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Singapore

singapore esplanade theatres on the bay

Take time to stroll on the Boat Quay, which is a mixed development of old wharf houses (converted to commercial use -- mainly as restaurants) and modern skyscrapers of international corporations. During the night, Boat Quay is a bustling place of ethnic restaurants serving every type of Asian meals the locals -- or tourists -- may be craving.

Close to the Boat Quay is Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, nicknamed "Durian" by the locals for its resemblance to the round, spiky and notoriously pungent Southeast Asian fruit. This is the largest and most comprehensive performance arts venue in Singapore. Located under the complex's distinctive dome-shaped floors are a concert hall, a theater, several recital rooms and an arts library, as well as an array of shops and food outlets.

As Singapore is flat, you can get a great view of the city from the City Space bar on the 70th floor of the Fairmont Singapore. Literally across the street is a more famous spot for libations; the Singapore Sling was invented at Raffles Hotel's Long Bar. The Long Bar is, perhaps, the most touristy spot in town. Prepare to pay for the pleasure; on our trip, a pair of cocktails cost $61 SGD (about $46 USD).

Singapore's colonial district, which lies roughly between the Boat Quay and the vast Raffles City shopping and hotel complex, is full of charm. Among the sites that hark back to the city's English past are the Arts House at the Old Parliament, the gorgeous Fullerton Hotel (which used to be the General Post Office) and the Anglican St. Andrew's Cathedral. Shoppers can also duck into the vast Raffles City mall for retail recreation.

Living Like a Local in Southeast Asia

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are a playground for nature lovers. There's a rain forest, a lake and all manner of gardens, featuring everything from medicinal herbs to different types of ginger. The National Orchid Garden is there as well. (There's no fee to visit the Botanic Gardens, but there is an admission charge for the orchid garden.)

One of Singapore's newest attractions is Gardens by the Bay, a fantastical botanical world featuring two conservatories full of unique plant displays, an aerial walkway and a "Supertree Grove" made up of vertical gardens. The light shows after dark draw rave reviews, so it's worth timing your visit for the afternoon so you can appreciate both the daytime and nighttime views.

The Singapore Zoo, one of several animal parks in Singapore, offers a chance to have breakfast with an orangutan. The zoo has nearly 3,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and fish in this rain forest park, including cheetahs, zebras, white tigers and many more.

Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system -- in essence, a subway -- is a tourist attraction in its own right. It's the cleanest you'll ever see -- no trash and no graffiti. A good taster ride is the three-stop trip between Orchard Road and City Hall (for the colonial district).

A Singapore River cruise offers dramatic views for just a few bucks. It takes you, among other places, to the Merlion, which is a symbol of modern Singapore. The 70-ton statue towers more than 28 feet (8.6 meters) and has a lion's head and a fish's body, resting on a crest of waves. The Merlion was originally designed in 1972 to symbolize the city's origins as a fishing village.

Go to the beach. The only spits of sand in Singapore are located on Sentosa Island (which also features a variety of tired and worn family-oriented attractions like Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon, Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom). But we'll warn you: Most locals don't actually swim there. The popular beaches are Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong. (Siloso overlooks oil refineries on the opposite shore.) If you are looking for history, 1880-built Fort Siloso is the place to go. The ride over to the island on the cable car from the Harbourfront Centre is the best part of the outing! On the way, there are gorgeous views of the city.

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