Pint-sized Singapore is a mosaic of contrasting cultures. It's easy to be dazzled by Orchard Road's wall-to-wall malls, but you can take a breather at Chinatown's immense Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Hindu shrines draped with marigold garlands. The city's mix of traditional, colonial and futuristic is best seen at the mouth of the Singapore River, where the spiky domed Esplanade theatre is steps away from the neo-Palladian Asian Civilizations Museum, home to Islamic calligraphy and Vietnamese sculptures.
Things to Do
Singaporeans start the day with tai chi in the fragrant Botanic Gardens amid towering rainforest trees. Step back to Singapore's colonial days at the Corinthian-columned Supreme Court, near cricket matches on the Padang's grassy expanse. Juxtaposed with the babble of street markets and malls, the city's spiritual side surfaces in Chinatown, where incense plumes fill the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple with its immense, ornate gopuram (tower gateway). All-day, outdoor recreation is popular on Sentosa Island.
Orchard Road is crammed with gleaming malls selling the latest laptops, digital cameras and designer fashion. Pick up some Gucci and Cartier at the Takashimaya department store. Browse Buddha heads and Burmese teak furniture at antique stores around lush Dempsey Hill, once a British army barracks. Style mavens love tiny Haji Lane, tucked away in the Arab Quarter, for tailored dress shirts and psychedelic cushion covers.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Strobe-lit Zouk club is the throbbing center of Singapore's nightlife, home to top techno DJs and slinky dance floor moves. On Emerald Hill near Orchard Road, colorful wooden-shuttered Peranakan shophouses have been converted into relaxed bars with bijou terraces -- ideal for a cold beer. At Chinatown Night Market, red lanterns light up Pagoda and Sago streets, their stalls crammed with Chinese calligraphy and glamorous cheongsam dresses.
Restaurants and Dining
Apartments are small so eating out is essential for Singaporeans. The dining scene boasts a staggering range of cuisines. Squeeze up at a table with office workers on their lunch break at noisy Lau Pa Sat hawker center, where myriad stalls serve up dishes like Hainanese chicken rice and fried carrot cake. On the weekends, seaside East Coast Parkway is filled with families dining on chili crab, and in Little India, vegetarian restaurants serve coconut curries on banana leaves or tin plates.