Singapore has traded in its rough-and-ready opium dens and pearl luggers for towers of concrete and glass, and its steamy rickshaw image for cool efficiency and spotless streets, but you can still recapture the colonial era with a Singapore Sling under the languorous ceiling fans at Raffles Hotel.
At first glance, Singapore appears shockingly modern and anonymous, but this is an undeniably Asian city where Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions from feng shui to ancestor worship create part of the everyday landscape - colourful contrasts that bring the city to life.
A Top Day in Singapore
A Singaporean day should start slowly, away from the crowds (plenty of time for those during the rest of the day), so I avoid anything even slightly resembling a shopping mall and take a long stroll along the quays. I usually start at the jovial Alkaff Bridge near Robertson Quay and walk along the southern side of the Singapore River so that I can look across at the fetching pastels of Clarke Quay, eventually ending up in the foot traffic around Boat Quay.
Next, I duck through the neoclassical columns of the Fullerton Hotel to have a lavish brunch within the hotel's magnificent European-style atrium (I booked a table several days ago to make sure my stomach wouldn't be disappointed). Once this is digested, I walk across the river to Empress Place and refamiliarise myself with the wonderful galleries of the Asian Civilisations Museum, where I browse through illuminated Qurans, gorgeous textiles and other regional artefacts. If it's a clear-skied day, I'll take the subway to HarbourFront station and take a slow, scenic, late-afternoon ride on the high-altitude cable car that floats over Keppel Harbour to Sentosa Island and then does a loop via the splendid summit of Mt Faber.
Next, it's a toss-up between a vegetarian snack (or three) in the exuberant sidestreets of Little India or an early dinner in one of the fine French restaurants on Ann Siang Hill in Chinatown, but I'm liable to just make a beeline for the Newton Food Centre to the north of Orchard Rd and sit down at the stall selling delicious stingray dishes. From here I'll jump in a taxi and take the night-safari tram ride through the superb Singapore Zoological Gardens. Now I'm ready for some drinking, which usually starts with a beer in one of the dramatic shophouse bars on Emerald Hill Rd, just off Orchard Rd, and ends with an early morning shisha (hooka-style pipe) on Arab St in Kampong Glam.Author: Paul Smitz