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Last updated : Nov 2009
Singapore City
Singapore City -
Singapore City was established in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company, who suggested that parts of the town be set aside for the many ethnic groups. There are still pockets where more traditionally exclusive enclaves exist, especially in Arab Street, Chinatown, Serangoon Road (the Indian community) and Padang Square with its strong colonial associations.

The most convenient way to explore the variety of the city is on foot: the traditional style buildings, customs and food of the diverse ethnic districts are in enchanting contrast to the large and impressive shopping arcades of Raffles City and Orchard Road.

Orchard Road is the ‘Fifth Avenue’ or ‘Oxford Street’ of Singapore, and with its tremendous lavish malls. Shops range from megastores to hawkers of souvenirs, including coffeehouses and restaurant outlets. The Singapore Marriott Hotel offers the corner bar which is a prime spot overlooking the fascinating city.

Arab Street is the centre of the Arabian quarter, and an ideal area for shopping. Other parts for great shopping activities include Baghdad and Bussorah Streets, whereas the Sultan Plaza is the centre for clothing sellers. Singapore’s major Muslim place of worship is the golden domes of the Sultan Mosque and nearby are 2 historic Muslim burial grounds.

Chinatown, somewhat overwhelmed by the rapid growth of the Business District, is a busy colourful area with teahouses, shops and eating outlets, as well as several temples like the Fuk Tak Ch’i in Telok Ayer Street and the Temple of the Calm Sea. Ancient arts and crafts of calligraphy, fortune-telling and papermaking are practised, and foodstuffs and traditional goods can be purchased. Singapore's very typical architecture – the shop house with a moulded front, shuttered upper floor and an arcaded front – is much in evidence.

The centre of Little India, Serangoon Road is the Indian quarter from Rochar Canal to Lavender Street. At the southern tip of Serangoon Road, visitors can find the Zhu Jiao Centre, a lively area of Little India. Some other places of interest are Farrer Park, the Sri Veeramakalimman Temple, and the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall in Race Course Lane.

A trip without visiting the Raffles Hotel would consider incomplete as the Raffles Hotel is one of the most well-known hotels in the world. A ‘Singapore Sling’ in the Long Bar is de rigueur; or drop into the WritersBar which provided inspiration for Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad.

Not far from the Rafles Hotel lies the CHIJMES complex which was reconstructed out of the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, whose Gothic shell is the basis for a series of plazas that house bars, restaurants and shops. A statue of Sir Stamford Raffles was established on the banks of the Singapore River on the part where it is believed to be his first steps into Singapore. Close by is Parliament House, the oldest government building in the city/state, which dates back from the 1820s. Boat Quay and North Boat Quay, on both banks near the Raffles statue, has become one of Singapore’s most popular bar and recreation areas, with traditional shop houses changed over to restaurants and clubs.

Clarke Quay forms a triangle defined by a bend in the Singapore River. It is an area of colonial ‘godowns’ (eastern term for warehouses) that changed over to a large number of outdoor eating places, bars, clubs, souvenir shops and mobile stalls that display the ‘Old Singapore’ tourist experience, if occasionally tacky. Riverside Walk, on the opposite riverside, the entire area is worth seeing. West of Clarke Quay lies Mohammed Sultan Road which is Singapore’s trendiest bar and club strip.

Parks & Gardens

The Botanic Gardens

Set within over 47 hectares or 116 acres of lush tropical parkland and jungle, the Botanic Gardens are located to the west of the city (Napier/Cluny roads), featuring an excellent collection of animal and plant life. Visitors have opportunities to see the National Orchid Garden which houses the largest selection in the world inside the gardens.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 5.00 am to 11.00 pm and until midnight at weekends and public holidays. Admission is free.

The Bukit Timah Reserve

Located on Bukit Timah Road in the northwestern side of the Botanic Gardens, the Bukit Timah Reserve founded in 1883, has Singapore’s last stretches of original and manicured tropical gardens. It also contains lush plantation with clearly marked trails which lead up to Bukit Timah, the highest hill in the city.

Admission is free.

Fort Canning Park

On Fort Canning Rise, the Fort Canning Park is spread out nearly 3 hectares or about 7 acres of parkland. It was an ancient fort of the Malay kings where visitors can still see the colonial ruins of the British citadel, as well as a 19th-century Christian cemetery. The Battle Box inside the park is the command bunker of the World War II defence of Singapore, a museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, with a small admission fee.

The Mandai Orchid Garden

The Mandai Orchid Garden is the commercial orchid farm, with a hillside of unusual and interesting orchid species and an amazing water garden.

Opening hours: 9.00 am to 5.30 pm daily. An admission fee is charged.

The Kranji War Cemetery and Memorial

The Kranji War Cemetery and Memorial is located northwest of the Mandai Orchid Garden, commemorating all those who fell in the catastrophic campaigns in the defence of Singapore during World War II. The cemetery and grounds are open every day. Visitors are not permitted to put flowers on the graves.

The Singapore Zoological Gardens

Towards the north, the Singapore Zoological Gardens is a largely open zoo, using natural barriers rather than bars. There are more than 170 animals, which include many rare or endangered species, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Komodo dragons and clouded leopards. Attractions include ‘wild breakfast’ or ‘afternoon tea’ and ‘Animal Showtime’.

One much publicised attraction is the Night Safari; a combination walking and tram tour of predominantly nocturnal species.

Opening hours: 8.30 am to 6.00 pm daily, and 7.30 pm to 12 midnight daily for the Night Safari.

Other Attractions

Hindu and Buddhist temples
, mosques, Catholic and Anglican cathedrals are all believed to be encountered during a relatively brief walk around some of the central parts of the city.

A few of these include: St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the Al-Abrar Mosque, the florid Kong Meng Sang Phor Kark See Temple Complex, the Chettiar Hindu Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple.

Some other places of interest are the Singapore Art Museum, the National Museum & Art Gallery; the Asian Civilisation Museum; Merlion Park; the Thong Chai Medical Institution; the Singapore Mint Coin Gallery; the Singapore Crocodile House (feeding time is at 11.00 am, crocodile wrestling is at 1.15 pm and 4.15 pm); and the Fort Cannings Aquarium in River Valley Road, with more than 6,000 species of freshwater and marine animals. And not to be missed is Singapore’s performing arts centre.
Useful travel Links
Kranji War Cemetery about Kranji War Cemetery
Singapore Zoological Gardens about Singapore’s Zoological Gardens