So your ship's leaving from Singapore and you've got a day or two to kill before hopping on board? Well, here's some advice about what to do and where to go.
1. Head to People's Park Complex on Eu Tong Sen road in Chinatown, the first high-rise-style shopping center in Southeast Asia and a place dripping with local flavor where you can get $10 foot reflexology treatments and cheap souvenirs. Next door is the Yue Hwa department store where you can get authentic Chinese cheongsam-style shirts and dresses.
2. Reconsider the ship's ho-hum highlights bus tour and hook up with Geraldene Lowe (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Diana Chua (email@example.com) for a much meatier walking tour. Both have been guiding tours for years and offer visitors a chance to see the real Singapore, whether its exploring Chinese medicine, temples, architecture, ethnic neighborhoods like Little India or Arab Street, or the island's famous black and white bungalows, rustic vestiges of the old British colonial days from a century or so ago. Set up a private tour (S$100 an hour per group) or join a group she already has formed ($35 to S$50 per person per tour).
3. For great views of the whole island (if you're brave enough to keep your eyes open), take a ride on the Singapore Flyer when it opens in Marina Bay in March 2008. It's billed as the tallest Ferris wheel in the world at 540 feet (the height of a 42-story building -- yikes!).
4. Yes, the Singapore Zoo really is as great as they say. Some 3,000 animals roam mostly in open-style areas that afford you the closet thing to a real safari as you can get. See giraffes, Asian elephants, kangaroos and lions and more in a very natural-style setting.
5. It's a good sign when the locals flock there. The best soup dumplings can be had at the very affordable Din Tai Fung in the basement of the Paragon mall. Can't say you saw Singapore until you set foot in a hawker center, either. To sample everything from chicken rice, the national dish, to chili crab, popiah spring rolls, and laksa, a spicy Malay coconut milk and seafood soup, head for Makansutra Gluttons Bay hawker center, on the Esplanade mall, just steps from the giant Merlion statue.
6. Have high tea in the Bar & Billiard Room of The Raffles Hotel on Beach Road. Feel the British colonial vibe in this 19th century icon.
7. For nightlife, hit Clarke Quay, a riverside band of bustling al fresco restaurants and bars (including, egad, a Hooters) and also home to one of the country's top nightclubs, Ministry of Sound (MOS).
8. The Asian Civilizations Museum, on Empress Place, is a great way to spend a few hours pouring over exhibits about Singapore's cultural history and ethnic groups.
9. Thian Hock Keng temple on Telok Ayer Street is the oldest Chinese temple in the country. Check out the shrines and deities, and don't forget to look up at the gilded carvings on the temple's ceiling that depict stories in Chinese folklore.
10. The Orchid Garden in the Botanic Garden is worth its weight in sweaty shorts; it's a steamy walk, but the blooms are super impressive. So's the Children's Garden nearby, where a hedgerow maze, tree house, sprinklers and other fun diversions await.
Who's Going There
Costa Cruises (tel. 800/462-6782; www.costacruises.com)
Costa Allegra. 14-night sailings from Hong Kong include calls to Manila, Malaysian Borneo, Brunei, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, and Sanya (China) in May, June, November and December (rest of year, clientele and experience is predominantly Chinese)
Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; www.crystalcruises.com) Crystal Symphony & Serenity. 11- to 16- nights between Hong Kong and Singapore, calling on ports in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and India.
Cunard (tel. 800/5-CUNARD; www.cunard.com) Queen Victoria. 99-night world cruise, departing Jan 2008, from New York to Southampton, includes a 47-night Los Angeles to Singapore segment
Holland America, (tel. 877-724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) Amsterdam: In Feb and March 2008, 27-night grand world voyage segment from Sydney to Singapore; 22 nights Singapore to Istanbul.
Oceania Cruises (tel. 800/531-5658; www.oceaniacruises.com) Nautica: 18-night Asia cruises in Dec 2007, Singapore to Sydney.
Regent Seven Seas (tel. 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com) Seven Seas Mariner: 13- to 15-night Asia cruises in Oct & Nov 2007 from Laem Chabang/Bangkok to Singapore and Singapore to Sydney.
Royal Caribbean (tel. 866/562-7625; www.royalcaribbean.com) Rhapsody of the Seas. 2- to 12-nighters from Singapore Dec 2007 and Jan 2008, calling on ports in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Seabourn Cruise Line (tel. 800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com) Seabourn Spirit. 14- to 18-night Thailand/Vietnam/China cruises Nov 2007 through April 2008, between Singapore and Hong Kong and roundtrip Singapore.
Silversea Cruises (tel. 800/722-9955; www.silversea.com) Silver Whisper. 13 Asia cruises offered in 2008, including 9-night voyages to Vietnam between Singapore and Hong Kong
Star Clippers (tel. 800/442-0551; www.starclippers.com) Star Clipper: 7-nights roundtrip out of Phuket Nov through March, and also between Singapore and Phuket calling on Thailand and Malaysia
Star Cruises (www.starcruises.com) Star Virgo: 2-, 3-, 5- and 7-night cruises year-round mostly roundtrip out of Singapore to Malaysia (Penang, Langkawi, Redang, Malacca, Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur and/or Tioman Island); Thailand (Phuket, Krabi, Ko Sumai and/or, Laem Chabang/Bangkok); and/or Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and/or Da Nang).
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