36 hours in Singapore
Hop on a plane to the city state this weekend and take in some of the very best sights
A country with a wide diversity of races, faiths and flavours, Singapore tempts the traveller looking for a carefree city break. Over the last few years, the city state has upped the tourist ante by introducing a wealth of new destinations, among them Marine Life Park, Keong Saik Road with its boutique hotels and cool places to hang out and, of course, Gardens by the Bay. Some older neighbourhoods such as Arab Street have been transformed and now offer trendy cafés and heritage sites. Here's how to pack the most into a weekend break.
You've checked in so now it's time to relax with afternoon tea and a favourite cake. Head for Arab Street, once the main community of immigrants from the Middle East. Named after the cities from where its inhabitants hailed, such as Kandahar Street and Baghdad Street, this is an area rich in Islamic history and culture. Shops, restaurants and coffee shops abound. Worth checking out is Maison Ikkaku, a modern, loft style venue with warm lighting and old style furniture. They serve coffee, tea, juice, and fabulous cakes including Taro Cheesecake and its pumpkin cousin. Just along the street is the Malay Heritage Centre, a former Sultan's palace. One of the buildings houses exhibitions while the other is a fine restaurant serving both lunch and dinner.
LIGHT AND WATER SHOW
Discover Singapore's rich history through a light and water show at the front of Marina Bay Sands. It's a great spectacle with light, music and sound with visual effects as well as interweaving lasers playing on the giant water screen in Marina Bay. You can catch the show from the Bumboat, an old style Chinese boat that cruises from Clark Quay along the Singapore canal to Marina Bay. The skipper obligingly stops in middle of the bay, providing a first class view of the extravaganza. You can also view it from Helix Bridge, a newly opened pedestrian bridge linking Marina Centre with Marina South. Inspired by the structure of DNA, the bridge also features the letters A, T, C. and G in red and green lights. These are the abbreviations for Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine, the four bases of DNA.
BREAKFAST AT ROBERTSON QUAY
Plan your day over a light meal at one of the cafes lining the quay and contemplate the canal. A stone's throw from Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, one of the highlights here is Toby's Estate. A branch of the Australian coffee chain, Toby's offers various kinds of coffee from all over the world, much of it blended in house. Regulars opt for the Rodyk Street Blend, Woolloomooloo Blend and Decaf Blend with their Toby's Estate big breakfast and egg royale. The yoghurt's great too.
MARINE LIFE PARK
The latest addition to Resort World Sentosa, which is where you'll also find Universal Studios, is the S.E.A. Aquarium (Southeast Asia Aquarium). Opened officially last November, it's the world largest aquarium and home to more than 100,000 water creatures from 800 species. Head for the Open Ocean gallery, which features the world's largest viewing panel at 36 metres wide and 8.3 metres high, and be amazed by the giant manta rays, zebra sharks other ocean life. You'll also come face-to-face with 200 species of shark including the nurse shark, black-tipped reef shark, bamboo shark, and grey reef shark.
Check out the latest international exhibition to come to town at ArtScience Museum in front of Marina Bay Sands. The lotus-shaped building is Singapore's newest museum and until May 26, it is showcasing New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya's sculptures made entirely of Lego bricks. Also running until March 17 is a show by three Magnum Photo agency photographers, Stuart Franklin, Mark Power and Jacob Aue Sobol.
Keong Saik road is the newest place to enjoy the city state's nightlife and home to several boutique hotels, chic pubs and restaurants. The Library is proving the most popular but it's also very secretive, requiring imbibers to have a password before they can enter the pub. It's easy enough to find the password though: check out the pub's fan page on Facebook for the latest daily change.
One of the oldest residential areas in Singapore is Tiong Bahru. Built around 40 years ago, it has evolved into a well-designed space with plenty of cafes and shops. Treat yourself to coffee and home-made bakery items at Tiong Bahru by Gontran Charrier or head to the food market and hawker centre for chicken rice or egg noodle with fish balls.
GARDENS BY THE BAY
Before heading back to Changi for your flight home, take time out to breathe the air at Gardens by the Bay. Divided into four main zones, the gardens feature a public park where many Singaporeans like to jog. The Flower Dome is packed with flowers and plants from all around the world, while the Cloud Forest is a miniature rain forest with ferns, waterfall and orchids. Also worth a visit is the Supertree Grove with its uniquely designed vertical gardens 25 to 50-metres tall. The 128-metre-long OCBC skyway runs between the trees and offers great views over Singapore.