It’s like Pizza Hut and KFC had a beautiful baby.
Lonely Planet recently named Singapore its top country to visit in 2015. The nation, which gained its independence from Britain in 1965, will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee, making it the perfect time to get that bit extra out of your travel experience. The city will be full of celebrations and specials marking this important anniversary, but in case you’re not convinced, here are five reasons you should visit this burgeoning urban paradise.
Singapore is known for its multiculturalism. Its population hails from Malaysia, India and China and one of the largest expat communities in the world. This mix of cultures results in an delicious range of eateries, from market-style street food, to cosmopolitan brunches in hip cafes. You must try laksa in Katong or the Tian Tian Hainanese chicken and rice in the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.
Hip and trendy
This young city is at the forefront of trendy bar and nightlife experiences, with a number of alternative neighbourhoods to explore. Plan a day as a local hipster with brunch and boutique shopping in trendy Tiong Bahru, then make your way to Katong for a night out. There are also plenty of arty spaces in Singapore but a brand new National Gallery will open in 2015, set to house unique and historic art works from across the continent.
Singapore has a breadth of tourist attractions to please the whole family. If you’re travelling with kids – or even if you’re not – there are plenty of fun tourist sites to keep you occupied. Take a trip to Sentosa Island and Universal Studios, wander around Merlion Park, visit the world-famous Singapore Zoo, or spend the day at Marina Bay. If you’re into sports, Singapore is one of the oldests hosts of Formula 1 Grand Prix events and, in 2015, will also host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Games.
Singapore is the cleanest city in the world. It is notorious for its strict laws on pollution, like being in possession of chewing gum (illegal) and the abundance of public, open-air no smoking zones. However, this small sacrifice means the rest of us can enjoy an eco-friendly experience of Singapore and take in its pristine green spaces and gardens.
The high life
Be forewarned that Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, the price tag comes with the lifestyle. There are great luxury hotels and resorts, as well as shopping and dining opportunities. Stay in style at the ship-shaped Marina Bay Sands or historic Raffles Hotel, or try one of the many hot new editions, including the Sofitel So Singapore or the Patina Capitol Singapore, set to open mid-2015.
Images via Shutterstock, ladyironchef.com
Are you looking forward to your European vacation, but dreading the long flights? Most airlines will let you break your trip for a few days at no extra flight cost, so make it easier on yourself and explore another country by adding a stopover to your itinerary. Here are three places that I’ve stopped at and I’d love to go back to…
A city of contrasts with something for everyone. Modern skyscrapers and traditional Chines markets. Lively shopping and Buddhist temples performing ancient rituals. Mountains and beaches. There’s even Hong Kong Disneyland for the kids (and the big kids). You will need a few days to visit all major sights and soak in the city’s unique atmosphere, but there’s a lot you can do even if you only have a short time. I managed to visit the markets, see the Giant Buddha, climb Lantau Peak (the highest publicly accessible summit in Hong Kong) and visit Disneyland all in one day.
Singapore is my personal favourite stopover destination. It’s another big city that combines the modern and the traditional, technology and nature, bustling life and tranquil gardens. Singapore is often called the ‘Garden City’ and for good reason. If you look at it down from the plane, all you see is the colour green. The Botanic Gardens with their main attraction, the National Orchid Gardens, were the highlight of my stay in Singapore and a nice change from being stuck on a plane for hours. I also loved mingling with the locals and trying traditional food at China Town and Little India.
If big cities are not your thing, you may need to do some extra travelling to get to a more pristine destination. Langkawi is a short flight away from Kuala Lumpur (at extra cost) and it’s an archipelago of small islands with beautiful beaches and forests. It’s not overly touristic and once you walk away of your resort and the main strip of shops, often you may have a hard time finding someone who speaks English. Even so, everyone I met there seemed to be very friendly and welcoming.
You can spend your stopover relaxing at the beach, admiring the amazing views of the island from the Skybridge or taking a boat tour to the mangrove forests. Another place I really enjoyed that was different from anything else I’ve visited was Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman, a beautiful folklore-themed park portraying Langkawi legends. There was only a handful of people there and I felt like I was walking in a fairy tale.
Depending on your airline, other stopover options include Tokyo, Soul, Bangkok or Dubai, just to mention a few. If you have some destinations on your bucket list, check with your travel agent if there’s any way to add them to your itinerary without too much extra travel and cost.
Image by William Cho via Flickr (Singapore River view)
By Tatiana Apostolova