While Singapore has a reputation forbeing strictly governed, many of thosefamous regulations have helped makeit the most developed country inSoutheast Asia. It is a prime example of Asia's advancementas a powerhouse of the 21st century. Thecountry, an island about 24 by 14 miles, has long beenon the globe as a main sea route, and now, with one ofthe world's best airports and best national airline, thecountry is seeking its share in the world of air travel.
Singapore is an excellent stop for travelers, astourist facilities are modern and extensively available—and English is widely spoken. The SingaporeTourist Board (www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home.html), has excellent guides fluent inEnglish who know their country well.
As a visitor, the country's reputation should not beignored. Tourists should be aware of Singapore's strictlaws and penalties for actions that might not be illegalor might be considered minor offenses in the UnitedStates. For example, penalties are enforced when itcomes to jaywalking, littering, and spitting—and vandalismis punishable by caning. Although the governingentities are strict, the tourist experience is anything but.Be prepared to enjoy a safe, clean, well-rounded nationwhere the food is fantastic, and the service in shops,restaurants, and hotels is highly commendable.
Visiting in Luxury
Singapore's upscale hotels are arguably the best inthe world. The Raffles Hotel (65-6337-1886;www.singapore-raffles.raffles.com) is a historic landmark—named after Sir Stamford Raffles, founder ofmodern Singapore, and declared a National Monumentin 1987 on its 100-year anniversary. The PanPacific Singapore Hotel (800-327-8585; www.singapore.panpacific.com) was perfect for our stay. With its35-story atrium, huge pool, and vast fitness center, thePan Pacific creates the private comfort long-distancetravelers crave. The Pan Pacific is also centrally locatedamidst popular tourist attractions, such as MarinaSquare (www.marinasquare.com.sg), a shoppinghaven, and Suntec Singapore International Conventionand Exhibition Centre (65-6337-2888; www.suntecsingapore.com). Also nearby is the Esplanade,Theatres on the Bay (www.esplanade.com), Singapore'snewest and most exciting performance artscomplex. Its popular 4-level, opera-style, 2000-seattheater and its state-of-the-art 1600-seat concert hallprovide some of the most exciting entertainment venuesin Singapore.
Unique Sightseeing Experience
Other attractions include riding the cable car tolittle Sentosa Island (800-736-8673; www.sentosa.com.sg), with its serene beaches at the southern tip ofSingapore, and returning via the Jewel Box on MountFaber (65-6377-9688; www.mountfaber.com.sg),with its panorama of the city. Shopping in TekkaMarket near Little India meets any shopping need, andstore items seem endless.
By riding the MRT (ie, rapid transit train) toChinatown's Chinese Heritage Center, you can learnhow the immigrants came looking for their newworld. And don't miss enjoying the Duck Tour in whatwas once a US Army amphibious half-boat, half-truckvehicle that is now a ride that ends at Merlion Park,home to the original half-lion, half-fish sculpture thatis a national icon. Installed in 1972, the Merlion statueis a favorite among photographers and tourists.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens (65-6471-7361;www.sbg.org.sg) have a magnificent display of orchidsand in the early morning the locals practice their taichi. Later on in the evening, the Night Safari near theSingapore Zoo (65-6269-3411; www.zoo.com.sg)flaunts the fact that 90% of its animals are nocturnal.The Jurong Bird Park (65-6265-0022; www.birdpark.com.sg) nature shows are also interesting, as areFort Canning Park's spice gardens and the undergroundBattle Box command center where the Britishgarrison surrendered to the Japanese in 1942.
Dining experiences vary from the long-establishedmultiple ethnic booths at Newton Circus to the fairlyrecent, internationally acclaimed, Doc Cheng's(65-6331-1612) at Raffles Hotel, where you can sitin a screened booth and eat Western cuisine with anAsian twist. Also consider My Humble House (65-6423-1881), a hip, avant-garde restaurant at theEsplanade Mall, where the plates of cold dessertscome out smoking on dry ice.