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The sweet side to shopping

Singapore may have a reputation for being super expensive but you can find plenty of bargains if you know where to go



There's more to the Lion City than meets the wallet. Here's a short but sweet list of places we've checked out:

The Singapore Flyer

The city's answer to the London Eye, the 165-metre tall observation wheel offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the island city from a capsule that can hold roughly 20 people. The best time to go is in the afternoon, when you can enjoy the skyline view at sunset. Take photos of famous attractions, like the F1 Circuit, Esplanade, Marina Bay, and Merlion Park. There's also a wide range of shops, restaurants, activities and facilities. Visit www.SingaporeFlyer.com.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

The Shoppes is a sprawling complex of high-end boutiques and celebrity chef-owned restaurants, with a built-in canal where you can get a tour of the mall via a sampan (wooden boat). You will eventually reach the Rain Oculus sculpture, a 22-metre diameter acrylic bowl set on a 90-ton steel structure by American artist Ned Kahn, which releases a swirling vortex of water from a hole in its base to the canal that runs two stories below.

If you feel like splurging a bit, head to the swanky db Bistro Moderne by Chef Daniel Boulud for some sumptuous French-American fusion cuisine. The clafoutis tout chocolat - warm flourless chocolate cake with chocolate sorbet and vanilla ice cream-is just divine.

ION Orchard

This huge lifestyle mall is home to the duplex flagship stores of luxury brands Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. Tourists have a slight advantage: They can show their passports at the Singapore Visitors Centre at ION Orchard on L1 to redeem a Tourist Wallet that features attractive privileges from selected brands. Spend about S$2,000 (just under Bt50,000) in a single receipt and they'll arrange a complimentary ride to Changi Airport by limousine. Keep in mind that you can claim a tourist tax refund on purchases over S$100; check out www.Iras.gov.sg, to find out how.

Bugis Street

Not to be confused with Bugis Junction (the mall complex), Bugis Street is where the real bargain finds are: Tops, dresses, jewellery, watches, and shoes for S$5-S$15.

CHIJMES

Pronounced as "chimes" this historical structure along Victoria Street is now a well-known dining and entertainment centre. As a chill-out place, CHIJMES is a good alternative for those who are billeted too far from the more famous nightlife hotspots in Clarke Quay.

Changi Airport

From a previous Singapore trip, I knew that Changi was one of the best places for sale or bargain items. Trust me, two hours before boarding time isn't enough; I recommend at least half a day's worth of roaming around, because many stores in the airport arguably have bigger discounts and better finds than the ones in the city. I still remember how one friend nearly missed her flight waiting in line for her seventh pair of shoes at the Charles & Keith store on my last visit! Lesson learned: Keep in mind the distance between your boarding area and your store destination at all times, because your plane could be taking off and you're still on the other side of the huge airport.

Also, prepare extra cash, read up on the Tourist Refund Scheme, and study the Changi Airport map to see which stores you want to check out. Visit the airport's website, www.ChangiAirport.com, for a list of establishments that offer sweet deals. For this visit, a Cotton On store sale that boasted of S$10 dresses and S$5 canvas totes proved to be my undoing. Before I realised it, I'd already found myself walking into the Boarding Area with a bulging shopping bag, zero dollars and a satisfied, if slightly sheepish, grin on my face. Bon voyage, indeed.


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