"Uniquely Singapore" is the island’s tagline, and they’ve got
that right. Singapore is a country, island and city all in one. Its
is much more relaxed than bustling Bangkok or Hong Kong. Yet that
vibrancy is just under the surface of modern high-rises, endless
shopping venues and unique cultural pockets.
The Conrad Hotel, with 484 rooms and 25 suites in the Marina
district, proved an excellent headquarters for my tour (see
More Than Shops
Entertainment is an integral part of the city’s many
mammoth malls. Suntec City Mall is the largest and part of a
complex of five buildings housing offices, condos, a convention
center and nearly 300 shops. On a Sunday afternoon, a full-scale
show of African dancers captivated shoppers, while the food court,
the size of three football fields, offered every cuisine
Outside in the plaza, onlookers gathered at the huge outdoor
Fountain of Wealth as believers walked or a short boardwalk under
the spray, held a hand over smaller water spouts for energy, and
circled them three times to gain wealth.
For family entertainment, golf and beaches, head south to Sentosa
Island, easily accessible now by bridge rather than the old ferry.
I went by cable car from Mt. Faber, swinging over one of the
busiest ports in the world. Since the monorail that winds through
Sentosa’s treetops is being replaced, the Carlsberg Sky Tower
became a delightful substitute for great views. Passengers sit on a
wrap-around bench that slowly rises in a circular motion, up to the
top and down again. You can get an eyeful without leaving your
Singapore’s diverse culture produces interesting
attractions. At the Malay Heritage Centre, a pleasant complex of
white colonial buildings on landscaped lawns, I watched a
traditional wedding ceremony for today’s Malaysian couples. The
bridal party sets the scene with music, dances and audience
participation, as the lavishly dressed bride and groom sit on
ornately decorated thrones.
Culture comes to life in Chinatown during tea appreciation classes
in Mr. Low’s trim little shop. Among lacquered tables and shelves
lined with tea sets and accessories, he teaches the fine art of
brewing and the curative powers of various blends.
Indigenous to the Straits, the Peranakan people are descendants of
early Chinese settlers on the Malay Archipelago. Their clothing,
pottery, handicrafts and shop houses prompted further
investigation. The row of former shophouse residences on Koon Seng
Road is one of the last well-preserved examples of this culture.
The buildings have a ground-floor porch entrance with living
quarters above. Louvered shutters, intricately carved pillars and
roofline fretwork all project subdued colors delicately
Not far from Koon Seng Road, Rumah Bebe’s shop proudly displays
intricate beadwork on jewelry and apparel. Around the corner, I
learned how to make Ba Chang (mini-dumplings) at Kim Choo
The Singapore Tourism Board will recommend local tour operators
covering these ethnic areas or arrange for a personal guide and
|WHERE TO STAY|
Conrad Centennial Singapore
2 Temasek Blvd.
Hits: Convenient to shops, restaurants and
attractions. Attentive staff, well-equipped rooms with water views.
Touches include a pillow menu, teddy bear presiding over the “fruit
and sweet” plate and a rubber duck in the tub.
Misses: Business travelers predominate.
Plugging In: Fax/copier with separate line; three direct-dial
speakerphones; high-speed Internet access.
Clientele: Business travelers mostly, and
facilities draw many conferences. Guests can walk to Esplanade,
Millenia Walk and Suntec City Mall.
Rates: Vary by season and depend on options
(Double Dip Hilton Honors, etc.). Deluxe double rooms and Executive
Suites average from $130 to $198.
Commission: 10 percent, plus Hilton Points
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific depart from West Coast
gateways. Cathay Pacific’s 2005
All-Asia 21-Day Pass starts at $1,099 to visit any or all of 19