Sin­ga­pore rolls the dice

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

IN a typ­i­cally up­roar­i­ous episode of QI, quiz­mas­ter Stephen Fry rolled off the world’s most un­likely three­let­ter air­port codes. Amongthe mix were BUM(But­ler, US), FUK(Fukuoka, Ja­pan) and SEX(Sem­bach, Ger­many) — all rather child­ish, really, but it does make me­think of SIN (Sin­ga­pore) and howthe la­bels on the bag­gage ro­tat­ing around the peer­lessly or­gan­ised carousels at Changi air­port carry such un­likely prom­ise.

Sin­ga­pore is not a tawdry place but it’s much more lively than many of us might think. I was there in De­cem­ber for two days and wished I could ex­tend my stay. For a start, there are not enough meal­times in 48 hours, even when fac­tor­ing in af­ter­noon tea at Raf­fles (tiny cakes, scones and fall-of-em­pire sand­wiches).

The two stand­out meals were at Ryan Clift’s in­dus­trial-chic Tip­pling Club on Dempsey Hill (tricky to find; go for the cock­tail pair­ings) and at Cas­sia (sen­sa­tional Chi­nese fare) at Capella re­sort on Sen­tosa.

The new Gar­dens by the Bay at­trac­tion is ter­rific — get an ae­rial over­view from the Sky­Park look­out atop Ma­rina Bay Sands; those fu­tur­is­tic Su­pertree in­stal­la­tions look as if they might just up and march away, like trif­fids about to take over the whole joint.

Tourism is thriv­ing and fu­elled by casino traf­fic, which pleases me­less. Hard to imag­ine spend­ing a hol­i­day en­gaged in the risky pur­suit of gam­bling. The Sin­ga­pore government sanc­tioned casi­nos in 2010 and coined the softer term IR —‘‘in­te­grated re­sorts’’ — to de­scribe such de­vel­op­ments; li­cences have been given to op­er­a­tors (in­clud­ing Ma­rina Bay Sands) that de­velop par­al­lel at­trac­tions such as shops, restau­rants and ho­tels.

While the government makes its ci­ti­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents pay a casino en­try levy of $S100 ($78) a day or $S2000 for an an­nual pass, vis­i­tors are flock­ing un­abated from China and Malaysia . More than 60,000 jobs have been cre­ated in the IRs and across the broader econ­omy. Ther­a­pists are nowtreat­ing Sin­ga­pore­ans for gam­bling dis­or­ders. Cash reg­is­ters are ring-a-ding­ing. Sin city af­ter all, per­haps.

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