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lunedì 19 settembre 2011

Splurge yourself in Singapore

Usually fo Europeans Singapore is not much more than a stop over during a journey overseas and a place where to do some shopping. Well actually, this is un understatement because it's probably the best place where to go shopping but it turns out that it can be much more than that if one takes the opportunity to explore it a little bit. The first time I went there I was travelling around Malayasia, its neighbour country, and I have some memories of that trip which basically are: some shopping , excellent food and a lot of fun. I remember some of the places which are there to see but I didn't manage to go sightseeing that much.
The time I really discovered a consistent part of what Singapore has to offer, was when I went to visit Daniela one of my dearest friends of all times who moved there a few years ago.
First of all let's start by saying that the things I remembered are still the highlights but what I discovered in my second trip is that Singapore is a place that needs to be lived not like a tourist but as a local and it can really turn out to be a little slice of heaven.
There is literally everything you want there : you just have to reach out and get it. There is art, entertainment, incredible amount of parks and nature places and a lot of variety.
The first thing that strikes you is the tidiness and the perfect functioning of every little angle and place. The second is that the people living there seem to be very serene and satisfied.The third- I have to insist on the point - is the food ! There is an incredible variety of excellent restaurants but also a great quantity of so called food courts i.e. places where there are many different stalls where you can order your food from and have a very good meal for as little as 3 €!!
What a marvellous invention. They are all over the place and there are also fancy versions of them like the excellent one in Takashimaya
Speaking of fancy there are a lot of places in Singapore but the first where to go for a drink or just a stroll when you're a foreigner in town is definitely the Raffles Hotel This is the place where apparently the famous cocktail Singapore sling was invented.
Another place I would reccomend is Going Om and the Screening Room in Chinatown where you can enjoy an amazing view of the whole city

As far as restaurants are concerned I have tried a few but the ones I appreciated the most were a seafood restaurant called No Signboard and an Indian restaurant called The Banana Leaf Apolo where meals are in fact served on a banana leaf instead of a plate
As far as sightseeing is concerned there is nothing really touristic but if you stay there for a couple of days you should definitely visit the Buddha Relic Temple

and also the Thian Hock Keng temple

Then the Asian Civilization museum is a must go
The most beautiful thing though is to walk in the streets (it's very hot and humid but still... ) and discover life at every corner : walk through Chinatown<, pass by the Fullerton hotel

into the Quays where at dusk you might be lucky enough to see a spontaneous aerobic class in the streets

Singapore is formed by three main communities (excluding the expats) which have dedicated neighborhoods. Therefore there is Chinatown
with its very nice little boutiques and restaurants that I already mentioned,
Little India

and Kampong Glam, the Malay Quarter where you can find beautiful textiles and drink delicious but extremely hot Malay tea

There are also a lot of other neighborhoods in Singapore which are worth a visit like Dempsey Hill with its chic restaurants and bars or even Sentosa if you like fun parks. this last one is an island connected to the city by a bridge and offers Singaporeans fun and leisure especially on the weekends. Not my cup of tea but ...
Also zoos are definitely my cup of tea but interestingly enough the Singapore Zoo spread on a large piece of land is quite interesting .
Finally we get to the main part of a stay in Singapore: shopping. Let's say that once you get to Orchard Road you can find almost everything you need or even that you don't need but you just want. There is so much you realize that you don't have but when brought to your attention you must have and don't know how you could do without up to that momen. I am not a big shopping person but I had a fair share of it during my stay.
Mostly the shops are within giant malls which contain thousands of them . I was particularly impressed by Sim Lim Square, where you can find each and every kind of electronics , even the ones you only dreamt could exist or simply the ones you always wanted to get but never got round to .
As far as the rest is concerned in particular clothes, shoes and cosmetics apart from Takashimaya , in Orchard Road you can also check Tanglin Mall, Paragon Shopping Center, Forum Shopping Mall and Ngee Ann City.
A very good mall out of that area is Suntec City Mall where you can also take a train to Sentosa In one of these malls apart from going crazy at some point -believe me after a few hours you feel like fainting and just want to go outside, breathe and look at the sky above you (at least me)- I discovered a place for Bikram Yoga which is now well known all over the world. Basically it consists in practising a set sequence where every position is repeated three times in a room where th temperature is 37 C°. I have been practisising yoga for many years but when I tried Bikram I basically got out in the form of a puddle of water. The point is that in order to purify and detoxicate you have to sweat your brains out. Everybody there is almost naked and around each mat there is a little lake. Good experience but as much as I like to sweat I probably will not repeat it.
Singapore is all this, but through my friend I lernt that it can also mean much more : it can be an art perfomance, a gallery opening or playing pool in a seedy bar. It can be a lot of experiences in one day or one week. Actually there is always some you probably left out and make you want to go back. For me it will be probably be see a good friend again and splurge it!