Singapore: The City of the Future That You Can Visit Right Now
Even though it's made "best places to go" lists from the New York Times and Lonely Planet in recent years, Singapore's appeal as a tourist destination remains one of the best-kept secrets in Asia.
This island city-state on the southern edge of the Malay Peninsula, is more than a thriving business centre -- it's a hub of innovation, an urban jungle that doesn't skimp on the jungle, a foodie destination where neighbouring cultures of Asia unite in the cuisine. Bottom line: If you're looking to visit the city of the future right now, Singapore is your place.
1. Singapore pairs well with other Asia hot spots
Singapore Changi Airport is a destination in and of itself -- the world's best airport four years running according to Skytrax. It's not surprising, considering the high-end shopping, rooftop pool, two-story butterfly garden and free 24-hour movie theatre, not to mention it's a model of efficiency -- checked bags generally show up within 15 minutes after landing. What's even better about Changi is that it's also a hub for Asian destinations -- meaning you're not far from other Southeast Asia getaways after you've spent a few days exploring Singapore.
2. It's never the same thing twice
Singapore's gleaming modern architecture rivals Dubai and Hong Kong, and steals the headlines and cover photos. But you'll find these new-world skyscrapers also share space with the Old World in Singapore. Hindu and Buddhist temples, centuries-old colonial buildings and coluorful rows of shop houses are set against the dramatic backdrop of the ever-growing skyline. And with 22 percent of the city on reclaimed land from the ocean -- Singapore keeps growing.
3. They've got Supertrees
You'd expect trees to look like this in the city of the future. But would you also expect them to generate solar power and collect rainwater? These Supertrees are vertical gardens as tall as 16 stories high, part of the Gardens by the Bay, which also includes two biodomes housing flora and fauna from across the world and the world's tallest indoor waterfall. One of the best ways to see the city is from a suspended walkway that snakes through the Supertrees and looks out on the gardens, skyline and South China Sea.
4. You won't feel out of place here
One of the first things a visitor to Singapore will notice is how clean and orderly everything is compared to the chaotic, motorcycle-filled streets and smoggy skies of other cities in Asia. Add that to the fact that English is an official language, taxis are ever-present and cheap (call your cabbie "uncle"), the trains are prompt and the island measures less than 30 miles across, and you'll find it easier to navigate here than just about anywhere else in Asia (or at home).
Singapore's history as a trading hub means there are four official languages -- including English. That makes wandering for fashionable finds on Haji Lane, snagging fresh fruit at Tiong Bahru Market and hanging out in the hipster coffee shops of Jalan Besar a fun day for even the most directionally challenged of visitors.
5. It's a lot greener than you'd expect
Nearly half of Singapore is green space, including 300 parks and four nature reserves. One of the most stunning spots is the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the world's largest displays of the Singaporean national flower -- the orchid. The National Orchid Garden has more than 1,000 species with hybrids named after celebrities like Jackie Chan and Andrea Bocelli. Travellers can escape here for a surprisingly soothing city break amid rolling lawns and lakes.
6. This might just be the coolest infinity pool in the world
The Marina Bay Sands hotel rises like a 21st-century Stonehenge, and at the top, the SkyPark rooftop at 57 stories above the ground can't be missed. The length of three football fields, you'll find bars and restaurants, an observation deck and the world's largest infinity pool -- all with unforgettable views.
7. You can travel throughout the world without leaving the city
As a crossroads of commerce, Singapore is a melting pot of cultures and religions. Hindu and Buddhist temples share space with churches and mosques, some are even next door to each other. The diverse and distinct districts settled by early migrants include Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam (Malay) and Joo Chiat (Peranakan), and maintain the European influence from long-ago colonial days.
You can venture into these neighbourhoods for shopping, street food and a taste of Asia. Best of all, it's a short walk or cab ride in between -- instead of a long flight.
8. Street food is at a different level
That melting pot of cultures manifests itself in the local cuisine -- best experienced at hawker centres. Imagine if a city took all the best food trucks and put them in one place -- that's what you get here. Maxwell Food Centre is the most celebrated -- but there are several sprinkled throughout the city. The food is cheap, the area is clean and the flavours are unreal. Don't leave without getting orders of chicken rice, chili crab, laksa and roti prata -- and maybe a satay for the road.
Foodies take note: The first Michelin Guide for Singapore was just released over the summer.
9. There's a wild side to Singapore you'll want to see
Despite being less than half the size of Prince Edward Island, a good chunk of Singapore is undeveloped. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on Singapore's highest peak is home to a rain forest -- good for an active hike alongside the monkeys, birds and tropical canopy. An abandoned rail line has become the Green Corridor -- think New York's High Line, but greener -- a developing tract that runs the length of the island and is popular for jogging. For a real departure, take a short bumboat ride to Palau Ubin -- a sparsely populated (if you don't count the wildlife) island without electricity that is a popular day trip.
10. Singapore vacations are more affordable than you think
Given the appeal, travellers might assume that Singapore is a pricey hot spot only for those with deep pockets. On the contrary, with flight prices on the decline and the introduction of new carriers, vacations to Singapore are more affordable for Canadians now than in recent years. Goway Travel created a package for Travelzoo members featuring three nights in Singapore at a 4-star boutique hotel near Orchard Road and seven nights in Bali at a 5-star resort for $500 less than planning it yourself. All flights and daily breakfast are included.
Travel Nov. 1 - Dec. 8 for $2299 per person from Vancouver with all taxes and fees. 2017 dates and Toronto departures are also available. Call Goway Travel at 1-800-557-2841 to book or click here to read more and submit an online inquiry. Price is based on double occupancy.