Singapore is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with four official languages, and 62 surrounding islands, the main island of Singapore (or Pulau Ujong) has been a top destination for residents and travelers alike. The city promotes itself for medical tourism (yup, plastic surgery), which surprisingly attracts more than 200,000 clients each year. Instead, I like to think that Singapore is better known as being the “Garden City” and has more than enough things to do on your holiday, without going under the knife.
As I said, Singapore isn’t called the Garden City for nothing. The famous Botanical Gardens are home to the some of the rarest and most beautiful plants. It’s open from 5am to midnight every day, so you can enjoy the gardens during sunrise, sunset, or all the time in between.
Having numerous different specialty gardens within, the one you cannot miss is the National Orchid Gardens. Housing more than 1,000 different species of orchids, visitors can appreciate these easily distinguished flowers. Even more spectacular is how the orchids are separated, which is by color. Separated into four different sections meant to portray the four different seasons. The golds, pinks, reds, and blues are all blended together expertly to show-off the flowers in a most unique way.
Because the gardens are developed on what they call a three-core system, there are other sections of the gardens all portraying and representing something different. The Tanglin core is to represent the history and the features that have been in the gardens the longest, including Swan Lake, Sun Garden, and many sculptures. The Central core is for impressing tourists with the Ginger Garden, Rainforest, Healing Garden, Evolution Garden, and of course the National Orchid Gardens. Finally, the Butik Timah core is meant to serve as an educational branch of the gardens, featuring bamboo, fruit trees, nut and beverage crops, herbs and spices, as well as the children’s garden.
With so much to see and do, it’s definitely a good thing the park hosts such long hours–you’ll need the whole day to explore!
Although Chinatowns are common in any major city, with the largest ethnic group in Singapore being Chinese, this Chinatown is unlike any other. The large neighborhood dedicated to showing off Chinese food, culture, shopping, and nightlife is divided into five different districts so you don’t have to feel like you’re wandering around aimlessly in a sea of chopsticks and sculptures of chinese dragons.
The five districts are called Telok Ayer, Bukit Pasoh, Tanjong Pagar, Kreta Ayer, and Ann Siang Hill. Over time they each became known for specializing in different areas. If you’re interested in unique bars, cafés and boutiques then Ann Siang Hill, and Telok Ayer have plenty. Telok Ayer is also known for housing many of the city’s old temples and mosques offering a bit of history to your excursion. Bukit Pasoh has mastered blending the old and the new with posh hotels and restaurants, but also history on many clans and cultural associations. A more residential area also sprinkled with traditional pubs, and karaoke bars is Tanjong Pagar. Finally to feel super-immersed in the culture, head over to Kreta Ayer for traditional trading and shopping (meaning you can bargain with vendors!), and the best cuisine.
If you stop by at night make sure to visit the Chinatown Night Market running through three of the major streets. In these old world shops you’ll find everything from food, to clothing, to opera masks! This area is especially busy during Christmas with extended shopping hours and ridiculously good sales, you might just need to buy another suitcase to fit all your purchases…
This could easily be Singapore’s greatest tourist attraction. Standing at 165 meters tall gives it the title of the world’s tallest observation wheel. The views themselves could set some world records, as the 30 minute rides takes you high up in the air you get bird’s eye view of the city and can even catch glimpses of Malaysia and Indonesia on a clear day.
Although the stunning views are the main attraction, the Singapore Flyer offers much more to complete your experience. The main terminal offers many food options on all three floors, from Subway to four star dining. There is also shopping available for Flyer memorabilia, and even a retail store specializing in leather and exotic skins. One of the most interesting additional parts of the Singapore Flyer are all the activities available for visitors. If you’re not quite ready to leave after your ride there is karaoke, racetrack rides, reflexology and fish spas all located in the main terminal. And to stay in the “flyer” spirit, there’s a flight simulator where you can view a flight through a pilot’s eyes.
The Singapore Flyer is an international icon of both engineering and appreciation of beauty. Appropriate for all ages and with a myriad of activities and things to see on the site as well, this proves to be Singapore’s hottest tourist spot for a reason.
The Singapore Zoo
Like me, you might think that the concept of zoos are sometimes overdone, they’re a good idea and I love being able to see the animals, but why go all the way to Singapore for that? Well, besides the fact that 3,600 different animals, including rare and endangered species call Singapore Zoo their home, the zoo is set up in a nature-friendly way. That means that instead of looking through glass enclosures, or jail-like fences, the animals can be seen in open exhibits, being separated by hidden barriers, stone walls, and moats. Not only is this a more natural way to see the animals, but it creates a better living environment for them too, and who doesn’t want the animals to be happy?
Speaking of animals, theres tons of different areas to see all different types of mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish. From Cat Country to the Australian Outback, to the Rainforest Kidzone, there’s something for everybody. If you’re feeling brave you can go see the world’s largest snake, which can grow up to 10 meters! The Singapore Zoo is also known for housing orangoutangs, which are highly at risk of extinction, luckily they’re kept safe and sound in their new home.
Shows at the zoo are definitely one of the highlights, and with Singapore’s conservation attempts, the Rainforest Fights Back show can help you learn about the little things you can do to help, which make big differences. If you’re looking for a little more action, there’s the show with the jackass penguins, but I promise, they’re not as bad as they sound.
Finally, what would a tourist spot be without some food and shopping? The Singapore Zoo has food from snack stands, to pizza and ice cream, to even dining with the animals at a Jungle Breakfast! Don’t leave without checking out the gift shop, for adorable stuffed animals or even educational gifts. With such a wide variety of animals, shows, and ways to explore the park, Singapore Zoo is a must-see for animal lovers.
To ease up any confusion, I’ll tell you right now that it’s pronounced “duck”. Maybe it was just me who couldn’t figure out the pronunciation, but however you say it, DUKw tours are not something to miss. Originally used in World War II as a means of transporting goods and troops over land and water, this vehicle is unique in its amphibious functions.
Now remove the troops, weapons, and fighting, and what would you do with the vehicle? Well of course make a one-of-a-kind tour bus! Unlike the mainstream hop-on/hop-off, or coach bus tours, switch it up and see Singapore by land and sea. Perusing through the city you can pass by all the major buildings and monuments like the new and old Parliament Houses, and City Hall. Then you can make a splash in Marina Bay and cruise through the water for even more sights of Singapore.
Whoever thought to turn a military transportation system into a fun tour bus certainly understood the benefits of recycling. So if you’re in Singapore and want an unconventional way to tour the city, DUKw Tours are both entertaining and educational.