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Singapore

Sophisticated Singapore
A Vibrant Traveler's Mecca


The Merlion (half lion, half fish) is a national icon
The Merlion (half lion, half fish) is a national icon

DAY 2

Begin your second day in Singapore with local breakfast such as "roti prata" (crispy Indian pancake) with "teh tarik" (tea with milk) at the food center of the bustling Tekka Market in Buffalo Road (right next to Serangoon Road ). Follow with a walkabout among meat, vegetable and fresh fruit vendors at one of Singapore's liveliest wet markets (wet markets, as locals call them, are open food markets that sell poultry, fish, pork and other meats as well as vegetables). You may get more than a whiff of pungent odor, but that is a small price to pay for a fascinating experience of how Singaporeans go about their morning grocery shopping.

Now, set time aside to explore Little India, a concentration of Indian-centric activities along Serangoon Road. Here, you will find gaily painted shop houses, stores hawking saris, gold bangles, spices and incense. Emerge from Tekka Market at Buffalo Road and Kerbau Road; at No. 37 Kerbau Road sits the double level Peranakan-style (Straits Chinese style) House of Tan Eng Niah, one of Little India's last surviving Chinese villas that was built back in 1905. Admire its architecture, the pintu pagar (intricately carved swinging door), second level overhangs and ornate staircase.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Now, head southeast along Kerbau Road, a pedestrian strip designated as an "Arts Village" with shops and galleries specializing in Indian clothes, artwork and beauty treatments. For a fun souvenir, have your photograph taken in a traditional Indian costume shop or pick from the many iconic Hindu emblems on display from a classic Indian frame maker. As you stroll and explore the ethnic stores, you will reach Serangoon Road on your left. If you are feeling hungry by now, try some Indian delicacies like thosai (South Indian crepe) at Ananda Bhavan at No. 58 Serangoon Road. At No. 141 Serangoon Road is Little India's busiest and oldest temple, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which was built in 1881; remember to take off your shoes before venturing inside.

A few hundred meters ahead, indulge in budget shopping at Singapore's ultimate discount superstore, Mustafa. Open 24 hours a day, Mustafa is a 75,000 square feet shopping haven seething with bargain hunters thronging floor after floor seeking electronics, apparels, skincare, sportswear, luggage and everything imaginable at rock-bottom prices. The exchange counters in front are also some of the best places in Singapore to obtain competitive exchange rates for foreign currencies.

Just a lane away from Syed Alwi Road, where Mustafa sits is Desker Road, an alleyway of legalized brothels and successors to the long-demolished ones in old Bugis Street.

Now, retreat to No. 544 Serangoon Road to a quaint coffee shop called the French Stall where French expatriates dine alongside locals, sitting elbow to elbow while chatting above the droning whir of electric fans to partake in Chef Xavier's budget French fare. If you prefer to savor mouth-watering South Indian cuisine instead, head back to Banana Leaf Apollo at No. 54-58 Race Course Road (close to Tekka Market), where you eat off banana leaves. Check out the blistering fish head curry.

Aerial view of Mount Faber
Aerial view of Mount Faber

After lunch, take a taxi to the cable car station at Mount Faber and catch a scenic cable car ride to the island of Sentosa, an island just off the south coast of Singapore.

Sentosa, which means peace in Malay, is in the process of a massive makeover that will transform the island into a world class playground for the rich and famous: four new resorts (termed "IR" or Integrated Resorts), new and upgraded attractions, a new marina, a huge housing development on the island's eastern coast and a fourth Universal Studios theme park. Until these are ready, a large array of interesting attractions continue to pull in the crowd.

Exit at the cable car station , and take a revolving air-conditioned cabin ride on the Carlsberg Sky Tower, one of Asia's tallest observation towers. This will bring you up a height of 131m above sea level for a 360-degree view of Sentosa, the city and the Southern islands.

Sentosa viewed from Carlsberg Sky Tower
Sentosa viewed from Carlsberg Sky Tower

Close by, Images of Singapore is a children-friendly historical cum cultural museum that retells the story of Singapore's establishment as a port and trading center, its trials during Japanese occupation and the subsequent Japanese surrender; look for interesting scenes recreated using life-size wax dummies.

Now, catch a complimentary shuttle bus to Siloso Beach and stopover at Café Del Mar for a slice of Miami Beach action. Enjoy the sea breeze in the midst of bikini-clad beach babes whilst pecking away at Mediterranean inspired snacks.

Once recharged, take a stroll along the beach and head towards the Underwater World, where an acrylic tunnel "travellator" will take you through the aquarium to witness the amazing array of marine life including gigantic sting rays, huge garoupas and enormous sharks.

Reserve a table at Il Lido at Sentosa for dinner tonight, probably Singapore's most stylish Italian restaurant with a view offered by few. Opt for spaghetti with sea urchin if you want something unique. The restaurant also stocks 100 labels of truly rare and exclusive Champagnes and Sparkling Wines; so have a bottle if you are out to impress.

Continue to Day 3

MORE SINGAPORE INFORMATION

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* Merlion Image courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board; Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple by Thaejas; Mount Faber by Chensiyuan; Sentosa image by Terence Ong

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