaporean cuisine and culture. These open-air food markets typically feature dozens of small food stalls or “hawkers,” each selling a variety of local dishes at affordable prices. 

Hawker markets are found all over Singapore and are usually located in residential neighbourhoods or near public transportation hubs. They are a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a wide range of delicious and authentic Singaporean dishes in a casual, bustling setting.

Some of the most popular dishes found at hawker markets include Hainanese chicken rice, laksa (a spicy noodle soup), char kway teow (stir-fried noodles), satay (grilled skewered meat), and rojak (a fruit and vegetable salad). Hawker markets are known for their hygiene standards, as they are regulated by the government’s National Environment Agency (NEA) – so no need to worry about tummy bugs unless you’re not used to the flavouring and spices of the various Asian cuisines. 

Hawker markets are an essential part of Singapore’s culinary landscape, offering an affordable and delicious way to sample the city-state’s diverse and delectable cuisine. Whether you’re a foodie looking to try new dishes or just looking for an authentic Singaporean dining experience, a visit to a hawker market is a must when in Singapore.

Singapore’s Attractions

Singapore is a vibrant city-state located in Southeast Asia, attracting millions of tourists every year. The nation is known for its clean streets, delicious food, modern architecture, and cultural diversity. The city boasts a wide variety of attractions and experiences for tourists to enjoy.

The Marina Bay Sands is one of the most famous landmarks in Singapore, with its three towers topped by a giant ship-shaped structure. It’s a Goliath hotel and entertainment complex with an iconic rooftop infinity pool, offering stunning views of the city skyline. It took a metric shit-tonne of sand to extend the shoreline so this megaproject could be built.

Next to the Marina Bay Sands are the Gardens by the Bay, a futuristic park featuring the famous Supertree Grove, indoor and outdoor gardens, and a Cloud Forest Dome which simulates the environment of a tropical rainforest. Along the bay you’ll find Merlion Park, one of many picturesque public parks, but this one features the iconic Merlion statue of Singapore. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish, it symbolises Singapore’s history from a fishing village to a prosperous modern city.

Chinatown is a must-visit historic neighbourhood, featuring colourful shophouses, traditional markets, temples, and museums which showcase Singapore’s Chinese heritage. Little India is another vibrant district of Singapore which features flamboyant streets, lively markets, and temples so beautiful tourists are liable to walk around tasting incense at the back of their mouth with their jaw definitively dropped.

Singapore has a world-class zoo with thousands of animals from over 300 species, including some rare and endangered species such as white tigers and orang-utans. If you like zoos, consider a trip to Sentosa Island, the millionaire’s playground and popular tourist resort – equipped with beaches, theme parks, golf courses, and a wide range of other activities for tourists of all ages.

Clarke Quay should be on your list for an evening of entertainment, live music, and drinking. A riverside district, Clarke Quay is the home to many restaurants, bars, and clubs, offering a lively and safe nightlife scene in the centre of the city. Here you will also find a number of embarkation points for the river boat tour which takes you from Clarke Quay down Singapore River to the Marina Bay. If you sit for long enough by the river, during the day you may catch glimpses of wild otters and turtles, and at night you’ll notice the surface stirrings and brief shadows of heavyweight fish.

There are also many exciting and modern museums to visit. The National Museum of Singapore showcases the city’s history, culture, and achievements through a wide range of exhibitions and interactive displays. The ArtScience Museum is also popular – it combines art, science, and technology to create innovative and interactive exhibits exploring the intersection between these fields.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Singapore without a pitstop at Raffles. Named after the colonial founder of Singapore, Raffles Hotel is the Ritz of the Far East, and the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. A truly subversive cocktail, the Sling was invented by a bartender at Raffles to allow women to drink alongside men during an age where women were prohibited from consuming alcohol in public. The Long Bar, with its colonial decor and charming barkeeps, is the only place in Singapore where it’s legal and indeed encouraged to litter – as peanuts are provided for all guests and the shells are just thrown onto the floor. This experience is commonly regarded as one of the major milestones of international travel.

These are just a few of the many tourist attractions and experiences Singapore has to offer. Visitors can also enjoy shopping at the many malls and boutiques, tasting the local cuisine at the hawker centres and restaurants, and exploring the city’s many parks and gardens. So… Did I enjoy visiting Singapore? Loved it. Would I go back any time soon? Within a heartbeat. Could this be your sign to satay your way over to the tropical island state?

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