It’s a phenomenon (and a common one in Singapore) that tourists know more about Singapore than we locals do. I’ve once had an exchange student lead me to a Magic shop tucked away in an old nondescript building. Most Singaporeans say Singapore’s a really boring country, and sometimes foreigners do agree with them too. Singapore and Hong Kong, they say, are prosperous but boring Asian countries. Is this true?
The Singaporean government hopes not. It’s been trying to turn Singapore into a vibrant city, with a vibrant nightlife, as a vibrant arts hub, etcetera. How successful is this though? If you were showing a tourist around, or even just venturing around this island on your own (whether as a local or a tourist), what are the attractions our nation has to offer?
I think all the talk about Singapore being this and that don’t appeal to locals as much as food does. Singaporeans love food; it can be said that it’s their hugest interest. Singapore does boast many unique cuisines. While Singapore and Malaysia have been arguing over the origins of many of our shared dishes, the way they taste does differ considerably when in Singapore and Malaysia. The dishes that Singapore is proudest of are as follows:
Chicken rice (even though it says Hainanese chicken rice, make no mistake, this tastes very different from the chicken rice on Hainan Island in China)
Bak kut teh (pork bones in soup with lots of ginger so it tastes spicy and invigorating)
Laksa (spicy noodles in soup, usually with coconut milk in it)
Roti john (minced meat, eggs and other ingredients filled into a baguette loaf and then fried; this dish apparently originated in Singapore)
Most of these dishes are hawker fare, and you rarely find them in high-end distinguished restaurants. When it comes to restaurants, Singapore does offer food from many parts of the world. You can see Western, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese and Korean restaurants almost everywhere.
2. Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa
I put both of them together because they can be quite similar, and at around the same region too. Marina Bay Sands houses 1 of Singapore’s Integrated Resort casinos, and Sentosa houses the other. I don’t know what’s the difference between them. Marina Bay Sands also has many new attractions for the wealthy, after a hard day’s work at the gambling den. There’s a hotel, shopping centre, theatres and “celebrity chef” restaurants, all of which are for classy people. There’s also an ArtScience Museum, which is shaped like a lotus and has exhibitions depicting the fusion of science and art. The current exhibition in there, for instance, is known as The Art of the Brick, which showcase structures made from Lego bricks by artist Nathan Sawaya. It lasts up to 26th May.
Aside from that, there’s also a SkyPark, which is essentially a ship structure situated at the rooftop of the resort, where people can see the night view from a really high vantage point. The SkyPark has an infinity swimming pool, which is 150 metres long. You can be sure that I’m drooling just at the thought of all these luxuries.
As for Sentosa, on the other hand, it’s essentially a paradise island for tourists in a family. Daddy can go gamble while Mummy tours the Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon, or the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom. The family can enjoy a warm day at any one of the 3 beaches (Palawan Beach tends to be the most popular). They can learn about Singapore’s wartime history from Fort Siloso, one of the major spots during World War II. Best of all, the children will love the Universal Studios Singapore, the most popular amusement park in Singapore to date. It’s got that scary Battlestar Galactica ride which spins you all over, and also that 4-D simulated ride of Shrek, where you really get water spraying at you!
All tourists have to set aside at least 1 full day to have fun on Sentosa. I admit, I’m advertising this because I’m quite impressed by it. Of course, in a local’s perspective, everything’s costly and there’s really not that much fun if you’ve been there too many times, but I think it’s something we can be proud to show a first-timer.
Singapore can be quite a happening place when it comes to global events. We don’t produce much in the way of performances to export, but we make sure to import whatever’s good worldwide, and we do it fast. Our movies tend to be quite up-to-date (slightly faster than in Malaysia, for example) and Anime Fest Asia did begin in Singapore to roaring success before branching out now to Malaysia and Indonesia. When it comes to anime, I daresay Singapore’s third in line when it comes to supportive countries in Asia, behind Japan and Taiwan of course. And I won’t count America because they involve themselves with everything, I guess.
So when you want to see Japanese music gigs, Singapore is definitely a place not to miss out. After all, there’re bands like Weaver and Sphere whose first foray overseas is to Singapore!
But the main reason I mentioned performances is because of the Esplanade. I’m not sure why people like it but it’s supposedly state-of-the-art, with its durian architecture and high-profile acts held there. It is also a very beautiful and stately place so it’s worth a visit. Currently it has a programme known as The Studios 2013, featuring re-stagings of past local works and collections, I believe. It’s on from 11th April to 27th July, and there’re acts in a few languages held a few days each during this period. Singapore’s arts scene is still small, but it is growing and maturing, and the government’s offering some funding support too, so the acts are sometimes of good quality.
Golly, I’m feeling psyched about my homeland now after writing all these. Maybe someday I shall personally take a tour of my own country!