Spring Break 2018 – Singapore’s popular neighborhoods
A short flight from Hong Kong is the city it is most often compared with – Singapore. Well, city-state, that is. It’s a city, a state, and everything in between. For such a small space, it packs a good punch in terms of things to do and see.
And it’s hot. According to our Cathay pilot, “The weather in Singapore is hot. Of course it’s not. Did you expect anything else? I hope not. It’s hot and dry right now, so you’re lucky. Otherwise, you’ll be hot and damp.”
Singapore is tidy and almost mechanized. People know to automatically stand on the left and pass on the right. It’s wired in the psyche. You queue at the arrows for the MRT. You don’t bring durian onboard, nor do you chew gum, sit on the MRT when elders/pregnant women/people with children/people with clear physical limitations get on. There are plenty of signs indicating “the right thing to do”. When in doubt, just file along.
Singapore is indeed hot, but it is efficient, at least, and makes a good attempt at keeping you air-conditioned wherever you go. A taxi from the airport to the hotel – the Swissotel Stamford, one of the tallest in Southeast Asia – was easy to get from the airport. Chiangi Airport is a stunner. If you’re going to be Tom Hanks in The Terminal, you can hardly do better than Chiangi.
Our hotel had an unparalleled view of Marina Bay Sands (the ship on top of three buildings, hard to miss), the Singapore flyer ferris wheel, the colonial district toward the river, beautiful St. Andrews church, and the sprawling bars and restaurants of Clarke Quay. Seriously. Book this hotel if you want all the stunning views of Singapore without having to deal with the crowds and the heat. The lightshow from Marina Bay Sands is worth it when all you have to do is sit on your balcony and watch. Besides the stunning view, the hotel sits right on top of Raffles City Mall, which means you can go straight into the mall for shopping, groceries, and restaurants. Din Tai Fung has a branch there, so if you’re into dumplings and stir-fried veg, you’re in luck!
Also, the hotel is steps away from the City Hall MRT stop, which is the red and green lines. Both of those will pretty much take you anywhere in Singapore, with easy connections to Little India, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Clarke Quay, etc. The yellow line Esplanade stop is also a walk through an underground mall, as are the Theatres on the Bay. If you’re adventurous, or just love the heat, it’s an easy walk to the colonial quarter on the river, Asian Civilizations Museum, and Makansutra Gluttons Bay, an outdoor “street food” patio.
But enough about the hotel. I was just happy to have chosen a perfect spot, a good base, if you will, for exploring Singapore. One of the first stops was Chinatown with the restored shops and lovely Hindu temples and mosques. A walk in the shade is easy enough to manage. Food stands abound, as do tourist shops, mom and pop restaurants, and places to grab frosty, cold drinks – which you need plenty of.
One of the gems in Singapore is the carefully restored shophouses in its local neighborhoods. Keep on the lookout for them as you stroll the streets.
On other days, we visited Little India and its multiple temples, along with Kampong Glam, the Middle Eastern area of the city. The magnificent Sultan’s Mosque tops the beautifully restored Muscat Street, golden domes shining brightly in the morning sunlight. The Malay historical centre is right next door as well. If you’re in the market for ornate carpets, luscious dresses with bright fabrics, or beautiful fragrances, Kampong Glam is a perfect stop.
Little India with the mega-colourful Former House of Tan Teng Niah and the massive and beautiful Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.