Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Singapore

The Singapore Sling was originally created to allow ladies to enjoy alcohol in public2 Claire enjoying a Singapore sling at the Raffles Hotel © Claire Richardson

Claire Richardson, Picture Editor at Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, recently returned from a trip to Singapore.

Tell us more… My boyfriend and I were in Singapore for a family birthday celebration and amid the festivities we had a week to explore the island city-state.

In a nutshell... Singapore is a magical jumble of different cultures, food and architecture, where modern skyscrapers tower over old colonial shophouses and where you’ll find one of the world’s best street food scenes.

Good grub? It’s impossible not to enjoy good food in Singapore. We were based near the East Coast Road in Joo Chiat, which has a lively street-side dining culture and every cuisine imaginable from Thai and Malaysian to gourmet burgers and Korean Barbeque. I loved the simplicity at 328 Katong Laksa, which serves just one dish – their signature spicy laksa. This warming bowl is arguably the best laksa in Singapore – make sure you wash it down with their fresh lime juice, which helps cut through the spice.

Laksa Katong Laksa's signature spicy dish © Claire Richardson

Quintessential experience? I’ve always been told that a visit to Raffles Hotel for one of their world-famous Singapore slings is the quintessential Singapore experience. The hotel’s colonial architecture, dating back to 1887, is beautiful and still has oodles of charm, but be warned: the Long Bar – where the famous sling was invented – is very touristy and the sweet cocktail will set you back an eye-watering $32! I was amused to see that the tradition of casually throwing your peanut shells on the floor was still in full swing – the only place in Singapore where littering is warmly encouraged.

Fave activity? I was quite blown away by the beautifully designed Gardens by the Bay in the south of the island, near the marina. Two enormous glass houses loom over the botanical gardens, one of which – the Cloud Forest – houses the world's highest indoor waterfall. My highlight was the Supertree Grove, where high tech ‘trees’ dominate the skyline. Reaching up to heights of 50m – as tall as a 16-storey building – these giant vertical gardens house hundreds of plant and flower species. I felt like a cast member on the set of Avatar as I walked between two of the tallest trees on the OCBC Skyway elevated walkway.

Supertree Grove and OSBC Skyway2 Dusk falls over the Gardens by the Bay © Claire Richardson

You’d be a muppet to miss… the Garden Rhapsody show, a spectacular light and sound show at the Supertree Grove. I’d recommend a sunset walk along the skyway, before heading down to the grass beneath the trees to watch the 7:45pm show. Local families bring picnics and couples recline as the trees start to shimmer and glow, changing colour in time to the music. We may have joined in with one or two of the uplifting show tunes.

Thrill-seekers should… head over to Sentosa Island; connected to the main island, this offshore resort is a one-stop adventure land. We had a brilliant day riding rollercoasters and dodging transformers and dinosaurs at Universal Studios. There’s also the SEA Aquarium, zip lines, a water park, surfing and beaches to enjoy.

If you do one thing… explore the different neighbourhoods from Little India and Kampong Glam to Chinatown. We were able to travel the world without leaving Singapore, starting with the best Indian meal I’ve ever had at the Banana Leaf Apolo; to Arab Street in Kampong Glam, where the golden-domed Sultan Mosque overlooks old-school shophouses piled high with colourful silks and carpets; and onto the lantern-draped lanes in Chinatown.