Welcome to Singapore’s cultural kaleidoscope

It’s been said before, but it has to be said again: Singapore is the Promised Land for lovers of good food. If you ask a Singaporean to name his or her top five places in the city, they’re very likely to name their five favourite restaurants.

The selection on offer varies widely, in terms of price and in line with Singapore’s cultural kaleidoscope. Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and European food appears together and separately.

Just the same, there’s so much more going on beneath Singapore’s changing skyline in addition this dynamic dining scene. The latest additions to the horizon are the three towers, spanned at their top by a unique connecting Sky Park, dominating the Marina Bay area. The Marina Bay Sands complex includes a hotel, casino, exhibition and conference centre, seven restaurants, two theatres, skating, and art and science museum and, of course, a shopping mall. Which brings us to Singapore’s other big obsession: shopping.

Those endless malls offer marvelous air-conditioned refuge from Singapore’s humid, heavy equatorial heat. The shops sell everything from Armani to Zanetti, as well as hundreds of smaller, less celebrated brands. 

But take a short Mass Rapid Transit – MRT – ride to Little India and you’ll find a completely different world from the glittering malls of Orchard Road. Temple incense, the exotic aroma of spices and the vivid colours of the sari markets off Serango Road delight passers-by. The antique shops and rowdy karaoke bars of Joo Shiat Road are other attractions.

Ethnic enclaves nestle next to each other all over the city. In the Golden Mile Complex you can drop in for some shopping and Thai food, then head for the cafes of Arab Street to puff on a hookah.

Singapore is known for its cleanliness, and this is preserved by the presence of strict anti-litter laws. But it’s also a very safe and welcoming city.

Construction has spread through much of the island and very little of the original tropical rain forest remains. Small pockets remain, however, and no visit would be complete without a visit to the fabulous Botanical Gardens, with its glorious orchids, gingers and other exotic flowers and plants.

All this and Finnair too: the new non-stop route opened to pulsating Singapore on May 30. Finnair’s daily flights are the fastest connection between northern Europe and Singapore.

Some tips for visitors
Singapore is full of top class luxury hotels, of which the Mandarin Orchard (333 Orchard Road) and Mandarin Marina (6 Raffles Boulevard) are two excellent, centrally located examples.

The historic and handsome Fullerton Hotel offers Stay and Dine in Style packages until September 21 (www.fullertonhotel.com).

Good food can be sampled especially at the many food courts, a great “mix and match” option and very good value. You’ll find ethnic dishes in the respective ethnic enclaves such as Little India and Chinatown.

Roland Restaurant’s big round tables fill up with happy diners daily, and this is an especially good place to sample the local chili crab signature dish (Block 89, Marine Parade Central, www.rolandrestaurant.com.sg).

There’s usually a band playing on one of the three floors of the BluJaz Café, which also hosts a monthly Haflas or Arab party (11 Bali Lane, www.blujaz.net).

You’ll find Loof close to the famous Raffles hotel. The roof terrace and bar are magnets for after-work drinkers, many of whom hang around for a leisurely night out (331 N Bridge Road, www.loof.com).

Brewerkz Riverside Point is a microbrewery restaurant where you can sample some interesting beers – worth remembering if you tire of the ubiquitous local Tiger Beer (30 Merchant Road, www.brewerkz.com).