I didn’t do much research prior to my trip and I arrived in Singapore expecting to find a sterile city filled with regulations, epitomized by its stringent anti-chewing gum legislation.
As a consequence of my parents moving to Hong Kong a few years ago, I have spent considerable time there and I’m aware that Singapore’s recent tourism push has not gone unnoticed. Long regarded as the superior destination, Hong Kong has begun to look nervously over its shoulder.
And I can see why.
In Singapore I stayed in Little India. Spending time in this part of the city instantly dispels the myth of sterility. The wafting smells of burning incense and local markets confront your senses and while this area knowingly targets budget travellers, you won’t find me complaining. At times it resembles the famous traditional markets found elsewhere in Asia, but, joyfully, without the hard sell, allowing you to wander the streets freely.
The city-state continues to expand and its urban skyscrapers and shopping centres remain prominent. If you enjoy shopping and are planning a stopover in Singapore, visit Orchard Road’s myriad malls. Just be prepared to purchase excess baggage allowance for your onward flight.
Singapore’s most striking new attraction is the Marina Bay development. Three towers with a boat lying on top sounds more than a little odd, but this quirky design grows on you as the building is seen from different angles and in different lights.
The promenade underneath contains a shopping centre – of course – but also a wonderful area of decking to enjoy a balmy evening. Throw in a growing number of drinking establishments in quays along the Singapore River, and it is clear that the city now offers visitors a range of attractions.
The million dollar question though is whether Singapore has usurped Hong Kong as the premier former British colony in East Asia. The simple answer is I’m not sure. If it hasn’t, it’s not far off and while both cities have major development plans in place, Singapore seems to be making progress far faster than the developers in Hong Kong.
If Hong Kong fails to react to this regional challenge, it will fall behind its greatest rival. And, having fallen in love with Hong Kong, that’s not something I ever expected to write.