Travel: Singapore's new look

By Mike Yardley

Sparkling clean, graffiti-free Singapore has well and truly slain its prim and proper perception as the "Old Maid of Asia", with a slew of sights that need a week to do them justice.

The multibillion-dollar redevelopment of the downtown marina precinct is a triumph, and it plays host to the world's only night-time round of the Formula One Grand Prix. The glittering new casino is open for business, wrestling for attention alongside the Singapore Flyer observation wheel and the Gardens by the Bay.

Boasting more than 700,000 plants, this architectural frenzy of aerial walkways, supersized steel trees and mega-conservatories is quite the head-turner.

Across the water, stop by Singapore's mascot, the Merlion. This half-fish, half-lion statue has been spruced up and remains the nation's most photographed landmark. It's just the spot to savour the views of the extravagant theatre complex, the Esplanade, which was inspired by the Sydney Opera House.

From there, the charming riverside walking trail guides you around Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. This area bustles with waterside eateries and bars, hitting top-gear after dark as some of Asia's hottest night-spots come to life.

For a more languid exploration, jump on board a river cruise. Duck and Hippo Tours offer a combo-pass, so you can size up Singapore from the water as well as the hop-on bus.

The carefully conserved Colonial District showcases the state's British influence. The leafy precinct is home to the Singapore Cricket Club and Raffles Hotel. Slink into the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling and throw some peanut shells on the floorboards, as is the custom.

Little India and Chinatown are Singapore's most enchanting cultural districts, with ornate temples and enticing roadside cheap-eats. My favourite photo-ops include the Temple of 1000 Lights, the golden dome of the Little India Mosque and Chinatown's Thian Hock Temple, which was built by early Chinese immigrants and dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea.

Singapore Zoo was at the forefront of the global move towards open-enclosures. This sanctuary is gearing up for the imminent arrival of a pair of giant pandas. Some years ago, Singapore Zoo began the wildly popular Night Safari, offering up-close encounters with nocturnal creatures in near-to-natural environments. Buy a combo pass, to take in the wildlife by night and day.

Roof-top bars are all the rage in Asia, but the Fullerton Bay Hotel's Lantern Bar and Pool is seventh heaven. This sexy, chic establishment, built over water, is the perfect retreat to survey Singapore's dazzling horizon.

- Hamilton News

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