SINGAPORE

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Chinatown: 1.283896, 103.843464
Kampong Glam: 1.302788, 103.863642
Little India: 1.306348, 103.849678
Pulau Ubin: 1.412592, 103.957908
MacRitchie Reservoir Park: 1.345741, 103.836561
Language: Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil Packlist
Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD) Eco-Lodges
Size: 719 km² / 278 mi² Favorite Restaurants
Landscape: rainforest, wetlands, beaches
Activities: hiking

Despite being one of the tiniest countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a financial and trade powerhouse in the region. One only needs to look at it impressive skyline to know this city means business. However, below those towering building lies a “real Singapore” that is rich with flavor and culture. In order to better know this complex city, we recommend a stroll through one of its many ethnic neighborhoods. While there, be sure to stop at one of the many hawker centers that serve a wide array of ethic delicacies. You should check out one of the city’s many green spaces, like the wonderful forests and lakes in Macritchie Reservoir Park or the primitive island of Pulau Ubin, where you can glimpse what Singapore looked like before the boom.

TOP SPOTS IN SINGAPORE

1. CHINATOWN

Most Singaporeans are from Chinese decent, so it follows that Chinatown is in many ways a central feature in Singapore. Thanks to the efforts of preservationists, the colonial-era houses in this historic neighborhood are beautifully maintained. These often elaborate dwellings are a testimony to the eccentricity and wealth of their former owners. You’ll find some of Singapore’s best food in the hawker centers here, as well as a wide variety of ethnic delicacies in the traditional wet markets that are in stark contrast to ultra-modern Singapore.

Where to find real Singapore

2. KAMPONG GLAM

Also called the Muslim Quarter, Kampong Glam has some of Singapore’s oldest architecture, much of which has recently seen a renaissance of restoration and preservation. The best places to experience the flavors of the area are on Arab, Baghdad and Bussorah streets. The Muslim population still remains a significant presence in Kampong Glam, and there are numerous beautiful mosques, the huge Sultan Mosque being one of the most famous congregation points for Singapore Muslims. Mixed in with these historic cultural establishments, one also finds modern fine art galleries, hip restaurants and trendy bars.

Where to find real Singapore

3. LITTLE INDIA

Women shopping in saris, aromatic spices, bountiful colors and traditional goods characterize this predominantly Indian quarter of Singapore. Here you are immersed you in the tastes, smells, and flavors of the subcontinent even though you’re miles away — especially in the food court in the Tekka Center, where you can feast on a smorgasbord of authentic Indian delicacies. The main thoroughfare here is Serangoon Road, but we recommend you venture into the side streets where you’ll find many hidden treasures.

Where to find real Singapore

4. MACRITCHIE RESERVOIR PARK

One of the wonderful aspect of Singapore is how the city has tried to maintain its green spaces, not an easy task given how small and developed this country is. One of our favorite nature walks was in MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Here you’ll find many kilometers of walking trails that wander through lush green secondary forest, making this park a favorite for locals trying to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and meet wild monkeys. Some of the features include boardwalks that skirt the edge of the scenic reservoir and a treetop walk across a suspension bridge.

5. PULAU UBIN

For those wondering what Singapore was like before it started its crazy building spree in the 1960s, a visit to Pulau Ubin is a must. This island off the east coast of Singapore is like a step back in time, and the time machines are old-school bumboats that take you on the short ride that connects mainland Singapore with the island. Whether you bicycle past traditional houses, stroll on a boardwalk through the mangroves, enjoy a bird’s eye view on a watch tower, or relax by the peaceful deep blue of the lakes that now fill former quarries, you’ll feel far away from busy downtown Singapore. While waiting for your boat back to the mainland, be sure to take in a nice lunch at one of the waterside restaurants in the harbor, the food is great and you’ll feel like in a different country of Southeast Asia.

Where to find real Singapore