If you are thinking of going on an overseas tour in April, there is a very easy choice, just four hours away by air from Colombo – the tiny island state of Singapore. The name Singapore means Sinha Pura or Lion City – according to legend, Asiatic Lions have been sighted here.
Singapore is an ideal first choice for a family holiday. There is no need to get visas . Singapore packs so much into its 700 Square Kilometres (approx 100 times smaller than Sri Lanka) that the entire family will be kept occupied for four or five days. Transport is fairly easy as taxis are inexpensive and the Subway covers practically the entire island. Even if accommodation is a bit expensive, the food is very cheap and diverse. (When Singaporeans meet each other on the street, the usual greeting is Chi le ma? Which is Chinese for “have you eaten?”). It is a paradise for shoppers of all ages. And last but not least, Singapore is a great example for amity among different communities.
You can begin with the Colonial Area where the iconic Raffles Hotel stands. Named after Stamford Raffles, the British seafarer who first saw Singapore’s potential as a port, this hotel is one of the most famous buildings in Singapore. This area of Singapore tells the story of the island’s transformation from a tiny harbour to one of the major cities in Asia in a little over 200 years.
No visit to Singapore would be complete without checking out the Gardens by the Bay near the landmark Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The area has three public gardens and two conservatories housing trees and flowering plants from all over the world. Kids even get their own garden in the complex – the Children’s Garden. Allow one day to cover all the attractions here, including the ArtScience Museum and the Singapore Flyer, the ferris wheel from which you can see all of Singapore (and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia) from 150 metres up.
On the second day, why not check out the Singapore Zoo, River Safari (including Panda Forest), Jurong Bird Park and the famous Night Safari ? All four attractions are family-friendly (you can even feed some selected animals and have breakfast with them).
On the third day, do not miss the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year. If you have time, visit the Changi Museum to see how World War II affected Singapore. Then take time out to visit China Town and Little India. While in Little India, you can shop till you drop at the 24/7 Mustafa Centre. A visit to Singapore’s Arab Quarter is also recommended.
The fourth day can be spent at Sentosa Island, which houses a Universal Studios theme park. It is a fun-filled centre for children. Check out the Merlion statue and the vast aquarium after an adventurous cable car ride from the mainland. For a different view of Singapore, head to Granite Island, which still has a few traditional villages.
On the fifth day, walk along Orchard Street, where the world comes to shop. It has 22 malls and six department stores, plus numerous smaller shops and restaurants. It is just the right choice to end your visit to the Lion City on a high note.
|Sentosa cable car|
Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay