50 Shades of Singapore

This list has nothing to do with the novel or its film adaptation, which we have neither read nor watched (yet); but rather, this significant number is our tribute to Singapore—its beauty, its culture, its people, its 50th!

Since this year is SG50, a year-long celebration of this “little red dot’s” 50th Anniversary of its independence from Malaysia; let us share with you 50 of our most loved landmarks, food places and other cultural stuff which are uniquely Singapore (through the prism of our eyes).

While a handful of images were straightforwardly picked from our camera phone, our special thanks goes to the Singapore Tourism Board for some of the amazing images featured here and to professional photographers extraordinaire: Kelvin Bao and Jun Pagalilauan.

In random order, each of the items included in our list has a special meaning to us. If you try to nimbly swipe your mobile phone’s photo gallery, you’ll certainly find a beautiful snapshot of Singapore at any given day, time and angle. Whilst our list is an odd mix of inspiring customs, things to do, fun activities, places to see, and unique cultural heritage; nonetheless, they have surely touched our hearts, gave us joy, and (albeit sometimes subconsciously) taught us a valuable lesson or two. Happy Independence Day, Singapore!

1. Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer
Image Credit: Natashakye

At 165m high, this is one of the largest observation wheels in the world. As you reach on the top of your ride, you may be able to see some parts of our neighbours: Indonesia and Malaysia. This Dr. Kisho Kurokawa design is really worth a try at 32SGD/Adult.

2. Singapore Zoo

singapore zoo 3

One of Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s (WRS) most visited attractions with over 2,800 animals in its natural habitat. Other must see WRS parks are: Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park. Singapore Zoo Rates: 32SGD for 1 adult, 21SGD for kids up to 12yo and 14SGD for senior citizens. Annual visit pass will be very practical if your kids love animals a lot! Download the Zoo Map HERE.

3. Arab Street

arab street
Image Credit: Nightdowhat

This vibrant and artsy area of Singapore is famous for various things: Food, Bars, Cafes, Costumes, Carpets, Shopping and more. Best explored on foot and remember to bring your camera with you. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, you’ll love an afternoon stroll here.

4. Orchard Road

orchard road
Image Credit: Tumblr

We love this place because it’s crowded, it’s sparkly, it’s busy, it’s looong, and, yes, it’s full of beautiful things. It’s just simply: Orchard. Love it or hate it, you decide.

5. Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

It’s one of the most popular sports in the country and it just gets bigger and bigger each year. Currently, there are more than 100 active dragon boat teams in Singapore. Watch out for the exciting big-scale annual dragon boat competitions like the Singapore Dragon Boat Festival (SDBF) in July and the Singapore River Regatta (SRR) in November.

6. Concerts, Cultural Shows and Musical Plays

concerts

A-List celebrities like Maroon 5, Katy Perry, J.Lo, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey have performed here; and so as Asian music stars like Jay Chou, Lea Salonga, Rain, Bigbang, and Apink, to name a few. Big musical plays like The Lion King, Wicked, Starlight Express, Beauty and the Beast have been staged here. As for cultural shows, you can always catch one almost every weekend; try the venues like the Esplanade, Lasalle, and the art salons along Arab Street.

7. Changi Airport / Singapore Airlines

Changi Airport STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Often voted as World’s Best Airport, that accolade alone describes its beauty and efficiency. Since it opened Terminal 1 in 1981, it now has 350 retail and services outlets and about 120 restaurants and cafes in all three terminals. Terminal 4 is on the works, too.

Established in 1972, this flag carrier of Singapore has not only pioneered several innovations in the airline industry; but it has produced the iconic ‘Singapore Girl’—a brand that is synonymous to high standard customer service.

8. Singapore Sports Hub

Sports Hub by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

This 35 hectare world-class sports site opened in 2014. It is one of Asia’s best sport and leisure venues that is environmentally conscious. Make your way to visit and if you’re taking the train, it’s right above the Stadium Station of the Circle Line.

9. The Merlion

Merlion Andrew Tan
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Andrew Tan

This icon has the body of a fish and the head of a lion. The fish represents Singapore as a fishing village in the past, while the use of the lion head is from its Malay name Singapura which means ‘lion city’. The Merlion Park is located near The Fullerton Hotel, while a much bigger Merlion replica can be found in Sentosa Island.

10. MRT

MRT LTA Gallery
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, LTA Gallery

To most of us, this is our multi-billion ride to work or school every day. In addition to the existing Red, Green, Purple, Downtown and Circle lines of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), there will be upcoming lines such as Thomson-East Coast, Jurong Island and Cross Island lines. Reported completion in 10-15 years.

11. Buses

SBS Bus
Image Credit: Flickr

It is one of the best bus routing systems we have ever experienced. Through a mobile tracking system, it’s efficient and you’re often in for a smooth ride. We’ve heard that Bus 100 can be like a hop-on, hop-off ride for tourists as it starts off from Serangoon to Geylang, Kallang, Beach Road, Raffles Quay, Telok Blangah, Alexandra, Queensway to Commonwealth Ave. Isn’t it a cool route?

12. Chinatown

Chinatown Gaia Ong
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Gaia Ong

This beauty has a lot to offer: from sight-seeing, shopping to gastronomic experience. It’s just feels so festive to walk around the area at any given time.

13. Little India

Little India
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

A must visit when you’re in Singapore. You will get great bargains on shopping: from gadgets to snacks to toiletries. It’s also comforting to see our Indian brothers interacting with one another (often in groups); it’s very ‘social’, at the very essence of the word–no phones, just plain catching up, exchanging smiles and laughters.

14. Taxi Ride

Taxis
Image Credit: Flickr

It’s easy to book (via app, text or call), except on rush hours, rainy weather or after clubbing hours. Majority of the drivers are honest and very courteous. If you’re going to the airport, they will ask, “Do you have your passport with you, Sir?” Considerate and nice.

15. Club Street / Neil Road

Club Street STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Whether you’re up for an after work drinks or weekend get-togethers with friends and colleagues, these streets are very happening. The bars and cafes around Club Street and Neil Road have a diverse offering for everyone who’s looking for a great time.

16. Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

With so many exciting things to do in the island, aside from sightseeing or picnics, there are water activities like Wave Riding, Stand-up Paddling, Outrigger Canoe and many more.

17. Tanjong Beach

Tanjong Beach Club STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

For a quick fix of sand, sun and sea.

18. Community Centres

Community Centres
Image Credit: Streetdirectory.com

Over 100 Community Centres situated around the island, go visit the Communite Cente (CC) near you and avail of its offerings on Education, Life Skills, Sports, Arts and Lifestyle, Performing Arts and many activities both for adults and kids.

19. Bedok Reservoir

sunset bedok reservoir

Located at Bedok Reservoir Park, before it was converted into an 88 hectare reservoir, it was previously a sand quarry and is presently a favourite for many land and water activities like, biking, running, bird watching, dragon boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

20. Marina Bay

Marina Bay by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

This iconic bay can be found at the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District. While it is one of Singapore’s main attractions and the best venue for extreme sailing and dragon boat races; it fosters a live-work-play lifestyle to locals and expats.

21. Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage Eric Au
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Eric Au

This modern dam was built in 2008 to block the seawater at the Marina Channel to aid in the growing water demand in Singapore. The Marina Barrage, a 350-metre reservoir, was also designed to prevent flooding in the city area.

22. Asian Civilisations Museum

Asian Civilisations Museum

Officially opened in 2008, the Asian Civilisations Museum showcases cultures and civilisations which originated from China, Southeast, South and West Asia.

23. Internet Broadband


Image Credit: www.techspot.com

Not ranked as the fastest in the world but definitely one of the world’s fastest. Because of the highly competitive high speed fiber broadband plans made available in Singapore by internet service providers like Viewqwest, Starhub and Singtel. The Infocomm Development Authority or IDA meticulously oversees and publishes a monthly speed test results of the ISPs to ensure quality and dependability.

24. Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

“Chai tow kway” or “Chai tow Kueh” is not the sweet dessert made from carrots. In fact, it has no carrot in it but daikon or winter radish. It’s prepared by stir frying the shredded daikon, steamed rice flour, water, and eggs. Each stall may differ on the seasonings used but a freshly cooked carrot cake is great for snacks and some would match it with beer.

25. Bugis

Singapore, STB-Singapore
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

The Bugis area is known for being a shopping district. Aside from the thrill and madness at the shopping area, there are myriads of eating places to go to. Steam boat, Thai food, Indian food, you name it and Bugis has it.

26. Red Dot Design Museum

red dot design museum

For a creative bite of Singapore, one has to come by the Red Dot Design Museum. Aside from design exhibitions, there’s a design trail that you can follow. Yes, there’s designer shopping too.

27. Chijmes

Chijmes STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

This historical place is not just a place for drinking and gastronomic experience, although it’s famous for that nowadays, Chijmes’ rich heritage started way back in the 1840’s. With the recent developments and renovations, it now playfully integrates history and the modern lifestyle.

28. Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

Its main attractions are the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest but there are a lot more besides. This world-class icon is a must see as it will surely entice everyone in the family, even the most uninterested of plants.

29. National Day Parade

NDP STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

It was first celebrated in 1966, the year after Singapore’s Independence from Malaysia in 9th August 1965. Usually held at the Padang and simultaneously at the Marina Floating Stadium, its yearly themes are very meaningful. This year’s theme is “Majulah Singapura!”

30. STOMP


Image Source: www.ifra.com

The STOMP or Straits Times Online Mobile Print, is an award-winning website which is very popular in depicting ‘uniquely Singaporean’ news and features. It is big on social media, especially its famous pages like ‘What Say You’, ‘Singapore Seen’ and ‘Club Stomp.’ A concerned Netizen may take a snapshot or a video of you, so be very careful with what you post on social media and with your demeanour in public or you’ll be “STOMPED!”

31. Clarke Quay

Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

To some, the place may be synonymous to ‘night out’, but there are more things that Clarke Quay can offer. It’s true though that it’s a very happening place in the evening, because of the bars and dance clubs, but it has great places for dining and even shopping, too.

32. The Helix Bridge

The Helix Bridge by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

It wasn’t just made for us to have amazing photos there, the beautiful bridge links us to and fro the Marina Bay, Marina South and Marina Centre (Malls). The Helix Bridge illuminates in the evening, giving more life and vibrancy to its exceptional design and structure.

33. Alkaff Bridge

The Art Bridge

Also known as the ‘Singapore Art Bridge’, this masterpiece was painted by Filipino artist Pacita Abad. It was built in 1997 but was only painted in 2004 using 55 different colours and with over 99 litres of paint used.

34. ECP, PIE, CTE, AYE


Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

These are acronyms of the expressways built in Singapore to help ease the motorists travelling from one urban area to another. That’s why, as they say, it will only take 30 to 40 minutes of travel between the farthest ends of Singapore.

35. Brunches/Cafes

Artistry Singapore
Image Credit: Artistry

Weekends in Singapore is usually filled with brunch gatherings (mostly Expats). This is like a celebration of the busy week that they have survived. There are a number of Cafés which serve brunches all around the island. ‘Celebration!’, that’s how we feel when we go for Singapore brunches.

36. National Library

Managed by the National Library Board (NLB), its mission is to “make knowledge come alive, spark imagination and create possibilities.” Aside from the National Library and National Archives, there are 26 other public libraries in Singapore that the NLB manages. For information membership and borrowing privileges, click HERE.

37. Make-A-Wish Foundation

Make-A-Wish
Image Credit: Prestige Singapore

Many of you may have heard of Make-A-Wish or perhaps some may have even volunteered with them. Its mission is to grant wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Since it began in 1980, they have granted over 187,000 wishes for children in Singapore. These wish granting that they do aims to enrich the human experience of these children with hope, strength and joy. Have you volunteered or donated lately?

38. SISTIC

SISTIC
Image Credit: www.dedrickkoh.com

A ticket service and solutions provider who is in charge of over a thousand events happening in and around Singapore annually. Every concert, show or play savvy knows SISTIC. They have ticket booths and agents located in key areas of Singapore and even in other countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, and Indonesia.

39. Singapore Art Museum

Singapore Arts Museum

It’s formerly the St. Joseph’s Institution, the Singapore Arts Museum or SAM has a diverse collection of contemporary art from Singapore and Southeast Asia. As Singapore’s first art museum, its mission is to make people think, feel, experience and imagine through contemporary art.

40. National Museum Singapore

National Museum Singapore by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

The oldest museum in Singapore and the custodian of 10 National Treasures, namely: The Singapore Stone, Gold Ornaments from the Forbidden Hill, Daguerreotype of Singapore by Alphonse-Eugene-Jules Itier, Portrait of Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham, Will of Munshi Abdullah, The Mace of the City of Singapore, The Xin Sai Le Puppet Stage, The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, Singapore from the Rocky Point and Portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas.

41. MacRitchie Nature Trail

MacRitchie Reservoir STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Surrounding the park is Singapore’s largest reservoir—MacRitchie Reservoir. As part of nation building and transforming Singapore into a Garden City, the tree-planting started in the 60’s and the first campaign was spearheaded by the late PM Lee Kuan Yew; and, that was when the greening of Singapore started. The MacRitchie Nature Trail and Reservoir Park is now one of the most favourite spots of nature lovers, runners and water sport aficionados. nparks.gov.sg

42. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore
Image Credit: Flickr

Aside from Hollywood Walk of Fame and New York, there are seven movie-themed attractions and twenty four different rides found inside Universal Studios Singapore (USS). The Universal Globe logo which welcomes everyone by the entrance of the USS, already gives you the feel of being in a Hollywood movie. As Southeast Asia’s first Hollywood movie theme park, the USS is one attraction one shouldn’t miss when in Singapore.

43. Hawker Centres

_MG_2603
Image Credit: Flickr – British Council Singapore

Hawker Centres are found in almost every residential area. If you want to experience authentic Singaporean (Malay, Chinese, Indian) cooking, the Hawker Centres will be your best option. Food prices are relatively cheaper too, as compared to food courts inside the malls. Disclaimer: There are a lot of shops in malls which serve great tasting local food as well; you just have to know where to go.

44. Kopitiam

Kopitiam
Image Credit: Flickr

Kopi is a Malay word for coffee while tiam is a Hokkien word which means shop. While people watching or chatting with friends, it is a bliss to sit down with the kopi of your choice and a warm kaya-butter toast to go with it.  Best enjoyed early in the morning or afternoon during weekends.  On a busy Sunday morning, sitting in the open-air Kopitiam is just as exciting as it is relaxing.

45. Esplanade

Esplanade by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Raymond Cruz

The Esplanade Theatres on the Bay or just simply The Esplanade or ‘The Durians’ was built in 1996 and reached its completion in 2011. While The Esplanade is considered to be  one of Singapore’s most popular tourist attractions because of its unique architecture and design, its huge concert hall and theatre often showcase world-class performances.

46. Park Connectors

connector park

Aiming to promote fun recreational activities as well as fostering good health through fitness, the National Parks or NParks have created park connectors in different neighbourhoods around Singapore. Runners, joggers, cyclists, roller bladers and many more may enjoy their activities closer to nature. Park Connector Do’s and Don’ts

47. Bubble Tea Craze

Bubble Tea

When likes of Gong Cha, Artease, Each A Cup, SOD Cafe, Koi, et cetera have surfaced around Singapore; the ‘bubble tea’ fever has taken off in Singapore and the long queues have become visible. Everywhere. While it offers delicious flavours/mixes, it has become so lucrative to a number of stall and franchise owners as bubble teas are a great refreshment that’s delicious and fit for the hot and humid weather.

48. Queueing

Queueing
Image Credit: The Straits Times

Speaking of ‘queues’, it’s not just in bubble tea counters but in Hawker Centres, Kopitiams and just about everywhere. Queueing is one cultural trait that is common in Singapore. It is respectful and orderly. It sometimes also signifies that that particular store is famous or have been serving quality food or service for a long time. You may also notice some stores featuring photos of celebrities or politicians queueing or enjoying their product. Now, that’s a good marketing strategy!

49. Choping

Choping

It is the practice of placing a tissue, an ID, an umbrella, or any small item atop the table to signal to others that you have reserved it. To ‘chope’ simply means to save one’s territory–that is your table. It is a practice that is observed mostly in the Central Business District area of Singapore. While it’s often packed on food places, especially during lunch time, the custom of choping has become a ‘policy’ that’s whimsical, and, yes, unique!

50. Gillman Barracks

Gillman Barracks

Formerly a military camp, this hip area may not be very well-known to many just yet; but the Gillman Barracks is a cool area for contemporary art. Through the cooperation of National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), and JTC Corporation (JTC), it aims to make Singapore the centre of contemporary art in the whole of Asia through its art galleries and exhibitions. Let’s support this mission. If you have not been yet, here’s how to get there.

What’s your 50?

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