Singapore, an island nation about the size of Mumbai, has an outsize reputation as a hotbed of innovation. With autonomous vehicles being tested on the roads, environmental policies to manage water resources and protect green spaces, and social programs that preserve heritage in this multicultural society, the Lion City is a showcase for urban living. But it doesn’t look only to the future. “Singapore is about being past-forward, not just fast-forward,” says Gene Tan, a local creative director.
Founded 52 years ago, this city-state of some 58 lakh people strives to sustain both its natural environment and its distinct social fabric. The November 2017 issue of National Geographic counts Singapore among the world’s happiest places (noting that economic stability leads to personal satisfaction). Start your visit at the Singapore City Gallery, a museum dedicated to the nation’s surprising structural evolution.
Crafty venue Druggists pours 23 rotating draft brews to pair with spicy global dishes, all set inside an 80-year-old shophouse that still hosts the spot’s namesake, the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association. A must-try cuisine? Nonya, the aromatic mix of Chinese and Malay flavours that originated in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. House of Peranakan Petit serves a savoury selection of the classics, like long bean sambal and coconut-tinged beef rendang. At Open Farm Community diners can take a post-meal walk around produce plots to see veggies and herbs destined to appear on plates.
Just a short stroll from the main shopping strip along Orchard Road, boutique hotel Lloyd’s Inn features a striking minimalist design that highlights the lush greenery adorning its roof terrace, garden deck, and dipping pool (lloydsinn.com). Parkroyal on Pickering calls itself a “hotel in a garden,” with floors wrapped in foliage and waterfalls (www.parkroyalhotels.com). From its nearly 1,000-foot-long garden walkway, guests relish verdant views. For a luxurious eco-escape beyond the city, hop a ferry to Cempedak resort in Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago and lounge in the sustainably built bamboo villas that meld into the natural surroundings (www.cempedak.com).
Gardens by the Bay has two huge conservatories brimming with plants, but it may be best known for the Supertree Grove, a group of man-made structures that rise up to 160 feet and mimic the functions of their natural counterparts. Crossing through four parks, the Southern Ridges walk offers elevated stops along its 10-kilometre route, giving different perspectives on the mix of jungle and urban settings in the distance. Take the ferry to Pulau Ubin and rent a bike to explore one of Singapore’s last kampongs, or villages, with plenty of flora and fauna to check out too.
Gallery shop Supermama is famed for its blue-and-white porcelain plates decorated with iconic views of Singapore. Collaborating with a network of local designers, The Farm Store beckons buyers with offerings like pillows, earrings, and coasters inspired by Singaporean culture. At Ji Xiang Confectionery the selection of handmade ang ku kueh sells out quickly. Go early to sample the classic Chinese dessert consisting of a sticky rice-flour shell stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings such as peanuts, yam, and coconut.