Story from Luxe Beat Magazine

SINGAPORE IS A CULTURAL MELTING POT

Singapore is a cultural melting pot

The recent Black Lives Matter rallies have dramatically shown the underlying divisions that exist in many countries. Racism has affected many minorities and at times this has been accepted and papered-over. But not all countries suffer these problems. On a recent visit to Singapore I saw that different ethnic communities and religions can harmoniously live side by side. The world should take note.

Multiculturalism comes alive in dynamic Singapore and this is one of the great attractions of this city-state. It is seen on the streets, heard in the restaurants and smelt in the pungent aromas at the hawker centres.

The largest percentage of the population is Chinese but the large populations of Malays and Indians have considerable influence on the country’s lifestyle while British, other Europeans and Eurasians add further to the mix.

Singapore has some of the best hotels and restaurants in the world so it is easy to find the level of luxury that you need. Once you have settled in, I strongly recommend a visit to different areas of the city if you want to fully understand what makes this city so attractive to visitors.

CHINATOWN

Unfortunately, much of the area was demolished and redeveloped in the 1970s and hence it has lost some of its genuine appeal but some areas have been spared and these today offer a nice mixture of historical structures and restaurants, nightclubs, high-tech businesses and shops. It is safe and accessible, and is a great place for walking.

Strange Chinese medicines, questionable antiques, and cheap souvenirs may tempt you to come here to buy but this is also just an area for wandering. There are many shrines, museums and other cultural buildings, for history or religious buffs. The Chinatown Visitors Centre is a good place to find out all there is to do.

Chinatown is a great place to visit anytime but it takes on a special ambience during Chinese New Year (late January or early February). Most people will dress in red and give children AngPow, a monetary gift in a red packet to bring luck and prosperity. Every household is busy with spring cleaning to get rid of the old and welcome the new.

Houses are decorated in red and people celebrate with fire crackers. It is believed that these chase off evil spirits and awakens the deities and guardian spirits who are the custodians of good health, good fortune and prosperity.

LITTLE INDIA

Little India began as a camp for Indian convict workers who were brought in by the British to work on the city’s development. It still has important religious centres and is a hub for traditional businesses which many visitors find fascinating.

Serangoon Road is a wonderful place to wander. There are small restaurants, endless shops and great street scenes to observe. You should try some of the very traditional and economical Indian food and also some of the teas.

You will find a great range of Indian sari cloths which make good wall hangings if you don’t want to wear them, and the metal tiffin sets can be useful and good gifts. This area gets very crowded on a Sunday when immigrant Indian and Bangladeshi labourers descend here en mass.

A highlight here is the Mustafa Centre. This is the place to go if you need a new TV, gold jewellery, new cooking pot or some underwear at 4 a.m. because this place never closes. It has a cult following, is usually crowded and is the best place to go if you’re after a bargain. It is not fancy but it has a great range of items, and good prices to match. It really is a shopping experience unlike any other particularly after midnight.

KAMPONG GELAM

This is an historic district whose name originates from the Gelam Tree, which once grew abundantly here and was used in ship building. Rows of brightly painted shophouses line several streets, and many of them are occupied by trendy design firms, restaurants, art galleries, and craft and curios shops.

Haji Lane and Arab Street are where Singapore’s early Arab traders settled. This was the centre of the original Muslim section of town, famed for its speciality shops, Muslim restaurants and more. There are many backpacker hostels in this area today.

The area has vibrant colour and is a great place to explore slowly. There are textile stores and outlets selling Persian carpets and you’ll also see leather, perfumes, spices, jewellery, crystal and baskets for sale. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours visiting many of the stores and chatting with the sellers. Quality seems good and prices, once you bargain, are OK too.

Look for the Muslim restaurants, the money-changers and the travel agents who specialise in the travel needs of Muslim pilgrims heading for Mecca. Stop off at a coffee house or browse for traditional games such as Congkak which involves marbles and a wooden board.

COLONIAL SINGAPORE

This is where Singapore started and it’s a great place for visitors to start their exploration of this fascinating city. There are some stunning British colonial buildings and many of them have been converted to museums and art galleries.

Raffles Hotel is a Singapore institution not to be missed. Enter from Beach Road into the marbled lobby with its plush Persian carpets, note the wonderful Sikh doorman, and find your way to the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling. This famous drink was invented here in 1915 and you can still enjoy the great ambiance despite the ridiculous cost of the drink.

Colonial - Raffles Hotel

The Chijmes complex is a jewel of quiet courtyards, cobbled paths and fountains. This was once the Catholic Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus from 1840. It is now an elegant dining, shopping and entertainment complex that should not be missed. It is particularly attractive at night.

Down by the river is the Asian Civilisations Museum in a neoclassical building built in 1867 as a Court House. After a major renovation, it opened in its present form in 2003 and is probably the museum I most enjoy in Singapore.

Len Rutledge is the author of Experience Singapore 2020 available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.

Images: Phensri Rutledge

All books now available

This is just a reminder that the eight 2016 editions of Experience Guides are available as e-books and paperbacks. Probably the easiest way to find them is to go to www.amazon.com then type Len Rutledge into the search bar. All the books in both formats should then appear. Amazon allows about 10% of the book to be read free for those who are interested.

Experience Guides books pics

Four more Experience Guide titles available in 2016 editions

Experience Istanbul, Experience India’s Golden Triangle, Experience Ireland and Experience Singapore are all now available in new 2016 editions. Each has been extensively rewritten with additional information, maps and images to make them better than ever. Each is available as an e-book from amazon.com at a cost of US$4.95.

Go to amazon.com, type len rutledge in the search box, and the whole range of Experience Guides will come up. Please take a look.

Collage 2016-04-05 22_28_49-1-1

Centenary of Singapore Sling

In the same year that Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary, legendary Raffles Hotel is paying tribute to one of the world’s most iconic cocktails as the Singapore Sling marks its Centennial Anniversary. The Singapore Sling, widely regarded as the national drink of Singapore, was first created in 1915 at the Long Bar in Raffles Singapore by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. It later went on to gain international fame and a century later, is still enjoyed around the globe.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, a myriad of activities has been planned throughout 2015 by the hotel. From commemorative merchandise to desserts inspired by the Singapore Sling, there are many opportunities to participate in the celebrations. You can sign up for the Singapore Sling Masterclass, where bartenders from the Long Bar will divulge the secret to making the perfect cocktail or spend the night at the Raffles Singapore with the Singapore Sling 100th Anniversary Suite Package.

Singapore sling

Update on “Experience Singapore” eateries

My son has just returned from four weeks in Singapore, a place he once lived. He is impressed by the changes since he was last there (about six months ago) and has some new suggestions on places to eat street food.

I will incorporate most of this into the 2015 update of Experience Singapore but here is the information within a few days of his return.

  1. Behind the Raffles Hotel are two famous Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurants. The first one is on Seah St and is called “Swee Kee” and the 2nd one is on Purvis Street and is called “Chin Chin Eating House”.
  2. In the Westgate Shopping Centre in Jurong East there are a few food speciality restaurants on floor B2 of note. Two that I particularly like are “Hajjah Mariam Cafe”, which has a very nice Ambend Daging set for 2 people, (a large Malay plate dish with either Chicken or Beef Rundung and Malay condiments and vegetables), and an outlet of the famous “328 Katong Luksa” restaurant.
  3. Behind IKEA in Queenstown, just off Jalan Bukit Merah Road you can find the ‘ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre’ and they have a dessert shop that the Singapore Prime Minister lines up for. It is called “Jin Jin Dessert” and the “Chendol” and “Ice Kachang” are very good. The “Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee” from the ‘Tiong Behru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ stall is also very good.
  4. The “Tiong Bahru Market” has some good food and in Eng Hoon Street there are two restaurants of note; the “Tiong Bahru Club” and the “Tiong Bahru Bakery”.  (A second Tiong Bahru Bakery outlet is in the basement of Raffles City).
  5. In Bugis, there are a few nice options; on Baghdad Street is a popular cafe, “Kampong Glam Cafe”, and on Haji Lane there are two nice options, “I am” a local hamburger shop, and “Shop Wonderland” a cafe.
  6. In Little India, on Clive Street I enjoy “Mubarak Restaurant”, the Tea Tarik is great and the Roti Prata, Fried Chicken and Mutabak is superb.
  7. In the ‘Chinatown Complex Food Hall’ there is the “Heng Ji Chicken Rice” stall which is good.
  8. While in China Town you should try the “Bakkwa”, a traditional delicacy at Chinese New Year. The most famous shop is “Lim Chee Guan” on Eu Tong Sen Street.

Experience Singapore just published

The seventh book in the Experience guide series has just been published. Experience Singapore highlights the visitor attractions so that those planning a visit can quickly and efficiently plan on what they want to see and do. It locates and details the best places to see and the top experiences to enjoy, and recommends accommodation, shopping and eating options.

It captures the personality and the underlying cultural and historical significance of the city. It invites you to come and explore the wonderful temples, mosques and churches, the few remaining unspoiled natural areas, the historic colonial section, the fantastic shopping opportunities and the exhilaration of the various ethnic zones. Meet a great variety of people, buy the latest gadgets, fashion, and fascinating handicrafts, eat tantalizing cuisine, and enjoy charming hospitality.

Experience Singapore is available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NBJD2XY

cover