Singapore or “Singapura” is a combination of two Malay words “singa” meaning lion and “pura” meaning city. It comes as no surprise that its nickname is the Lion City, and the Merlion represents what Singapore is today – a mighty lion by the sea.
It is an economic powerhouse in Asia and the region’s Switzerland when it comes to the banking sector.
But Singapore can also be considered as a confluence where the West meets the East and a tourist mecca for shoppers and holidaymakers from the US, Europe, Australia, and its regional Asian neighbours.
And what’s more, Singapore is safe for tourists and they will have peace of mind walking the streets at night knowing that the island republic has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Popular tourist spots are Merlion Park, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore City Gallery, and Orchard Road among others.
The National Orchid Garden, located within the Singapore Botanic Gardens, has a special VIP Orchid Garden that honours dignitaries around the world. Selected orchid hybrids are named after state guests and these “VIP Orchids” are an often visited section of the National Orchid Garden. Cambodia, too, with pride, has an important piece of history in the VIP Orchid Garden. The Renantanda Prince Norodom Sihanouk orchid was named in honour of King Father Norodom Sihanouk during his visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1962.
First impressions do count, and for first time visitors to the island republic, Singapore will go all out to make their stay as comfortable as possible. The Singapore Visitor Centre in Orchard Road is a one-stop centre with a wide range of services that visitors can avail themselves to, such as obtaining itinerary recommendations; picking up brochures; asking any question that they may have; booking tours, accommodation and attraction tickets; and purchasing a locally-designed souvenir. This service is owned by the Singapore government. Singapore is also a food lover’s paradise with a wide range of ethnic food served in areas such as Bugis Street, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, and Little India. Bugis Street is one of the best shopping places on the island, with over 600 shops mostly offering, fashion clothing, shoes and accessories.
“We have a lot of shops here and they are well stocked. We have everything for people of all ages,” said Aloysius Tan, Bugis Street’s marketing and communications executive.
“The prices are very competitive. And on top of that, the local food here is good and caters to the palates of everyone,” Mr Tan added.
“Many Singaporeans and tourists like to come here because most of the stores are run by locals.”
In neighboring shopping centre Bugis Junction, you can also find Old Chang Kee – a household name since 1956 and famous for its delectable curry puffs that are filled with curried potatoes and chicken, all cooked with special herbs and spices. Also at Bugis Junction is the Challenger Flagship Store.
Challenger is a 35year old reputable Singaporean IT retailer, which has strong partnerships with major global brands and has 38 stores island-wide. Challenger Bugis Junction, with its 14,000 square feet flagship store, offers a wide range of products, with thematic zones for all kinds of gadgets, including drone cameras, gaming gear and virtual reality headsets. Despite being one of the most expensive cities in Asia, there are many exciting things to do in Singapore that are free. All one needs to do is a little research before their trip.
Little India, for instance, is a hotbed for street art with murals painted by international artists. Entrance to the Singapore City Gallery, run by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, is free. First opened in 1999, the Singapore City Gallery tells the story of Singapore’s physical transformation over the past 50 years. Another venue that does not charge an entry fee is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum in Chinatown. The temple has richly designed interiors and tells the story of Buddha’s life, with the stories going back several centuries. Singapore’s two signature light shows are also free – Garden Rhapsody, a dazzling light show, at Gardens by the Bay; and Spectra, an outdoor light and water display at Marina Bay Sands. Entry to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is free, while entry to the National Orchid Garden is just S$5 for adults and S$1 for students and senior citizens, and free for children under 12.