Twenty-six miles across, the island of Singapore is connected to Johor, Malaysia, by causeways. This tiny city-state has poured resources into a revitalized harbor district. Most people are aware of Singapore’s robust economy and eerily spotless rapid transit system; they may be less familiar with its Arab Quarter, vibrant food stalls and centuries-old temples. Singapore is the world’s second-largest port, and Changi Airport is the aviation hub for Southeast Asia and is consistently rated among the world’s best.
A visit to Singapore’s Peranakan Museum is essential to understanding the distinctive personality of Asia’s most successful city-state. “Peranakan” is a Malay word that means “locally born,” and in this instance, it refers to communities that grew up in Singapore, Penang and other trading cities in Southeast Asia. In Singapore, the Peranakans are mostly descendants of Chinese merchants who occasionally intermarried with other ethnic groups, and Peranakan culture is a hybrid of Malay and Chinese. Don’t miss a delicious lunch of Peranakan cooking at True Blue Cuisine, adjacent to the museum. The museum is closed for renovations until mid-2021.
Though Singapore is densely urban, it’s also a wonderfully green city, and the best way to enjoy its tropical luxuriance is by visiting its magnificent Singapore Botanic Gardens, founded in 1859 and today a UNESCO World Heritage site. The gardens spread over almost 200 acres, feature more than 10,000 varieties of plants and are particularly famed for their orchids.
Travel in Luxury
Book one of Singapore Airlines’ upgraded first-class cabins to travel to Singapore in ultimate comfort. The six “A380 Suites” feature proper beds, separate leather-upholstered swivel chairs, wardrobes, sliding doors and 32-inch touchscreen monitors. Couples may combine two Suites in order to create a double bed. Meals are served on linen-topped dining tables with Wedgwood china and Lalique glassware. As the flight from New York to Singapore is more than 21 hours, such enhancements are entirely welcome.
A casual lunch in a “hawker center” — “hawkers” being the local term for food vendors — is an experience not to be missed. Tiong Bahru Market, in a neighborhood of art deco houses and coffee shops, is a local favorite. Try dishes such as Singapore’s famous laksa soup — a spicy, savory dish garnished with noodles, bean sprouts, fish cake and egg — chwee kueh, glutinous rice cakes topped with preserved radish; and tau suan, a sweet porridge eaten with dough fritters.
To phone hotels in Singapore, dial 011 (international access) + 65 (Singapore code) + local numbers in listings.
Singapore dollar (SGD). Fluctuating rate valued at SGD1.36 = US$1.00 as of November 2019.
The climate is hot and humid year-round. May and June are the hottest months, while the November and December monsoon season has the highest rainfall.
Singapore, Tel. (65) 6476-9100.
12 hours ahead of New York (EST). (Time listed is for DST in the West. Difference is one hour more November to mid-March.)