Singapore was more than I could have ever imagined. The island-city-country conglomerate represents the future of the modern world through an intricately structured city-scape, yet it is also home to well-preserved past… The vibrant cultural enclaves of Singapore bring diverse regions of Asia to life through history, cuisine and culture. I loved it all.
In essence, Singapore emulates the spirit of Old New York to the modern Asian world: It’s filled with opportunity, opulence and just the right amount of familiar. And like New York, it’s poised to be considered among the greatest cities on Earth.
I was jet-set to Singapore under the guidance of Protravel International‘s new ‘Crazy Rich Americans’ tour. The luxury travel agency’s partnership with Singapore tourism created an itinerary that strategically navigated me through the city’s rich bounty of experiences.
ARRIVE IN THE SPIRIT OF LUXURY & STYLE
Changi Airport has consistently won awards for its design, affluence and convenience. This sense of excellence was mirrored in the JetQuay experience. Fresh off United’s Polaris experience, I found myself whisked from the arrival gate to a private, less-than-one-minute immigrations experience. Just beyond that in JetQuay’s CIP terminal awaited my luggage, a bottle of ice cold champagne, snacks and butler service. If this luxe arrival is within your realm of splurge… Do it.
Regardless of your airport experience, you can’t help but feel entranced by the metropolis’ display of grandeur that unfolds the minute you make your way into the city.
WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD IN SINGAPORE
The Intercontinental is an ideal choice for those who appreciate a hotel with roots in heritage and stylish Asian design. The Intercontinental is also in a great location that’s ideal to launch into the city from, like my favorite enclave, Kampong Glam. Notable too is the hotel’s Man Fu Yuan restaurant, which features Cantonese technique with a forward thinking execution.
W Sentosa, which is located on Sentosa (Singapore’s resort island), delivers swanky vibes through design, lifestyle and overall energy. Those who appreciate island-resort feng shui will find this as a haven from Singapore’s urban center (though a bit far from everything).
The Ritz Carlton dons a dope design that is reminiscent of a beehive. It’s nothing short of a luxury property, even turning an all you can eat buffet restaurant into something of high class. The Ritz’s spa, whether you stay here or not, is a great option for hot stone massages as well as pristine amenities.
Marina Bay Sands, the self-serving epitome of Singapore’s evolving skyline, is also a hub for entertainment, restaurants and hotel rooms. Exclusive access to the Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool and rooftop hang out is reason enough to grab a room for at least a night or two.
PRO TIP: If you’re the kind of traveler who is fluid when it comes to hotel stays, try a combo of regions. A 7 night trip would best be served with 3 nights in the city, 2 nights at Marina Bay Sands and 2 nights on Sentosa island.
THE TREASURES OF SINGAPORE LYE IN THE ENCLAVES
Heritage and culture is alive and well within the streets of Singapore. Vibrancy in Little India, artisan spirit along Arab Street, the Peranakan legacy in Katong/Joo Chiat and deep spirituality in Chinatown await visitors who opt to explore each.
I crave culture whenever I travel. Each of the enclaves gave me the ability to experience all faucets of Asia solely within Singapore. This provided the destination with a whole new level of value. Every enclave’s varying aesthetics is a time and place, whether it’s vivid flower garlands that are strung through Hindu temples or slow roasting meats seasoned in the Middle Eastern flavor on Arab Street.
Seeing the historic enclaves pressed against skyscrapers provides a rare glimpse at both the future and the past, all while immersed in a serendipitous present. This architectural phenomenon created a moment that made me fall in love with Singapore.
Here’s a visual guide for you through each of the enclaves…
Don’t Miss: The Buddhist Tooth Relic Museum + Temple
ARAB STREET / KAMPONG GLAM
Don’t Miss: The artisan perfume and cologne shop Sifr Aromatics, where you can shop aromas from Johari Kazura or take a workshop and create your very own scent.
Don’t miss: The gorgeous temples, colorful shops, Indian style Hawker Center and the Colourful House of Tan Teng Niah
KATONG / JOO CHIAT
Don’t Miss: The whimsical homes on Joo Chiat or the chance to enter a traditional Paranakan home at The Intan experience and dive into Singapore’s root culture.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO EAT IN SINGAPORE
THE FLOATING DONUT COMPANY: Crush a seafood feast, pizza and champagne while floating on Singapore’s most scenic waterway in a nifty little vessel. The Floating Donut Company was one of my fondest memories from Singapore given its ability to blend a unique experience with cuisine, scenes and champagne.
DEVOUR AS MUCH CHILI CRAB AS YOU CAN: This signature Singaporean dish is a dreamy combination of succulent mud crab steeped in savory tomato chili sauce. My favorite spots to enjoy the iconic dish was KENG ENG KEE and JUMBO SEAFOOD, you can’t go wrong at either. A few major things to remember: Wash it down with an ice cold tiger beer for optimal flavor, wear your bib and mop up the sauce with the bread on the table. Thank me later!
328 KATONG LAKSA: This place doles out some of the best laksa (another signature Singaporean dish) in the city. Helmed by a Madam Lucy Koh, who has taken down the likes of Gordon Ramsey, this unassuming spot creates big flavor within the famous noodle soup. 328 Katong Laksa is certainly one of those spots I’d consider an essential of Singapore.
VISIT AS MANY HAWKER CENTERS AS POSSIBLE: Hawker culture is incredible. These buzzing food halls are thriving with artisan food-stands that pump out all kinds of dishes. The atmospheres are perfect for groups of friends to gather and slam beers and crush food.
What I love about the enclaves is that their Hawker Centers have a focus on the culture’s food. For example, I loved Little India’s Hawker Center as it gave me access to dishes I never knew existed in Indian cuisine. Visit as many as you can during your trip to Singapore.
Want an insider’s guide? Check out Chiak Local, operated by celebrated Singaporean food blogger Maureen Ow, who will literally take you around and show you the best of the best.
INDOCHINE: Grab a seat on top of a Singapore’s highest SuperTree when you dine at Indochine. Located in the Gardens by the Bay, I found Indochine’s rooftop bar to be an incredible ending to exploring the futuristic gardens (we’ll get into that later on).
What’s better than slammin’ a Singapore sling whilst having front row seats to some of the city’s most beautiful skyline? Nothing.
Afterwards, head down to the restaurant where you can enjoy everything from cheese broiled lobster, jumbo prawn and tender lamb racks.
Native: If you’re down with cocktail culture like me, consider this a golden ticket into South-East Asia’s obscure bounty. Native’s bar is mysterious, in all the right ways and has a carefully curated menu that invests in ingredients and producers that are all within the region. Experimental recipes create an exciting drinking experience – set some time aside and dive in.
Coconut Club: Coconut reigns supreme at this famous nook of a restaurant in Chinatown. Their passion for coconut pulses through most of Coconut Club’s dishes, most notably the Nasi Lemak; a Malay style rice that is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. The result? Sultry, fragant rice that pairs exceptionally well with their Singaporean fried chicken (and of course, a cold Tiger).
Ce La Vi: Located next to the Marina Bay Sands rooftop infinity pool, the view here is something you just don’t want to miss. Though you’ll find a menu of expensive drinks and good-not-great food, the visuals are priceless. Make a reservation at Ce La Vi for sunset time and request a table along the edge and you’ll be treated to an experiential Singaporean moment that will leave your soul and camera feeling real satisfied. At night the space turns into a club-lounge which I will serve your partying needs.
The W Sentosa’s Brunch Buffet: I spent a few nights here and was massively impressed with The W’s brunch buffet at their Kitchen Table restaurant. Combining all sorts of Asian and Western cuisine, the hip space kept my mornings on point. If you’re heading to Sentosa to enjoy one of the island’s various activities, I’d make a stop here and fuel up at the buffet.
The Long Bar at Raffles: The famous Singapore Sling cocktail was created at this bar and in turn has turned the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel into one of the city’s most coveted tourist experiences. Sip on the original tropically infused, hard-hitting drink while being surrounded by an elegant ambiance. Did I mention the giant beers glasses? Because they’re incredible.
Gardens by the Bay & The SuperTrees
The Gardens by the Bay and SuperTrees are symbolic of Singapore’s futuristic place in the world. In fact, if you don’t visit the park, you may not have experienced Singapore in its pure ethos.
I could go on about the Flower Dome, which is home to botanicals from around the globe and features a series of installations that celebrate various flowers from different cultures. I felt blessed to be able to see the Japanese Sakura cherry blossom installation during my visit.
I could blow your mind with the intricate details of the Cloud Forest which simulates a waterfall and the creation of clouds. The whole scene is mesmerizing and illuminates the power of technology.
Or I could inspire you with how the Supertree Grove is a first hand look at the future. Whatever you do, don’t miss the light and music show which takes place at certain times through the night.
But truthfully, the Gardens by the Bay and Supertrees are an adventure within Singapore that you should lose yourself in. Within every attraction you’ll find yourself discovering new truths about our planet and what direction it’s heading in.
Singapore is one of the world’s greatest cities and also one of the most inspiring. This idyllic state of existence has resulted in insanely low crime rates, incomparable cleanliness and a culinary culture that blends various regions of Asia. Be warned, this is not a cheap country to travel to, but it sure is damn worth it (even if just for a few days on a larger South-East Asian adventure).
Want to take this trip yourself? Check out Protravel International‘s ‘Crazy Rich American’ Tour!