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101 things to do in Singapore: Sight-seeing

Major attractions and a slice of local life

1

Take a walk on the wild side

Manatees, crocodiles, flamingos and monkeys are just some of the 5,000 animals you'll meet in the newish river-themed wildlife park, River Safari. See the world’s largest freshwater pufferfish at the Congo River showcase, watch the adorable squirrel monkeys roam within Wild Amazonia showcase, and check out the cuddly couple Kai Kai and Jia Jia (along with cute red pandas) at the Panda exhibit.

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2

Be art

Korea’s Trick Eye Museum has finally arrived in Resorts World Sentosa, and guests are encouraged to fully immerse themselves in the interactive pieces. The 800 sqm museum is divided into six zones with different themes (like Safari or Circus), and each displays three-dimensional paintings and optical illusion masterpieces that you can pose in front of for mindboggling photo ops. Tag your friends to brag.

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Harbourfront
3

Go back to nature at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

The wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds and secondary forest is home to 140 species of birds. Thousands of egrets, sandpipers and plovers pass through in winter, but plenty of local species (kingfishers, herons, bitterns) are visible all year round. Early morning is the best time for birdwatching; there are observation hides, and you can rent binoculars. There are three nature trails (3-7km/2-4 miles long), and you can also spot mudskippers, monkeys and climbing crabs on the mangrove boardwalks.

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Kranji
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4

Go (almost) skydiving

No excuses about not wanting to jump out of a plane, because now we can feel the rush of skydiving a few metres off the ground at iFly Singapore. You won’t have the Earth zooming towards you, but you will have the South China Sea to look at as your body is kept afloat in the world’s largest indoor skydiving wind tunnel.

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Harbourfront
5

Ride in the world’s largest observation wheel

It’s a little slow, but there’s no denying that a ride aboard the 42-storey, 165m Singapore Flyer offers some of the best 360-degree views of the city. Each flight lasts 30 minutes and on a clear day the panorama from the top of the wheel stretches into neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Promenade
6

See the garden of the future

Spanning 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is home to over 380,000 plants, housed in two climate-controlled indoor conservatories and the futuristic looking Supertree structures, which act as vertical gardens. A 128m aerial walkway connecting the tops of the Supertrees offers great panoramic views of the Marina Bay skyline; you can also make it a day out by packing a picnic to munch on while lounging on Bay East’s grassy lawns. If the outdoor tropical heat gets to you, cool off over at the conservatories – the Flower Dome displays amazing plants like Baobabs and ancient olive trees from cool-dry Mediterranean climates, while the cool-moist Cloud Forest boasts a 35m man-made waterfall, along with exotic fauna from the Tropical Montane highlands. Then stay on after dark to watch the Supertrees come alive with an evening light and sound show (daily 7.45pm and 8.45pm).

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Bayfront
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7

Watch striped hyenas forage in the dark

Set in lush secondary rainforest, the Night Safari (and the world’s first night zoo) allows you to see what over 900 nocturnal animals – including these striped hyenas and other scarier beasts like lions and leopards – get up to after dusk, in naturalistic habitats and without barriers, via the use of special lighting techniques.

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Woodlands
8
Watch pierced pilgrims walk their faith

Watch pierced pilgrims walk their faith

Celebrate with Hindus from the Tamil community in the eye-popping Thaipusam festival proclaiming their faith. Devotees reveal their beliefs by piercing themselves with a kavadi, which can weigh up to 30kg. The festivities usually start at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple around 9am, followed by a procession down Serangoon Road in a trance-like manner. The next Thaipusam is on 3 February, 2015.

397 Serangoon Rd (6928 5771). Farrer Park. Free admission.

9
Go snorkelling

Go snorkelling

A little off the coast of Singapore, Pulau Hantu and Sisters’ Island boast sheltered beaches and clear waters (for local standards), and are popular with diving and snorkelling enthusiasts who come for the rich marine and coral life. You have to charter your own boat from the Marina South Pier to get here; obtain a camping permit from Sentosa Leisure Group (email administrator@sentosa.com.sg) seven working days ahead if you wish to stay overnight.

(6534 9339, www.islandcruise.com.sg) Charter a private boat from Marina South Pier. Marina Bay. POA.

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10
Visit Singapore's last remaining kampong to take in the sights

Visit Singapore's last remaining kampong to take in the sights

It wasn’t too long ago that kampongs and stilted houses were way of life in Singapore, but it’s had a sleek 21st century makeover in just a matter of years. Travel back in time to Kampong Lorong Buangkok, Singapore’s last surviving kampong, where some 30 families live in zinc-roofed houses, chickens roam freely and children fish from canals. Bring your camera and mosquito repellant, but remember to be respectful.

Lorong Buangkok. Take a taxi.

11

Bollywood Veggies

Yes, there is a semblance of a countryside in urban Singapore’s Kranji. Tour produce farms, of which Bollywood Veggies remains the favourite and most visitor-friendly. Run by Singaporean icon Ivy Singh-Lim, the farm specialises in ‘fruit vegetables’ like cucumbers, pumpkins and gourds. Have lunch at their bistro, which serves lesser-known local dishes like banana curry.

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Kranji
12

Learn about the city’s past, present and future

Given the space constraints of our Little Red Dot, it’s no small feat to plan the development of this city-state – but the three levels of galleries at the Singapore City Gallery crunch down the info into a series of educational (but also frankly, fascinating) exhibitions, with a number of interactive kiosks. The highlight is a scale architectural model of the city centre, offering a view of what the CBD looks like from 1,600 metres above sea level, with a light show that tracks the history of the area – and what’s planned for the city’s future.

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Tanjong Pagar
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13
Watch a late night carom match

Watch a late night carom match

Walk off a big Indian meal by taking in Little India’s pockets of activity. Take a left down Desker Road and make a right on Lembu Road, leading up to Mustafa Centre. You will come across Lembu Road Open Space park. Towards the back of the park you’ll spot a crowd of men playing carom under hanging fluorescent lights. A mixture of billiards and air hockey, a few tables are set up at weekends to play this game that’s found all across India. Feel free to peek over the shoulders of the gamers and, if you’re up for it, ask if you can have a go.

14

Visit Singapore’s grandest mosque

Round off a trip to Kampong Glam with a visit to Sultan Mosque. The heart of the Arab Quarter, it is the largest unofficial centre of worship for Muslims locally, but visitors are welcome to enter (except during prayer services, so do avoid Fridays). Look for the curious features at the base of the dome, which is composed of many glass bottles.

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Bugis
15

Unleash your inner Picasso

Social painting – also known as art jamming – is picking up in Singapore, as stressed out locals turn to blank canvases for creative therapy. Head to Arteastiq, where customers are given blank canvases, unlimited acrylic paint and paint equipment, and left to their imagination. Each session includes a complimentary tea beverage

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Somerset
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16

Experience the mythological Ten Courts of Hell

The weird and wonderful Haw Par Villa is a park filled with multicoloured statues depicting scenes from Chinese history and mythology. The highlight is the Ten Courts of Hell (responsible for childhood nightmares for generations of Singaporeans) where small-scale tableaux show human sinners being punished in a variety of hideous and bloodthirsty ways – in extremely gory and graphic detail. It’s a safe bet that you will never see anything like it anywhere else.

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17

Breakfast with the orang utans

Singapore Zoo’s Ah Meng Restaurant serves up a buffet spread of Western and local delights, but trust us – the highlight has to be the orang utans, which make their daily appearance between 9.30 to 10am – they’re friendly, well-trained and always up for a photo op! Walk off the food after at the ‘open concept’ zoo, where over 4,000 animals, including the exotic white tiger and Hamadryas baboons, live in landscaped enclosures instead of traditional cages.

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Choa Chu Kang
18

Get a glimpse of old island life

Escape the city and spend a day in Pulau Ubin, one of the last kampongs in Singapore. A short ferry ride ($2.50 per person, one way) from the Changi Village Jetty, rent a bicycle to get a glimpse of Singapore before it became the cosmopolitan city it is today. Pedal past the wooden houses, minding the wild boars that roam the overgrown foliage, and stop by for a short trek at the Chek Jawa wetlands. Expect to work up a sweat, though you’ll be thoroughly rewarded for your efforts with a waterside seafood feast at Seasons Live Seafood

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Singapore
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19

Know your history

If you visit only one World War II-related site, make it Fort Siloso. The main story of Japan’s victory is punchily told, alongside displays on resistance hero Lim Bo Seng and Force 136, and on the local civilian experience during the Japanese occupation. The main attraction is the sprawling structure of the fort itself. Wandering around the gun emplacements and underground complexes at your own pace gives a material sense of a place lived in and fought for that is just as striking (if not more so) than any number of theatricals. Complimentary guided tours (12.30pm and 3.30pm) start from the Beach Station on Sat, Sun and PH.

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Harbourfront
20

Get chummy with goats

There are more than 1,000 goats of various breeds at the goat-only Hay Dairies farm, where you can take a break from the busy city and surround yourself with the animals. Milking sessions are from 9am to 11am, so come early for the main squeeze. Otherwise, you can also feed hay to the kids (the furry kind).

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Kranji
21

Get in the mood for kitty cuddles

Singapore’s first cat café Neko No Niwa is home to 11 friendly fuzzies – all rescued locally. There is a cover charge to enter the play area – reservations are recommended. Food and drinks are extra (though there’s no obligation to purchase anything), but if you’re feeling peckish, there is a fridge full of Ice Cream Cookie & Co dessert sandwiches ($5.90) and reasonably priced coffee (from $2.50) to wash it all down.

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Raffles Place
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22

Make your fortune

Give Vegas a run for its money at Singapore’s two resort casinos open for gambling all night long. The massive Marina Bay Sands offers about 500 table games and 2,500 slot machines, boasting a comprehensive selection of the newest and most popular electronic game machines; or steal away from the family-friendly fun to the casino at Resorts World Sentosa for a pick of top table games and slot machines.

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23

Make a wish in a turtle pond The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is a fascinating place with over 200 live turtles and tortoises from over 60 different species, including the snake-necked tortoise and the alligator-snapping turtle. Toss the odds-defying ‘lucky’ Asian pond turtle a coin and your wish might come true – but we think he’d favour a fresh hunk of cucumber instead.

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Chinese Garden
24

Cool off at a fountain park

Given the tropical climate here, it’s important to keep cool – and thankfully, Singapore has an abundance of free public fountains that put most water parks to shame. Our favourite is located at KidzPlay at NEX, which has plenty of room for kids (and the young at heart) to run around, plus a variety of ways to get wet, from mist machines to a massive centrepiece bucket that creates a torrential waterfall when it tips over

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Serangoon
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25

Merlion Sentosa

It’s cheesy, we know, but can you really visit Singapore without the obligatory tourist shot at Merlion Park? Come early to beat the crowds that throng this 2,500 sqm park, which is thankfully an easy walk from Raffles MRT station. At night, it makes a good vantage point from which to catch the laser light show at Marina Bay Sands.

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