Singapore: Exotic with Conditions

Singapore has a great street food culture
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Many intrepid travelers have invested time in Asia.  In many ways the diversity here is unmatched on the globe. India, Myanmar, Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea span a huge divide.  Somewhere in all this is the city/state of Singapore, a major gateway to Southeast Asia.  There is nothing like it in Asia.  What has developed from their history is nothing short of a miracle. Once they were rejected in becoming part of Malaysia, they did what they needed to do to survive, and now they thrive.

Singapore's land mass is small so they are making it bigger with new investments and developing new land.  Private cars take up too much space so they have an elaborate system of car purchase and registration that makes owning even a small Japanese car over a $100,000 purchase.  They make up for that with clean, frequent, reliable and cheap public transportation.

On a recent trip I was a visitor there for six days and explored Singapore in many different ways.

Getting there was on the brand new Singapore Airlines A350-900 from San Francisco, non-stop to Singapore. In Premium Economy the 16 1/2 hour flight was fine.  I would suggest that a $100.00 per direction up charge to sit in one of the bulkhead window or aisle seats is well worth it. Singapore Air will begin a similar non-stop service from LAX next year. Singapore's Changi Airport is all that it claims, with multiple traveler awards, completely convenient.

Singapore is exotic, but with its own conditions: The city is well planned and attractive with green belts practically everywhere. It is rare, even in the midst of downtown, to be out of sight of trees or flowers.  The city is well organized and very clean.  The hygiene standards here are rigid. We ate everywhere -- from street food vendors to Michelin-starred restaurants and never had issues.  I drank the tap water everyday with no ill effects.  No city is completely safe, but crime here is very low.  This does not imply a "Disneyland" effect, where nothing seems real. What it does provide is a culture that values diversity, with its Chinese, Indian and Moslem melting pot, but in a way that benefits all.  

We had lunch one day in Little India with its massive street markets. We could experiment much more than we could if we were in India itself. On another day, it was street food and exploring Chinatown.     One evening we dined at Jumbo, a local Chinese seafood restaurant riverside, busy and crazy but lots of fun. The area along the river has been developed into an entertainment district with many bars and restaurants.  It is beautiful at night. During the day, many historic areas have been preserved and are now reused, such as an old post office that is now a hotel. Shopping was good in all aspects.  Even I, a non-shopper, participated when it came to a shop that sold unique goods from Portugal.    

A vision of the future and the environment is the massive Marina development, including the now iconic three tower Marina Bay Sands Complex, with its rooftop platform and its infinity pool. Yet, this is eclipsed by the amazing Gardens by the Bay, a $1-billion botanical garden complex under two massive climate controlled domes and the tower elements beside them.  The towers collect rainwater and the climate system is environmentally friendly.  Here you see exotic plants and trees from all over the world.  It is well worth the price of admission.  

During our trip we stayed and inspected The St. Regis, The Mandarin Oriental and the Fairmont Hotels. Each has is attributes. We also saw the Shangri La, Raffles and Swisshotel which are now being upgraded to even higher standards.

The easy mix of cultures, the well-planned and pleasing design of the city and the diversity and opportunity to sample cuisine from all over the world are assets. Singapore is an excellent and intelligent addition to any Asia travel itinerary.  The Singapore LAX direct flights are here now, but the non-stop next year will open up new possibilities. TravelStore can show you the way to enhance your upcoming Asia trip.

Hilton Smith