Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2009
Sure, the seven-hour flight from Tokyo makes Singapore a bit far for a weekend trip, but once you get there the country is small enough to experience in a couple of days. Be sure to spend one of those days on a cultural safari: Malaysians, Chinese, English, Japanese, Indians and other nationalities all mix together on this one island.
Start in Little India and check out the daily prayer services at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple for an onslaught of color and noise. You’ll pass women in saris on your way to lunch at Banana Leaf Apolo on Race Course Road (try the fish-head curry). If you plan to do any shopping, earn the vendors’ respect by refusing to pay more than about half the starting price. The Arab Quarter and Malay Kampong Glam are also both within easy walking distance.
Singapore has a reputation for being expensive, but you can bypass this by making your way to Chinatown after dark, when Smith Street is closed to traffic and food vendors turn the entire street into an open air café, with lanterns crisscrossing the street and beers available for a fraction of the prices at most bars. (We had fried wantons, rice, noodles, soup, drinks and a traditional Malaysian dessert of ice doused in syrup and cream with beans, corn and jelly—all for about ¥1,300.) After eating, make your way over to the Crazy Elephant, a hip bar in Clarke Quay that boasts live music and a plum location on the Singapore River.
The following day, head to the palm-shaded shores of Sentosa Island, accessible by taxi or cable car. If the tankers offshore make you think twice about dipping in the water, check out the poolside bar at the Café del Mar, or brush up on your history with a trip to Fort Siloso, whose guns fired on Singapore when it was invaded during the Second World War. And don’t miss the southernmost point of continental Asia, where a rope bridge swings over a calm bay to an islet bearing twin lookout tours. Alternatively, skip the island and have brunch at any of the cafes in the Singapore Botanic Gardens before taking an afternoon stroll through the National Orchid Garden.
Finally, no trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to the arches and verandas of the Raffles Hotel. Whether you choose to stay the evening and sip the famous Singapore Sling in the Long Bar, though, is up to you.