VIP Trip: 48 hours in Singapore
Southeast Asia has no shortage of exciting destinations. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the beautiful beaches of Bali, the region has something to offer every kind of traveller. Singapore, fondly known as the Little Red Dot dueto its size, is, however, often overlooked as a corporate city. It’s a popular business hub, yes, but it also has a rich culture of its own, and enough attractions to keep an entire family entertained. And while you can easily spend a few weeks travelling the likes of Thailand and Indonesia, you only need a couple of days to see the best of Singapore, which makes it the perfect destination for an exciting weekend away.
FIRST STOP: SELFIES AT MERLION PARK
Just like Dubai has the Burj Al Arab, Paris has the Eiffel Tower and London has Big Ben, no trip to Singapore is complete without a photo with the city’s national icon, the mythical Merlion, with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands at 8.6 metres tall and weighs 70 tonnes. Built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng, it was unveiled in September 1972 to welcome visitors to Singapore. Although there are seven such statues across Singapore, the most famous one is located at Merlion Park, in front of the Fullerton Hotel and overlooking Marina Bay. From here you’ll also be able to take stunning pictures of the marina and city skyline. INFO: 1 Fullerton Square, fullertonhotels.com.
FUN IN THE SUN ON SENTOSA ISLAND
Although Singapore is famous for its skyline, you can also find a tropical island resort a mere 15 minutes’ drive from the central business and shopping district. Enter Sentosa Island. The 500-hectare resort is home to themed attractions, award winning spa retreats, stunning rainforests, golden sandy beaches, hotels, golf courses, a deep-water yachting marina and even luxurious residences – making Sentosa a must visitduring any stay in Singapore. Making the island its home, too, is Southeast Asia’s very first Universal Studios theme park. INFO: sentosa.com
LUNCH AT CENTRAL PERK SG
If you owned a TV during the Nineties, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you watched more than a few episodes of hit sitcom Friends, not to mention the endless reruns after the show aired. So chances are you’re very familiar with the show’s iconic coffee shop, Central Perk. Central Perk Singapore is a modern-day tribute that seeks to bring and carry the legacy of the series to a new generation, and is now the only official café in the world outside of the United States. The menu contains Friends themed dishes like the Rachel Green Salad, Monica’s lasagne and Chandler’s Thanksgiving whole roasted chicken. It’s a perfect stop to fill up, catch up on some Friends reruns and get Instagram-happy. INFO: Central Mall, 1 Magazine Road
SHOP IN CHINATOWN
As modern and chic as Singapore may be, it also has a rich cultural heritage. Throughout the city, you’ll find pockets of old-school Asian charm. If it’s affordable shopping you’re after, look no further than the famous Chinatown district. Featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements, Chinatown is jam-packed with street food, shops and stalls. It’s here that you’ll find everything from quirky souvenirs, art and gadgets to clothes and food. It’s no secret that Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so skip the high-end malls and take your bartering skills to Chinatown instead. Shopping aside, you’ll also be greeted by vibrant architecture, which is guaranteed to brighten up your social media timelines. INFO: chinatown.sg
EAT THE WORLD’S ONLY MICHELIN- STARRED STREET FOOD
Chinatown has endless street food stalls, but if you can only choose one, go for the best. Singapore’s Hong Kong soya sauce chicken rice and noodles made history last year when it became one of the first street food stands in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. The stall’s signature chicken and rice dish costs a mere SGD1.85 (Dhs5), making it the cheapest Michelin- starred meal in the world. How cool is that? As a result, be prepared to set some time aside and queue for your meal. It’s worth every minute, we can assure you. INFO: Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, 335 Smith St
SEE PANDAS AT RIVER SAFARI
When it comes to exotic animals and wildlife preservation, Singapore reigns supreme. From its famous Night Safari to its enormous Singapore Zoo, you can just about see any type of animal on the small island. However, if like us, you’re panda-obsessed, head over to its River Safari zoo to see the country’s beloved panda duo, Kai Kai and Jia Jia. You’ll be able to see the cuddly bears in the Giant Panda Forest, which is a 1,500m2, state-of-the-art biodome designed and landscaped to simulate the giant pandas’ natural habitat in the highlands of China. Here, you can also donate money and plant your bamboo pledge to help save giant pandas from extinction. INFO: Tickets from Dhs50, 80 Mandai Lake Road, riversafari.com.sg
GO GREEN AT GARDENS BY THE BAY
Known as Singapore’s number-one tourist attraction, no visit is complete without stopping by Gardens by the Bay. Gardens by the Bay is a magnificent showpiece of horticulture and garden artistry that presents the plant kingdom in a way you’ve never seen it before. The park consists of three waterfront gardens (Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden), and features the world-famous Supertree Grove. These stunning ‘Supertrees’ are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 and 50 metres. At night the ‘trees’ light up to showcase a lightand- sound show. While access to the domes require tickets, you can visit Supertree Grove free of charge. INFO: 18 Marina Gardens Drive, gardensbythebay.com.sg
RECOVER AT CHANGI AIRPORT
If you think airports are exhausting, overwhelming and chaotic, you haven’t met Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Despite being one of the world’s largest and busiest airports, it’s built in a way that makes it feel intimate, cosy and almost homey. Besides the wide variety of shopping and dining options, the airport also features a rooftop pool, a sunflower garden and a cactus garden with an outdoor Irish pub. Our favourite? The endless foot massage machines dotted throughout the airport, which can be used free of charge. You can’t help but feel relaxed by the time your flight departs. In fact, you may even find yourself crossing your fingers for a flight delay.