9 reasons

 

 

You may end up there anyway: Singapore is a major, major hub for flights – particularly those going to Australia, New Zealand and smaller South-East Asian destinations that don’t have direct flights from the UK. And while you could just sit in the airport waiting for a transfer, you may as well stay for a couple of days and have a look around.

It’s Asia without the stress: Big Asian cities tend to be horribly stressful, choked with traffic and brutally unfriendly towards pedestrians. Singapore is a welcome exception to this rule. For all the moaning about it being bland, overly organised and ruthlessly efficient, efficiency and organisation do have their merits for travellers. Singapore is unlikely to send you into a nervous breakdown; no wonder it’s often called Asia for beginners.

It’s South-East Asia with attractions: Whisper it, but a lot of South-East Asian cities don’t have much to keep you occupied. Unless you want to trudge round temple after temple, that is. Singapore doesn’t fall into that trap – it has loads to see and do, and the quality of the museums and other attractions is almost universally high. It may not have the personality of Bangkok or Phnom Penh, but Singapore suits the traveller who wants to do stuff rather than hang around.

Singapore Zoo: Yes, it’s a zoo, but it’s bloody excellent zoo – almost certainly the best in the world. It’s huge, crammed with activity and meet-the-animal options. It’s also as good as you can get in terms of looking after the creatures. All of them get large, naturalistic enclosures that are designed to be as close to their natural environment as possible. More to the point, moats are used instead of cages to keep the animals away from tourists. This makes for great viewing.

Marina Bay Sands: This ‘integrated resort’ (read: casino with hotel tagged on) is one of the most astonishing buildings in the world. It looks like a surfboard lying across the top of three giant glass towers, and strides above the skyline like a strutting peacock. It looks ace, and the pool on top is pretty damned special.

The Singapore Flyer: A big wheel bigger than the London Eye? Nice gimmick. And, providing the weather is up to it, a ride gives sensational views of the city-state.

Chinatown: Everywhere seems to have a Chinatown, and most aren’t as exciting as they’re billed to be. Singapore is slightly different – the usual shops and markets are there, but there’s a real attempt to put it in a historical context. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is superb, tracing the story of Chinese migration to Singapore and the dark depths of gambling, vice and opium that many succumbed to.

Sentosa Island: The other ‘integrated resort’ offers far more to do. It’s brimming with attractions, such as an aquarium, a butterfly park, 3D rides and vomit-inducing flying trapezes. It’s not classy, and it’s not got even the faintest ring of authenticity to it, but it’s great fun. At the western tip of the island is Fort Siloso, an old colonial fort which has been turned into something of a museum explaining Singapore’s role in World War II. Some of the stories inside are fascinating.

The Changi Prison Museum and Chapel: For truly heartbreaking World War II stories, though, head to the Changi Prison Museum. Changi was where the Allied prisoners of war were kept and brutally treated by the Japanese. The museum covers the story of the Japanese invasion – and how hopelessly arrogant the British were in preparing for it – and is full of often grim, often inspiring tales from the POWs who were kept under the Japanese yoke. The Battle Box and cemetery at the Kranji War Memorial are also worth visiting if the World War II story fascinates you.


You can get Singapore included as a stopover on your RTW here