TRAVEL.

SIN­GA­PORE IS A THRIV­ING ME­TROP­O­LIS REACH­ING FOR THE SKY WITH ITS END­LESS TOW­ERS, CITY GAR­DEN OF SUPERTREES AND PLANS FOR A NEW WA­TER­FRONT CITY

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE CONTENTS - WORDS: CHRIS WILT­SHIRE

Perched high up in Sin­ga­pore’s ver­tigoin­duc­ing Su­pertree Grove, I’m struck by the scale of the is­land’s ambitions. Huge swathes of lush veg­e­ta­tion stretch out be­fore me as part of a stag­ger­ing one-bil­lion-dol­lar project to turn the “Red Dot” from a gar­den city into a City In A Gar­den.

Off to my left, tow­er­ing cranes jos­tle for po­si­tion to build ever more sky­scrapers in the fi­nan­cial district and, to the right, the busiest port in the world is pre­par­ing to make way for a new wa­ter­front city on re­claimed land.

Any vis­i­tor to Sin­ga­pore can­not help but be im­pressed by the en­ergy and en­ter­prise of this steamy me­trop­o­lis.

Those who stay for a few days are rewarded with sights and sounds, tastes and smells as po­tent as the fa­mous Sin­ga­pore sling cock­tail that takes its name.

For a coun­try situated just one de­gree north of the equa­tor and be­ing one of the most densely pop­u­lated is­lands in the world, I had vi­sions of be­ing drenched by daily mon­soons and stuck in end­less traf­fic jams.

But, in my time there, I didn’t see a drop of rain or feel in any way har­ried or claus­tro­pho­bic — although I was cer­tainly hot.

The trees must have planted a seed in the mind of An­drew Grant, whose Bath-based land­scape ar­chi­tects firm Grant As­so­ciates won an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign Gar­dens By The Bay, the awe-in­spir­ing 101 hectares of fra­grant de­light in the cen­tre of the city.

It was hailed as a na­tional icon when it opened four years ago, and has al­ready at­tracted more than 20 mil­lion vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing Prince Wil­liam and his wife, Kate.

Two enor­mous con­ser­va­to­ries dom­i­nate the sky­line, fea­tur­ing a breath­tak­ing in­door water­fall and plants and trees from just about ev­ery cor­ner of the earth.

But it is the Su­pertree Grove that draws most at­ten­tion, the enor­mous so­lar-pow­ered struc­tures sprout­ing up into the sky like a scene from The Day Of The Trif­fids hor­ror flick.

A lift in­side one of the trees takes vis­i­tors 50m up to an el­e­vated walk­way for a panoramic view, which is enough to test any­one – like me – with acro­pho­bia. At night, they take on an al­to­gether less sin­is­ter ap­pear­ance, soft lights dance to chore­ographed music in a scene that would not look out of place in a Dis­ney World pro­duc­tion.

Un­doubt­edly, the best view is from the SkyPark Ob­ser­va­tion Deck at the top of the iconic 55-storey Ma­rina Bay Sands ho­tel com­plex, where guests splash about in one of the world’s most pho­tographed in­fin­ity pools.

Those with deep pock­ets can in­dulge in mod­ern Asian cui­sine at the renowned Ce La Vi restau­rant and savour the 360-de­gree panoramic view of the city’s sky­line and Straits of Sin­ga­pore. But for those with more mod­est means, the range of eat­ing op­tions in the city is al­most as var­ied as the plants and flow­ers that cover the is­land.

The cui­sine is truly di­verse, with strong in­flu­ences from the Malays, Chi­nese, In­done­sians and In­di­ans, who ar­rived in large num­bers when the coun­try gained in­de­pen­dence from Malaysia in 1965.

The aroma of siz­zling satay chicken and prawns fills the clammy night air and Tiger Beer girls bark out drinks or­ders. Lau Pa Sat is con­sid­ered the best, hav­ing been in op­er­a­tion since the 1800s, and is a must visit.

My trips to Sin­ga­pore’s Chi­na­town and Lit­tle In­dia also had the taste­buds sali­vat­ing, and I loved the vibe at the Mid­dle East restau­rant, Ar­ti­choke.

But the meal of the week – and eas­ily among the top 10 of my life – was at the Per­anakan fam­ily-run restau­rant Can­dlenut in New Bridge Road. Imag­ine a per­fectly-formed med­ley of your favourite Chi­nese food with the spicy flavours of an In­dian curry, washed down by a very agree­able white wine. Sim­ply heaven.

My mem­o­rable day was topped off with a trip through the mod­ern-day sky­scrapers to that old colo­nial ar­chi­tec­tural gem, Raf­fles Ho­tel.

An overnight stay in one of the lux­u­ri­ous five-star suites would have blown the bud­get, so I set­tled for a Sin­ga­pore sling in the iconic Long Bar – a throw­back to a by­gone age with teak fur­ni­ture and op­u­lent fit­tings – even if I did al­most choke when the bill ar­rived.

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