The city-state of Singapore has grown into a hot destination, blending a heady mix of Asian cultures with a constant drive for progress.
Remnants of the British colonial era can still be found in some fine 19th-century architecture, and there’s plenty in the way of malls and corporate towers, but Singapore’s reputation as somewhere rather dull has been consigned (like most things here) to the bin.
Clean? Yes. Safe? Yes. Boring? Hardly. Today’s Singapore is a high-tech metropolis with a goodtime spirit. The necktie has been well and truly loosened.
Although earlier settlements had existed on the island, Singapore’s development was kick-started by mass immigration from across Asia in the 19th century. As a result, it still plays home to an ethnic mix of Chinese, Malays and Indians, as well as expats from across the world.
The gleaming skyscrapers that tower over Singapore shield a plethora of older buildings, including the temples and mosques that stud this multicultural city. And helpfully for foreign visitors, these different groups tend to use English as their common language.
Changi Airport continues to top polls for its service and facilities, and in many ways exemplifies Singapore’s quest for efficiency, but today’s city is also somewhere with exciting nightlife and some truly exceptional places to eat.
Dining well is a local obsession and you’ll find outstanding examples of everything from Chinese street food to classic French cuisine. And while there are high-end eateries by the dozen, you don’t need to spend big to eat well. Pot-steaming hawker stalls are just as much a part of the Singaporean experience as the palm pots and white gloves of Raffles.
Gone are the days when Singapore was valued mainly as a stopover, and perhaps for its enormous malls. Today, the buoyancy of its tourist industry is reflected in major developments such as Marina Bay Sands, whose three linked towers now loom over the centre of the city. Add to this a constant flow of life in the ethnic quarters of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, and the result is one of Asia's most compelling cities.