If you thought the US was urbanized, think again. Like Hong Kong, Singapore sits on a tiny patch of land, surrounded in all directions by Malaysia or the ocean. The city has had to build upwards instead of outwards, producing its iconic skyline and impressive urban landscape. Planners have made use of practically every square inch, looking for efficiencies wherever they can.
Singapore has been popular among western tourists for many years for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a wealthy place, meaning that the experiences you can have here are as good as anywhere in the world. It’s a place of high-fashion, shopping, and Michelin star restaurants.
The second is the strange mish-mash of cultures. Unlike the west, Singapore’s wealth didn’t come out of a libertarian tradition. Instead, it developed along different values yet still managed to construct itself into an incredible city with many of the features you’d expect from a location like New York or London.
So what should the keen traveler do if coming to this place? Singapore is about more than work and clean streets. Thanks to its role as a trading point, there’s a culture here that dates back to the eighteenth century. For that reason, it offers some of the best markets and attractions in the whole of Asia.
The Singapore Zoo
If you’re in the mood for a relaxing afternoon in the presence of animals, then it is well worth paying a visit to the Singapore Zoo – a 28-hectare site playing host to hundreds of animal species from all over the world. Here you’ll see otters, pygmy hippos, lions, zebras, orangutans, and plenty of tropical bird species.
The zoo is split up into sections. There’s the traditional zoo area, which contains all the usual megafauna. Then there’s the Jurong Birds Park, which has more than 400 species of bird, the River Safari, which has the world’s most extensive collection of freshwater fish, and the Night Safari, which offers encounters with nocturnal creatures.
Haw Par Villa
The Haw Par Villa is one of the weirdest places in the whole of Singapore. It’s a little bit like a theme park that’s home to a bunch of statues depicting Chinese folklore. Be prepared for some unusual sights, such as an old woman being breastfed and a pot-bellied monk smirking while riding a water torrent.
If you’re interested in the end times, there are also statues depicting punishments in hell. It’s not for the faint of heart – that’s for sure.
Singapore’s Street Food
Checking out street food is the quintessential travel tip whenever you go to an Asian city, but it really applies here in Singapore.
What’s interesting about the city’s street food scene is how it exists in the context of one of the most expensive cities in the world. You can pick up an entire meal here for a couple of bucks, prepared right in front of you, even though a banana in the superstore costs $5.
The current advice is to head to the city’s Chinatown and sample some of the vendors here. The cuisine is a mixture of traditional Chinese with heavy influence from Malaysia. Many of the people who migrated here have set up stalls selling their favorite cuisines, with some pulling ideas right out of their mothers’ kitchens.
Be prepared to find some unusual fruits on your travels. Jackfruit, heart and palm, and others are all popular here. Also, be sure to check out the rice cakes and chicken rice. Super delicious.
Indulge On A Rooftop Bar
If you’ve ever seen a Singapore condo for rent online, you’ll know that the city is pretty much vertical. There are office blocks and residential towers galore. And unless you’re perched on top of one of them, it’s almost impossible to get decent views.
Singapore is a gigantic place. And many of the venues in the middle of town, near the harbor, have rooftop bars where you can grab a drink or get something to eat.
One of the best bars is One Altitude, which is located on a new development just across from the central business area. Here you get views of the downtown area, the water, and the rest of the city as it rumbles off into the distance. Be sure to order the fish if you frequent this particular venue. And don’t forget to make new friends along the way. Singapore is the ideal location for this.
So, there you have it – what to do in the most urbanized country in the world.
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