This is the fourth of a series of entries on gateways to Asia – you know, the kind of places you’ll spend a couple of days in before moving on to that tropical paradise.
So here it’s Singapore: rich, thriving, supposedly puritanical.
Convenient for: Pretty much everywhere in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia (peninsula and Borneo), even the Phils. Even Thailand, if you find a cheap ticket and want to get to know SGP.
Strong: first-class airport where layovers and waiting times are not a problem. Cheap and convenient transportation. Visually stunning. Clean and green, which makes for a great break after some grittier destinations. Food is also cheap and good, especially in hawkers markets and little India and ( I hear) Geylang. The museums are also reported to be first class -and a cool day learning things in a museum when it’s unbearably hot outside is not to be disdained. I’ve made a point of visiting the National Museum next time. Last but not least, there are lots of opportunities to meet interesting expats and locals through Couchsurfing.
Not so strong: Accommodation and alcohol are very expensive. It felt bland after other destinations in the region. Clark quay looks like pastic, methought, and the area around the cable car in Harbour Front, where I met a couchsurfer, looked like a theme park.
Where to stay: Tough call. I don’t think I know the city enough to say something meaningful on this. I found Chinatown to be OK, well connected by metro and with good dining options. For more budget options, Geylang seems to be good, too.
Top tips: eat in hawkers centres, enjoy the parks, which are few and far between in other SE metropolis.
Moments: Arriving to Changi airport after the stopover in Jeddah. Food pretty much everywhere. Meeting a bunch of Couchsurfers (some of them Spanish!) during a meetup in Boat Quai. Relaxing in the parks: Gardens by the Bay and Fort Canning.
Overall: Great for travel with kids, or as a comfortable introduction to the region.