Sensational Singapore

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Singapore is just a short journey from Perth and has long been heralded as a shopping getaway but new developments in the city has transformed the city island into a much more interesting place.

I first visited Singapore in 1990, at that time the city was promoted a shopping getaway. You spent your days walking through Orchard Rd’s many giant shopping centres looking for great prices on clothes and shoes. It was a city
filled with signs telling you all the things you could not do – don’t jaywalk, don’t litter and don’t loiter.

Ten year later I was based in Singapore for 18 months for work. The city became my home and while it didn’t have the plethora of signs that used to dominate the city’s streets, it was still a pretty orderly place. It’s the safest city in the world, and the cleanest, it’s almost spotless. It was also quite a boring place to be for a long period of time.

Today Singapore has transformed once again, there is still the amazing shopping on Orchard Road, and the distinctive cultural centres of Chinatown and Little India but other areas of the island have been given breathtaking renovations.

The sleepy tourist island of Sentosa is booming with new hotels and a family fun focus. We stayed at the very family friendly Hard Rock Hotel. Its walls are filled with music memorabilia, the rooms are decked out like Jimi Hendrix’s recording studio and the pool is a kid’s paradise. Elsewhere in the island there are movie studios, water fun parks, countless restaurants and activities.

A quick trip on the monorail takes you back to the main island, and a new train line makes Sentosa and the shipping port much more connected to the rest of the city. The mass rapid transport (MRT) allows you to get around the whole island in just minutes with little cost.

Another great development is the Marina Sands Resort a massive shopping centre, hotel and casino development. The building is distinctive, three large skyscrapers that look like a mother ship from outer space has landed on top. Inside the shopping arcades are filled with channels of water with Gondolas paddling back and forth, and the main water fountain is an engineering marvel. The complex also boasts one of two casinos that have opened in the city.

Outside the Gardens by the Bay is a giant tropical public park. Within the park are a series of alien looking structures that light up at night. The park is open after dark, until around 2am. We went late at night and walked its seductively lit paths, lying under the giant alien flower structures, imagining that we were in ‘Avatar’ and that a giant Smurf could wander by at any moment.

If you’ve got a week or a few days to get away, Singapore will have more than enough to keep you occupied with food, shopping, and sight seeing and fun activities.

Homosexuality is illegal is Singapore, including public displays of affection between men. The LGBT community in the city though is not invisible and the annual Pink Dot gathering has been growing annually. In 2013 21,000 gathered for the celebration, the largest public gathering in the city’s history.

Graeme Watson

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