By Georgina Cruz
1:53 PM PST, January 18, 2013
A strict, independent city-state of five million that inhabit just 224 square miles, Singapore is known for its many rules and stiff penalties regarding littering, eating, drinking and smoking in public areas (the infamous ban on chewing gum in public areas has been relaxed, but you still cannot litter with the used gum). This exotic city-state has nonetheless much to offer travelers.
Among its many attributes is eye-popping architecture, with a skyline that features, among others, the fruit-like Esplanade Theatres By The Bay, the UFO-like Supreme Court Building, and the Marina Bay Sands building (made up of three high towers upon which rests a huge “boat” called the Sky Park with an observation deck (locals jokingly refer to the Sky Park boat as a Noah’s Ark for Singaporeans in case of a tsunami).
Another of Singapore’s noteworthy heights is the ferris-wheel-like Sky Flyer, reportedly the world’s tallest observation wheel. It stands 541 feet tall (the height of a 42-story building), 90 feet higher than the famous London Eye observation wheel in the British capital, and it offers sweeping views of Singapore.
Other highlights include the historic Padang district with its colonial architecture; the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little India with shops, restaurants and temples; the Arab Quarter with the gold domed Sultan Mosque, and Orchard Street with its western-style department stores and designer boutiques. A trip to the top of Mt. Faber where a restaurant offers panoramas of the Singapore harbor and the sea is worthwhile. Cable car service – the gondolas go right over cruise ships at the port – takes to the top of Mt. Faber and also to Sentosa Island where attractions include Segway tours and Universal Studios Singapore with such attractions as the Transformers 3D ride.
Still other must-sees include the Merlion (a statue of a being that is half lion and half fish and is the symbol of Singapore) and the grand dame of Singapore Hotels, the Raffles Hotel, that has hosted such notable guests as Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham in the old days and in more recent times, Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Jackson.
Locals recount that Jackson wanted to go to the zoo, but it could not be closed just for him, so he was allowed to have a visitor from the zoo at the Raffles: an orangutan with whom he had tea! Raffles is also world-famous for its Long Bar, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, a potent concoction made of gin, cherry liqueur and fruit punch –and a local flavor most visitors make sure they try. At the Raffles, guests can sip a cocktail and eat peanuts – and they can throw the shells on the floor –probably the only place in Singapore where people are allowed to litter!
Tours sold onboard cruise ships include city highlights programs that take in the various neighborhoods, the Merlion and Mt. Faber, and generally also visit the National Orchid Garden, a beautiful oasis with more than 60,000 orchid plants and myriad other blooms including showy lobster claw and fragrant white ginger.
Cruise lines that visit or sail from Singapore include Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn and Silversea.
IF YOU GO – For additional information on Singapore, visit www.yoursingapore.com.