Vast destinations. Frozen ones. Friendly ones. The variety seems endless. Some of them are even tiny. How long can you enjoy a country in which a subway travels around it in less than an hour? In essence this is the anti-destination for a traveller – there are no distances to cover. Relaying too much on serendipity in such a trip would land the traveller into another country after a few seconds. The trick here is paying attention to the details, and Singapore offers plenty of these.
A feeble ocean breeze from the southern seas attempted to brush away the tropic heat of the long gone day; desert streets and closed shopping malls hid their shame under a gentle fog, the streetlamps-light was attractively diffused. Not far away, downtown’s skyscrapers resembled a studiously deconstructed pyramid. In a subtle way, scenes from Blade Runner come to mind. Singapore’s ultramodern downtown area includes beautiful Victorian buildings and awesome food plazas in shopping malls connected by a maze of subterranean passages, Chinese and Indian eateries offer everything from extra-sweet milk coffee to stewed turtles; laksa, Chicken Biryani, Ice Kachang: great names for extraordinary dishes. BreadTalk is worth of a dedicated trip to the city-state.
The Bugis Shopping Mall was once a neighbourhood; covered with a transparent glass ceiling and freshened with air conditioners it became an extraordinary shopping mall in colonial style. The Raffles Hotel takes its guest back to colonial times. In front of it, the Raffles City Tower provides a glimpse into the archetypal super-shopping-mall-hotel-offices tower(s) connected with bridges, escalators and subterranean tunnels to every other place that matters. And it has a wonderful food plaza. A surprise in every corner, the downtown area is worth a very detailed visit.
Singapore includes enough parks for them to become the main occupation of the thorough traveller. Those include the open zoo and the adjacent night safari, the Jurong Bird Park, the botanic gardens, Sentosa and others. Each one of them is considered among the best in Asia in their specific categories; a remarkable example of the efforts taken in order to achieve that is the fact that the zoo keeps happy polar bears and penguins very close to the equator line. Moreover, Jurong hosts the world’s largest walk-in aviary with the tallest man-made waterfall. The Sentosa resort occupies an island just south of the city. From its Palawan Beach is a suspension bridge that leads to a small islet; this is the southernmost point of continental Asia. What traveller will claim the last is not a proper destination?
Since Wildlife Reserves Singapore is the parent company of the zoo, the Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park, combined tickets valid for one month exist and are highly recommended. The tropical climate created wonderful beaches also in the downtown area, creating a sharp and delightful contrast with the urban area.
Shopping in Singapore is one of the most exciting activities awaiting the traveler after a few months in the Southeast Asia’s backwaters. The city is a paradise especially for electronic products; the main shopping district is on the central Orchard Road, which can be comfortably explored by foot. A plethora of restaurants and coffee shops – including all the main international chains – cater for the shoppers; most of the malls include their own food plazas and coffee shops. The shopping malls practically touch each other.
And "shopping" in Singapore is a synonym for "Orchard Road." The last begins at the intersection with Orange Grove Road, next to the Orchard Hotel, and advances south-eastwards until it ends at the intersection with Handy Road, where it becomes Bras Basah Road. It is a one-way street and has an extensive underground infrastructure, including underground pedestrian walkways between the malls. Several subway stations provide direct access to the malls.
The street got its name from the nutmeg, pepper and fruit orchards that delimited it in the nineteenth century; only in the 1970s it became a shopping area. Yet a lush trees canopy still covers the street creating an especially pleasant environment for the shopper in the tropics.
By not rushing away and letting the place tell its story, even a tiny destination which if not paying attention to the details may seem boring and unappealing may provide an exciting couple of weeks for the traveller in Asia.