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  • Jul 24, 2014
  • Updated: 10:53am

Little 'Lion' roars

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am

Singapore is one of the most enjoyable cities to visit in Southeast Asia. Where else can you dip into the cultures of China, India and Malaysia in one day? The tiny modern, island city-state, off the southern tip of Malaysia, gets its name from the Malay word, Singapura, meaning 'Lion City'.

It has about five million inhabitants, of whom 2.91 million were born locally. Most are of Chinese, Malay or Indian descent. Singapore has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Most people in Singapore can speak Cantonese or Mandarin, so don't worry about communication barriers; it rarely happens.

Chinatown, located within the larger district of Outram, features distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population. Walking down Pagoda, Temple and Smith Streets, you can easily find rows of Chinese-style buildings painted in vivid pastels, with shops alongside selling souvenirs and traditional Chinese handicrafts.

If you want to explore the history of Singapore's Chinatown, and see how people lived in the past, you can visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre, at 48Pagoda Street, which has original interiors of Singapore shophouse tenements from the 1950s.

If you prefer a different cultural flavour, Little India should interest you. It lies to the east of the Singapore River and, as the name suggests, is the focus of Singapore's large Indian community. The area's central streets are packed with stalls selling many Indian goods. The thing to eat in Little India is obviously Indian cuisine - such as naan (thick flatbread), Tandoori chicken and Indian fried rice. Do bear in mind that people around you may be eating the way Indians do, namely by hand. Don't worry: it's best to shed your inhibitions and fit into their culture!

One of the biggest entertainment attractions in the city must be Universal Studios Singapore, the first such theme park to open in Southeast Asia. I think it's one of the must-see tourist attractions, with a diverse range of themes based on some of the world's most famous movies and TV shows, such as Shrek, Madagascar, Jurassic Park and Kung Fu Panda. If time is limited, I recommend you first try out the following 'must-plays' - the Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle.

Revenge of the Mummy is a really fast-paced roller-coaster thrill ride in deep, dark and dangerous tunnels; be prepared to face an army of mummy warriors and huge fireballs. The Ride is hyper-realistic and allows you to experience being right in the middle of all the action in the incredible world of Transformers. These rides are a blast.

For those of you who prefer looking at scenery, Singapore Flyer - the world's largest observation wheel - is definitely the place for you. It rises 165 metres high and offers you breathtaking panoramic views over the Marina Bay area in the south of the city.

Around the Flyer, you will find a wide range of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. I suggest you visit the Flyer at night, when the view will surely amaze you.

Many people will have heard of Singapore's Orchard Road. It is a 2.2km-long street, which is the shopping and entertainment hub of the city. It is the most popular shopping area in Singapore, where you can find top American and European brands, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, and Sephora. Some people have described Orchard Road as 'the shopping paradise of Singapore'. Therefore, all the shopaholics out there should start saving up so you can splurge!

Visa

Hong Kong permanent residents and many other foreign nationals do not need a visa to visit Singapore, but anyone holding a Hong Kong Document of Identity needs a visa. The time required to get a visa ranges from one day to four weeks. It is advisable to allow plenty of time. The current fee for a visa is less than HK$200 per issue. There is no additional processing fee.

Health and safety

Healthcare in Singapore is mainly the responsibility of the Singapore government's Ministry of Health. Singapore generally has an efficient and widespread system of healthcare. Singapore was sixth in the World Health Organisation's world health system rankings in 2000.

Currency

Most restaurants and shops accept only Singapore dollars; credit cards are widely accepted. One Singapore dollar is equal to about HK$6.10.

Weather and climate

Located 137 kilometres north of the equator, Singapore has a tropical climate. It is hot and humid throughout the year, with average temperatures ranging from 23 degrees Celsius to 31 degrees Celsius.

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