Since Singapore is such a small country – and much of it is reclaimed from the sea – there is not much in the way of natural attractions, but the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is well worth a visit as a 164 hectare example of pristine rainforest. Singapore’s Botanic Gardens – at the top of Orchard Road, the main shopping drag – are spectacular and there are often free music recitals held there.
Apart from that, Singapore boasts one of the best zoos in the world – second only to the one in San Diego, apparently. I’m not a zoo person, but I really enjoyed Singapore Zoo – and the Night Safari there is a real treat.
Unfortunately, there is not much old architecture in Singapore. When Singapore got independence from Britain in the 1960s, many of the old buildings were torn down. Thankfully, many of them around Boon Tat and Amoy streets were not destroyed and have been lovingly restored. The famous Raffles Hotel, of course, is still standing as stately as ever. It provides the visitor with a lovely glimpse at the opulence enjoyed by the privileged of yesteryear who sojourned in Singapore. About six years ago, there was talk of tearing down the old Ford factory; where the Japanese surrendered to Lord Mountbatten. Thankfully, good sense prevailed, and the building is now a national monument and a World War II exhibition gallery.
There is no concept of free press or free speech in Singapore, either, but if you’re only going for a visit, that won’t bother you too much. I had to laugh when, years ago, the government gave into public clamouring for an area similar to ‘Speakers’ Corner’ in London’s Hyde Park. A small patch of a park was conceded to people wishing to air their views. There were, however, a few catches; Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner is beside a police station, a script of the proposed speech must be submitted to the police at least a week before it is due to be delivered and if the authorities don’t like what you’re planning to say, they will not allow you to say it. Further, if you deviate from your ‘approved’ script, you will be arrested.
More than any country I’ve been to – and I’ve been to a few – Singapore is concerned with image. So, there are no beggars on the streets of Singapore, either. They’re in Woodbridge – the mental asylum – to keep them off the streets and away from tourists and those going about their daily business.
A final word of warning, though, before you pack your bags to visit Singapore – be sure that you don’t break the law. “I’m foreign,” or “I didn’t know” are not acceptable responses. You will be dealt with just as severely as someone who has been living there all their life. No, you won’t be caned if you don’t flush a loo, but you will be fined. Obey the authorities, regard the rules live by the laws and you’ll have a wonderful time in the ‘Land of the Lion’.