Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I decided to visit Singapore for one day since I was in the area. I was not excited about visiting the city state at first because people have told me it is similar to Hong Kong and that there is “nothing to see.”

In fact, I admit that Singapore is one of my favorite cities in Asia! I like the city more than Hong Kong for several reasons. First, Singapore is more multicultural, with is Chinese, Malay and Indian populations. The people are also friendlier and willing to help tourists. They also speak much softer than Hong Kong people in restaurants! Even though Singapore is denser than Hong Kong, I found it to be less crowded. There were fewer highrises and more green space. It also has better signage than Hong Kong. The biggest difference though is that Singapore is better at preserving historical structures. There are many British colonial and shophouse architecture there. Singapore is creative enough to convert many of the old shophouses to atmospheric restaurants, cafes and bars, such as the ones by the Singapore River.

Singapore is almost culturally identical to Malaysia due to the fact that they used to be the same country. The city has its Indian, Malay and Chinese neighborhoods. My favorite neighborhood is the Peranakan (Chinese who came to Malaysia hundreds of years ago) one of Katong. There, many colorful and ornate mansions line the streets, each one with a unique story about the neighborhood.

I was surprised at the number of British colonial structures that are still standing. Most of the major museums are housed in these elegant mansions. One church has been converted into a dining area in order to save it from demolition!

I was very impressed at the amount of cultural offerings in Singapore. The Esplanade Theatre by the Bay is an impressive oval-shaped complex with music, theatre and art. There are free concerts on weekend evenings by the waterfront, with a view of the skyline. Also by the water, but the Singapore River, are rows of old shophouses-turned-into-restaurants. This is a great way to preserve the historical buildings, letting the public enjoy it.

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