Twenty reasons to visit Singapore
1 Gardens by the Bay
A Flower Dome, Supertrees and Dragonfly Lake ... no, it's not the set of Ridley Scott's next film but rather Singapore's freshly minted Gardens by the Bay. Costing about $775 million and spanning 101 hectares, the gardens are a showcase for horticultural artistry. Living plants - all 700,000 of them - aside, the waterfront park features man-made trees stretching 50 metres into the sky with steel trunks and illuminated wire rods for branches. Nightly sound and light shows add to the drama. 18 Marina Gardens Drive, +65 6420 6848, gardensbythebay.com.sg.
2 In the hood
Born out of a plan to segregate new immigrants in the 19th century, the city's ethnic neighbourhoods offer a colourful cultural experience. Little India is an endless parade of hole-in-the-wall spice shops and restaurants - it's also one of the few places in town where you can get a haircut for a couple of dollars. While parts of Chinatown are still rough around the edges, many of the vivid shophouses - some heritage-listed - have been reinvented as hip boutiques, bars and small hotels. And then there's the fabulously named Kampong Glam, with strong ties to the ethnic Malay and Muslim community. Don't miss the Istana Kampong Glam (Malay heritage centre).
3 That pool
Marina Bay Sands - one of Singapore's two integrated resorts - has changed the city's skyline dramatically since it opened, its towers topped with one of the most gravity-defying architectural edifices in the world: the 57th-floor Sands SkyPark. Here, 200 metres above the ground, hotel guests lounge by a 150-metre-long infinity pool on a platform large enough to accommodate 4½ A380 airliners. If you're not checked in to one of Marina Bay's rooms, you can still enjoy a bird's-eye view of the city from the observation deck, open to the public for a fee.
4 Celebrity chef chow-down
Yorkshire-born Jason Atherton - a protege of Gordon Ramsay - is the latest high-profile culinary star to touch down in Singapore. His new restaurant, Pollen, is set in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay (pollen.com.sg). Others already creating foams and flambes around the city include Sydneysider Tetsuya Wakuda, Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali and Joel Robuchon. Phew! Plus, pukka English chef Jamie Oliver is on his way as well, launching his Italian restaurant chain here this year.
5 Luxe lodgings
There's no shortage of design audacity in Singapore - the gargantuan Marina Bay Sands complex broke dozens of architectural records when it opened in 2010. The trio of shimmering towers is home to an astonishing 2560 rooms and suites along with a Banyan Tree spa and boutiques including Jimmy Choo and Tiffany & Co. 10 Bayfront Avenue, +65 6688 8868, marinabaysands.com.
The city-state's newest hotel, W Singapore - Sentosa Cove, pushes the design boundaries with pimped-up furnishings such as a DJ booth and jacuzzi in the Extreme Wow Suite. 21 Ocean Way, +65 6808 7288, starwoodhotels.com.
Still on Sentosa Island, the freshly minted Tree Top Lofts offers just two accommodations, Angsana and Tembusu, perched 12 metres above the ground and with wraparound balconies overlooking the island and Mount Faber. firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 Get arty
Singapore's newest art hub may occupy historic buildings but the Gillman Barracks galleries are as modern as they come. Once used to house a British military battalion, the 1930s buildings have been transformed into a shrine for contemporary art. Among the 13 galleries is Future Perfect, with works from an international roster of up-and-coming talent, and an outpost of the Shangh Art Gallery, one of the key players in the development of China's modern art movement. Opening soon is the Centre for Contemporary Arts, which will focus on artist residencies, research and conferences. 9 Lock Road, gillmanbarracks.com.
7 Sky-high cocktails
Singapore only knows one season - hot. Forget airconditioned malls and instead cool down at the many, and mostly marvellous, rooftop bars. On level six of the Fullerton Bay Hotel, Lantern's wicker chairs and oversize candles set the scene for a dramatic laser show at Marina Bay Sands. 80 Collyer Quay, +65 6222 8088, fullertonbayhotel.com. Topping the MBS hotel is Ku De Ta, where the beautiful people enjoy killer views and equally good cocktails. +65 6688 7688, kudeta.com.sg. Loftier still is 1-Altitude, the highest open-rooftop bar in the world, where live music is paired with dazzling vistas from a perch on level 63 of 1 Raffles Place. +65 6438 0410, 1-altitude.com.
8 Boutique beds
From mirrors on the ceiling to pink-satin duvets, Singapore's boutique hotels offer whimsy and comfort in equal measure. In Chinatown, the New Majestic features 30 individual rooms including five themed suites, one with the aforementioned mirrors. 31 Bukit Pasoh Road, +65 6511 4718, newmajestichotel.com. Nearby, the Scarlet Hotel occupies a row of shophouses decked out with chandeliers, gilded furniture and lashings of velvet. 33 Erskine Road, +65 6511 3333, thescarlethotel.com. Other standouts include The Club - 28 Ann Siang Road, +65 6808 2188, theclub.com.sg - designed almost entirely in black and white, and Wanderlust, where the rooms range from colourful capsule-like spaces to edgy suites decorated with pop art. 2 Dickson Road, +65 6396 3322, wanderlusthotel.com.
9 Sentosa redux
After recently celebrating 40 years as Singapore's leisure isle, Sentosa is reinventing itself, thanks in part to Resorts World, now home to six hotels, a casino, dozens of restaurants and shops, among other diversions. 8 Sentosa Gateway, +65 6577 9900, rwsentosa.com.
Still, in an achingly hot place such as Singapore, you won't want to stray far from water. With this in mind, lay down a towel on one of Sentosa's three beaches: Palawan, home to the new Port of Lost Wonder, a pirate-themed water playground, polw.com.sg; Siloso, favoured by sporty types for its volleyball nets; and Tanjong, home to the oh-so-cool Tanjong Beach Club. 120 Tanjong Beach Walk, +65 6270 1355, tanjongbeachclub.com.
And forget taxis - the best way to explore the island is on a Segway, with new Gogreen after Dark tours offered on the two-wheel transporters. +65 9825 4066, segway-sentosa.com.
10 Under the sea
The last addition to Resorts World Sentosa's entertainment offering is the Marine Life Park, the largest oceanarium in the world. It's home to more than 100,000 aquatic residents, including bottlenose dolphins, jellyfish, rays and non-endangered sharks. The park's SEA Aquarium lets you get up close and personal with the marine animals through the world's largest window to the ocean, while those looking to cool off will find respite at Adventure Cove Waterpark with water slides, wave pools and a coral reef for snorkelling.
11 Weird science
Designed to resemble a white lotus, the ArtScience Museum offers a striking architectural contrast to the glass towers that soar above it at Marina Bay Sands. The 6000-square-metre space houses a vast array of galleries, each unique in its layout and concept. One space, for example, encourages visitors to explore the history of art and science; others host exhibitions by leading creative types including New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya, whose show The Art of the Brick (until April 14) unites 52 Lego sculptures. Bayfront Avenue, marinabaysands.com.
12 Bliss out
You could lose yourself for days at the newly opened ESPA at Resorts World Sentosa, home to 28 treatment rooms, suites and villas set over 10,000 square metres of gardens, with pools and ponds and Japanese onsen-style baths. There's a suite for yoga, pilates and meditation, ice fountains, multi-sensory showers, rock saunas and crystal steam rooms plus Singapore's most lavish hammam (Turkish bath). Book the Indulgence Hammam Ritual and you'll be treated to a body cleanse and scrub, foam massage, marine body mask and hair treatment. +65 6577 8899, rwsentosa.com.
13 Time for Andre
Young chef Andre Chiang is a master when it comes to culinary theatrics, and he wows diners at his eponymous establishment in the Bukit Pasoh district of Chinatown. Meals are degustations of eight concept courses - a dining style Chiang dubs "octaphilosophy", with dishes highlighting food characteristics: pure, salt, artisan, texture, terroir. Regardless of whether you're eating a scallop carpaccio (one of the "pure" dishes) or foie gras jelly (a "memory" dish conceptualised by Chiang in France), you can be sure it will look as good as it tastes. 41 Bukit Pasoh Road, +65 6534 8880, restaurantandre.com.
14 Retail therapy
Singapore offers shoppers plenty of opportunities to spend their money, from the upscale boutiques in Marina Bay Sands to the intimate shops of Haji Lane and the malls and markets that line Orchard Road. One of the newest kids on the shopping block is ION Orchard, about 400 retail outlets sprawling over numerous levels and underground passages. Still, the mall is not all about consumerism - it's also home to an art gallery and an observation deck, ION Sky, set 218 metres above the ground. Serious shoppers will want to time their visit to coincide with the Great Singapore Sale (May 31 to July 28), which features two months of discounts and bargains. 2 Orchard Turn, +65 6238 8228, ionorchard.com.
15 A new beat
Singapore punches well above its weight when it comes to world-class clubs. And party people have two new spaces in which to bump and grind with the recent opening of venues Avalon and Pangaea Nights, set side by side in a glass pavilion on Singapore Bay and with illustrious older sister clubs (Pangaea in London, New York and Miami; Avalon in Hollywood). Look forward to bottles of top-shelf spirits, international DJs and celebrities galore. 2 Bayfront Avenue; Pangaea +65 6597 8325, pangaea.sg. Avalon +65 8168 4439, avalon.sg.
16 Come fly with me
Those looking for a high-octane adventure will want to make a beeline for iFly, the world's largest indoor skydiving simulator and home of the World Skydiving Championships in December. There's no jumping, no plunging, no bad weather and no aeroplane. Instead, you tumble, turn and glide in an 18-metre-high wind tunnel, which comes with a glass wall so that when you're airborne you'll feel like you're drifting over the South China Sea. 43 Siloso Beach Walk, +65 6571 0000, iflysingapore.com.
17 Universal appeal
The Universal Studios theme park is the first of its kind in south-east Asia. Although it's petite by international standards, the park draws crowds with its headlining attractions: Battlestar Galactica, the world's tallest pair of duelling roller coasters, and the 3D Transformers The Ride. Young visitors can look forward to the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase ride, opening soon alongside live Sesame Street shows.
18 Step up your stopover
Singapore's Changi Airport is an attraction in its own right. Among other draws, the terminals are home to interactive art and science spaces, the world's highest indoor slide, five gardens including one dedicated to butterflies, a 4D cinema and an Entertainment Deck with Xbox 360 and PlayStation terminals. With so much to keep you on your feet, the complimentary massage chairs and rooftop pool provide welcome relief. If you do manage to tick off every attraction and have a layover of more than five hours, book a free two-hour city tour. changiairport.com.
19 Cheap eats
From savoury carrot cake to Hainan chicken rice and knock-your-socks-off curries, Singapore's hawker centres are cheap, cheerful and unforgettable. A melting pot of ethnic diversity, the many centres - Maxwell Road, Newton and Lau Pa Sat are reliably good - are always buzzing with locals swarming around stalls selling steaming bowls of noodles and ocean-fresh seafood. Fans chug overhead, plastic plates clatter, Tiger beer bottles clink and fizz - now that's fine dining.
20 The need for speed
Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are among the big-name drivers in town every year for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix (September 20-22). Even if you're not into fast cars, it's hard to resist the allure of this race in Singapore, one of two cities to host the event at night. When tyres aren't screeching around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, international musicians and fireworks displays entertain crowds. The best bit? The circuit weaves past many of the city-state's top hotels. Book early to ensure a room with a view. +65 6738 6738, singaporegp.sg.
Sydney Morning Herald