Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the mainland. There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 166 meters.
The south of Singapore, around the Singapore River, used to be the only concentrated urban area, while the rest of the land was either undeveloped tropical rain forest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s the government constructed new residential districts, resulting in an entirely urban landscape, while the urban planning was done in 1974.
The city today represents the entire range of architectural styles where you can come across old temples, but also various skyscrapers in line with the newest engineering standards. There are still Chinatown and Little India districts, quarters once established to welcome immigrants.
Many places of worship were also constructed during the colonial era. Sri Mariamman Temple, the Masjid Jamae mosque and the Church of Gregory the Illuminator are among those.
Just outside of Raffles Place and throughout the rest of the downtown center there is a large amount of buildings that date back before WWII, some going back nearly as far as Raffles (read more about Raffles in the previous Glimpse). Many classical buildings were destroyed during the post-war period up until the 1990s when the government started strict programs to conserve the buildings and areas of historic value.
After decades of development, the Central Business District has become an area with many tall office buildings. They comprise the skyline along the coast of Marina Bay and Raffles Place, a tourist attraction in Singapore. Plans for tall buildings must be reviewed and no building in Singapore may be taller than 280 meters.
Colonial buildings along the bank
One of the most beautiful view of the city is from the river, so I would recommend that you take one of those tourist boats to go around the bay.
They usually go at dusk and so, lights of the Business District are going to be on and they will enhance its beauty. Very high buildings would hang up there above your head, while the lights reflect on the river surface. On the other side of the bank there are colonial buildings lined up along the river, and one of those houses a museum, the other is the Parliament House… Two banks of the same river, but so different, and yet so harmonious.
You will go beneath few bridges along the way, all very pretty, and than you come across the construction that appears to have thorns. That is the famous Singapore’s Opera. Floating towards the Marina is going to be one special experience, and there you will see a huge Merlion greeting you from one of the corners. Water comes out of his mouth and beam of lights in different colors springs from beneath.
If you go towards the other bank, you will see the quay full of restaurants and cafes of various cuisines and ambience, which give a specific feel to the city and this travel experience, especially if you are sitting there, looking at the river and sipping one of the cocktails.
Flavors of Chinese cuisine
Right there along the river there is a part of the Chinese quarter with lined up restaurants (make sure to try their seafood!), where waiters would ask you to come in and have dinner. The promenade will be full of people and while you try to find the way through the crowd, you will notice paper red dragon figure, drifting above your head.
Once you are here, it’s really hard to comprehend that on the other side of the bank are those colonial buildings and that a bit further there is the whole kingdom of skyscrapers. Here, you will be overwhelmed by the flavor of spices, cooking, you will crave a drink and a good meal, forgetting about the modern city all around.
One of the Buddhist temples will appear before you while strolling this district, presenting itself in all its imposing display. High, red, typically decorated, surrounded by numerous Chinese shops in small alleys all around.
Religious ritual next to brands
Walking around the city you can always come across different religious processions and I have seen one in front of the shopping mall, pretty far from the China Town.
There was an interesting ritual on the Orchard Road that day, next to the mall, small plateau among those high buildings was covered with traditional colorful sheets. I have sat on the nearby bench and, even though I couldn’t understand what was going on, I have enjoyed all those colorful decorations and the sound of the instruments. And there, maybe few steps away, there were Prada and Armani shops!