Singapore Central Business District as viewed from Chinatown by Someformofhuman (Creative Commons)
Singapore Central Business District as viewed from Chinatown by Someformofhuman (Creative Commons)

The city-state of Singapore lies just off the Southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Having a total area of around 275 square miles it is the smallest country in south-east Asia. Singapore is renowned for the efficiency of its transport system, (including a metro system and cable cars between islands) and as it is also a very small country, getting around is never a problem. Most people will know Singapore for its ultra-modern buildings and the city centre, in particular a trip to the shopping centres of Orchard Road, is likely to be one of the most memorable experiences, especially for those who like shopping, but Singapore has much more to offer than efficiency and modernity. The old colonial district, where the influence of British rule is still apparent in the Cathedral, Parliament, Supreme Court and Cricket House, is home to Singapore’s famous Raffle’s Hotel. Generally considered one of the best hotels in the world, its pearly-white classical architecture and lush surroundings make it a special place and it has officially been a Singaporean national monument since 1987. Although one of Singapore’s top hotels, you can still benefit from discounts online. Away from the city-centre Singapore can be surprisingly green, still having a small pocket of rainforest and several nature reserves.

One of the aspects of Singapore that makes it so fascinating is the ethnic mix of the inhabitants. The majority are ethnic Chinese, but there are also significant numbers of ethnic Malays and ethnic Indians. This makes for an interesting mix of temples and neighbourhoods that seem to belong in different countries. It also means there is a fabulous variety of stylish restaurants, which are attractions in themselves. Cultural highlights, include the enormous Asian Civilisations Museum, that will take you on a fascinating journey through the traditional aspects of Asian culture as well as the Theatres on the Bay complex on the waterfront. An extraordinary example of modern architecture, which houses indoor and outdoor theatres, a concert hall, galleries, a library and a mall providing plenty of shopping, eating and drinking opportunities, along with fantastic views across the bay.

View towards Bukit Timah hill, the highest point on Singapore Island
View towards Bukit Timah hill, the highest point on Singapore Island

Although right in the centre of the island, in many ways the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve seems completely out-of-place in modern Singapore, but this last remaining area of rainforest is a refreshing change from the majority of the urban landscape. It is a refuge for the Singaporean wildlife and it is possible to see all kinds of animals including long-tailed macaques, tailor-birds, flying lemurs, pangolins and some incredible butterflies and insects. There are also some creatures, such as snakes and scorpions, that you may not want to stumble across, but by starting your visit at the visitor centre and taking one of the well sign-posted and clearly mapped paths, the chances of finding danger, or getting lost, are virtually nil. Slightly to the north and on the edge of a reservoir, Singapore Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world. The facilities are constantly upgraded to provide both a great experience for the visitors and a happy existence for the animals. Highlights include Bengal Tigers, White Rhinos, Polar Bears, Baboons and Orangutans. In the Fragile Forest exhibit you can mingle with the lemurs and other creatures in their forest home.

Singapore offers a diverse mix of modernity, history, culture and wildlife, all in a compact country that runs with admirable efficiency. Although it is an affluent country it can also be surprisingly light on the wallet and there are often some good travel deals to be had, with many hotels having frequent promotions.