Singapore has a reputation for being a super-safe and super-clean city but visitors should also be aware there is zero tolerance on crime – a 29-year-old Briton hit the headlines recently after being sentenced to 24 lashes for drug offences.
Now there are a host of new design hotels in the city, a fantastic bar and foodie scene, and it’s ideal, either as a final destination or as a stopover en route to Australia. You’ll enjoy a fun time in this bright new star in the East. Here’s how to get the best out of it in two days.
It’s a 30-minute drive from Changi airport to the riverside Warehouse Hotel, a former opium den which now has 37 bedrooms, a rooftop pool, and bar in the lobby: sipping a Madame Butterfly (tequila, watermelon, rosé wine and soda water) will smooth your check-in. Double rooms cost from £152 (R2,700).
Singapore’s famous Raffles hotel doesn’t reopen until the summer after a major refurbishment, so if you fancy a revitalising Singapore Sling, head to the Loof bar in the Civic District instead.
Download the app Grab – Singapore’s version of Uber – then head to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where you can pop up to the rooftop Lavo restaurant for brunch with a view. The ricotta pancakes with lemon and blueberries are divine. If you want something a little different, how about chicken and waffles?
Next door to the hotel is the lotus flower-shaped ArtScience Museum, which hosts exhibitions from design to technology.
A short walk away, the Gardens By The Bay covers 250 acres and feature 220,000 plants.
The 18 futuristic, steel-clad ‘trees’ are actually giant exhausts for the turbines that cool the biodome greenhouses.
Head to one of Singapore’s giant malls and you’ll never be short of shopping and dining opportunities, but it’s even better for a reviving blast of cool air in a city that is renowned for its high humidity levels.
At Ion on Orchard Road, there are plenty of designer stores to browse, although there are budget options too. And as a tourist, you can even claim back the seven per cent Goods & Services Tax.
When you’re ready for a snack, go to the basement food court for some toast with kaya, a caramel-like spread of sugar, coconut milk and eggs.
In Chinatown, chef Ivan Brehm (formerly of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck) conjures up superb flavours at Nouri. A five-course tasting menu with wine pairings costs £155 (R2,800) per person.
Dishes include Afro-Brazilian fritters with turmeric, coconut sauce, bread and salted prawn vatapa, and nasturtium marshmallow with candied orange. A short walk away is Native, where Vijay Mudaliar crafts cocktails from weird and wonderful ingredients including erm, pureed grasshoppers.
Escape the hustle and bustle and see a different side of Singapore by taking the North South line of the metro to Kranji and the Kranji War Cemetery, where 4,000 Commonwealth soldiers killed in two world wars lie buried.
Before you head back, join the locals in the Kopitam cafe at Kranji station, where a bowl of laksa – spicy noodle soup – costs less than £2.50 (R44).
Back in central Singapore, see places featured in the recent hit movie Crazy Rich Asian from the sidecar of a souped-up, chauffeur-driven Vespa. The two-hour tour, which costs from £210pp (R3,700), includes a stop for food ).
Hawker centres are an institution here: no-frills food courts where the prices are great and food is top-notch.
In Queenstown, Timbre+ provides a modern take on one, with outlets housed in shipping containers. Grab a bucket of ice for your beers, then choose a starter at one spot, a main somewhere else and dessert at a third.
Before you head to Changi Terminal 1 for your international flight, kick back at Timbre+’s rooftop pool – it’s open until midnight.
* For more information, go to visitsingapore.com.