Singapore’s story is a fascinating one. Once a refuge for fishermen and pirates, the tiny island was colonised by the British in the 17th century, before Japanese occupation during World War II. The aftermath of the war saw the country face staggering economic issues and major social unrest until, in 1959, the island became a self-governing state within the British Empire.
Achieving sovereignty in 1965, there was doubt that a small country with so few natural resources could survive on its own. Its success against all the odds as it deftly managed its way through domestic turmoil, regional strife and international politics saw the country emerge on the world stage as the major commercial hub, financial centre and global player it is today.
To celebrate, Singapore is throwing a party that will last all year long. Red and white flags are already fluttering from buildings, houses and even cars as the tiny country gears up to mark 50 years of independence in glitzy Singaporean style.
A National Day Parade will be hosted at the Padang, the site of many significant moments in Singapore’s history, including its declaration of independence. Celebrated in the spirit of Singapore’s golden jubilee, the parade will be a spectacle of military parades, performances and fireworks set against cityscape. Other jubilee highlights include a 10-day long arts festival to coincide with the opening of the National Gallery Singapore and the launch of the Jubilee Walk, a walking trail that will lead visitors to historic locations in the civic district and the Marina Bay area.
Clean, extremely green and very safe, Singapore has long been a favourite destination of Australians, its East meets West vibe drawing us in by the plane load. Expansive parks, iconic architecture and popular attractions including its world famous zoo, Universal Studios Singapore theme park and modern eco-attractions like the dazzling Gardens By The Bay are all major drawcards. As is its shopping, with fans of boutique buys salivating over the stores in the hip shopping enclaves of Haji Lane and Tiong Bahru and label lovers spending up a storm in its designer malls.
Singapore is synonymous not only with sightseeing and shopping but with an incredible culinary culture. From world-class dining to hawker stalls, Singapore is an unbeatable destination for gastronomes.
Australians looking for a luxe culinary experience can’t go past the intimate and exclusive Waku Ghin in the Marina Bay Sands casino. At Tetsuya Wakuda’s Singapore restaurant, your own private chef will make 10-courses of culinary magic – including Waku Ghin’s sensational signature dish of marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and oscietra caviar – materialise before your eyes.
Take a visit to Little India, one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts, but be sure to bring an appetite. Between the sari shops, Hindu temples, mosques and churches you’ll find dozens of incredible curry houses. From South Indian vegetarian food and North Indian tandoori dishes to local fare like roti prata there’s no better way to explore it than by eating your way through. If you can’t make a choice head to the Raffles Hotel’s legendary Tiffin Room for an incredible all you can-eat curry extravaganza.
Whether you fancy melt-in-the mouth Hainanese chicken rice, steaming bowls of laksa and nasi lemak, Singapore’s famous chilli crab, or incredible desserts like the coconut infused ice perfection that is chendol, head to one of the city’s Hawker Markets where for a few dollars you can eat like a king.
For something a little more out of the ordinary, why not indulge in the Singapore Flyer’s Sky Dining experience, where from the comfort of a spacious capsule atop Asia’s largest observation wheel, you can enjoy a four-course meal complete with full butler service.
If you’re after a nightcap with a modern vibe and spectacular views of Singapore’s CBD skyline and Marina Bay, try rooftop bar Ku Dé Ta Club Lounge. And be sure to make time for a Singapore Sling at The Raffles Long Bar, particularly as the city’s legendary 100-year-old cocktail is also celebrating its anniversary this year.
Singapore is also home to some of Asia’s hottest hotels. The city’s most legendary lodgings would have to be the Raffles Singapore, who’s splendidly moustachioed doormen are ready to welcome guests in to a sanctuary that seamlessly combines modern luxury and old-world gravitas. If you prefer a modern vibe, the space-age stylings of Marina Bay Sands may be more to your taste. With its three gleaming hotel towers topped by an extraordinary sky park and infinity pool, taking a little time out to lounge on its rooftop pool deck is a must. One of the coolest new kids on the block is Sofitel So. Located in a restored heritage building just minutes away from city landmarks and the culinary wonders of Lau Pa Sat and Chinatown, the opulent boutique hotel boasts decadent guest rooms designed with a luxuriously French twist by designer Karl Lagerfeld. •
By Aleney De Winter. Photography by Aleney De Winter and Singapore Tourism Board
Jetstar flies to Singapore from Melbourne, Darwin and Perth. jetstar.com
Your Singapore: yoursingapore.com