With its dizzying heights, dazzling malls, food courts and metro, Singapore woos the Indian tourist
Snazzy malls offering fabulous discounts, mouth-watering seafood delicacies at food courts, towering high-rises and a fantastic mass rapid transport (MRT) system that will make you never want to ride on a Mumbai local again – there’s no place like Singapore in South East Asia that’s worth the Indian traveller’s money.
At home, miles away
Most Indian travellers look at Singapore as their first international travel destination. For one, applying for the visa is easy (it takes just three days and the process is online). Two, you don’t really feel away from home once you’re there. Singapore has a large Indian population. Tamil is one of the official languages. And Little India could make you feel like you’re in Mumbai (though it’s a little cleaner!) Besides, it’s one of the countries where you can change Indian rupees into local currency easily. It’s easy for a first-time Indian traveller to relate to Singapore
Where to stay
The options range from Swissotel – The Stamford (South East Asia’s tallest hotel that costs $263 upwards for a room per night) to S$90-a-night at YMCA hostel at the posh Orchard Road. Ideally, book a place close to a metro station to make travel easy
Shop, till you drop
Singapore is for shoppers. Step into the Changi International Airport and you’ll find stores selling everything from Scotch whiskey to Burberry bags to Nikon cameras. You can finish the trip’s shopping in an hour at the airport but keep some for the city’s malls too. Check out the high-end leather goods and apparels at Tikashimaya and electronics at Sim Lim Square. For cheaper options try Chinatown where you’ll find an array of chopsticks, Chinese mementoes, statues, porcelain and silk pouches (you need to bargain really hard here) and Mustafa’s at Little India for ‘everything else’.
Orchids in a cage!
Fancy posing for pictures with hairy primates and dolphins? Head to the Singapore Zoo. But if you want peace and greenery both, check out the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The idea of setting up a garden came about in 1822 when Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, developed the first Botanical and Experimental Garden. What you have here is the Swan Lake with two fidgety swans, a rainforest devoid of insects thanks to pest-control, a ginger and insect-digesting pitcher plants in the cool-house. Entry to the gardens is free but you have to shell out S$5 to see the orchids in cages!
What’s on your plate?
Have the stomach for authentic Chinese food? Well, you have a range of options from pig organ soup, frog leg soup to fish head soup. For those who’re less adventurous, the Chilli Crab is the best option. Eating the crab is an experience in itself. Have it in true Singaporean style – rip it apart from the joints, work on it with your incisors and molars and pile the remnants on the table itself. Also try out tiger prawns rolled in cereal (Cereal prawns).
Vegetarian options on the Chinese menu may be limited to seaweed and stir-fry vegetables. But there are fantastic options for desi food at Little India where you can get everything from biryani to dosa. There’s also the Mango Tree at East Coast Road where you get lip-smacking avial, mango mapus and appams. Also try out the local fruits – rambutans (Singaporean litchis) and Durians (a much-relished smelly, fleshy fruit.)
No history, no culture
While the joyrides at Sentosa Island, Chinese operas at The Durian and S$11-a-dress sales at Vivo City are tourist attractions, where Singapore lacks is its history. There’s the National Museum at Orchard Road where you can learn about the struggle for an independent Singapore and there is the St Andrews Church and the Town Hall near the Esplanade that were constructed by the British. But that’s about it.
Singapore is more about commerce than culture, technology than humanity. The 60 km x 40 km island offers you limited freedom but limitless possibilities of attaining wealth, with which you can buy yourself the freedom to migrate to USA or Canada like rich Singaporeans. That’s the choice the locals have. As for tourists, they should be happy shopping!
What you should know…
1. Bottled water is expensive in Singapore (about S$2.80 for 500 ml) so ask for potable tap water at restaurants.
2. MRT buses and trains are the cheapest modes of transport. You get prepaid Ezy-Link swipe cards at metro stations.
3.Chewing gum is banned in Singapore and if you’re caught carrying drugs, the penalty’s death. Smoking in public is also not allowed.
4. Don’t J-walk at signals as plain clothes- policemen are always on the watch. The fine? S$100
By Eisha Sarkar