Singapore: The "Lion City"

If you want to travel to Southeast Asia with your family (or without), Singapore is the place. Clean, organized and virtually crime free, the city has many attractions geared to children.

A night out

New York City, move over — the City that Never Sleeps has a serious rival. Though Singapore doesn’t have as many museums, the night life is better for families. This is especially true during the Chinese New Year, which was celebrated Feb. 1-15, 2013.

Walking along the riverbank as it gets dark is fairytale-like because of the bright lights, free concerts, lion dances, plus two light shows every evening.

I felt magic in the air.

Families strolling along the riverbank

A day out

During the day, the riverfront area doesn’t stop either. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino is one of the most impressive structures; built with a boat perched on top of its three towers, this structure dominates the skyline. Among the other hotels that have the privilege of location, location, location, is the Fullerton, where we stayed, the Mandarin Oriental and the Pan Pacific.

Photo of Mandarin Oriental and Pan Pacific at night

The Sands, designed by architect Moshe Safdie opened in 2010. Not only is its construction novel, but immediately in front of the hotel sits the ArtScience Museum designed in the shape of a lotus. There, we saw a Magnum Photography show entitled “Outside In” plus an exhibit about the people of Fujian (a Southeastern province of China). Afterwards we ate in the shopping mall that is part of the Sands at the DB Bistro (Danielle Boulud), a nod to the USA. The French fries were great — the hamburger less so.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel with the ArtScience Museum just to the left

From the Fullerton Hotel’s central location, the Asian Civilizations Museum is just steps away across a bridge. The museum is rich with Southeast Asia History; a guided tour (offered several times per day in English) might help sort it out.

Around the corner we ate lunch at one of the best-known restaurants in Singapore: Indochine. Established by Michael Ma, known as “the Dude,” it advertises nutraceutical cuisine that is said to be healthy.

The night before we tried another meal option — the quay restaurants just across the river from our hotel. There, hawkers attempt to attract every passer-by to eat at their stand. We chose Forum Seafood at 43 Boat Quay because we thought they would have fresh fish as they had them in tanks along the walkway. For $147.74, all we got was indigestion, bad spirits and a bit of gastro intestinal upset. Oh well, we clearly didn’t have enough information to make a good choice. Unfortunately, this is part of being a tourist and happens to travelers universally.

We also visited the Singapore Art Museum. Though certainly not NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, it had its own charm as it is largely housed in a prior boy’s school. The chapel remains, now with a glass window in the front with an apparent Islamic symbol.

The exhibit we saw entitled “The Collectors Show: Weight of History,” extended into a new building across the street. At that location, there was a witty display by Syagini Ratna Wulan about the benefits of tea. Videos showed extremely satisfied clients, part of the jocularity.

Tea exhibit

The Peranakan Museum

If you have been to similar museums in Penang or Malacca, you might find the Singapore Peranakan Museum sterile — it is devoid of the charm of a Peranakan House filled with furniture and personal artifacts. Instead there is little furniture and the visitor relies on a short introductory video and a guide to explain Peranakan history. On the third floor, there is a special exhibit as well as a permanent one of Peranakan Chinese export porcelain on display.

Both the Penang and Malacca Peranakan museum homes were more enjoyable, the latter having its original furniture; however, the Malacca and Penang museums do not allow photos. Only the Malacca Museum actually enforced this rule so taking photos at the Blue Mansion in Penang was an extra perk.

The Blue Mansion (the Peranakan house) in Penang

The rest

There are so many more things to see in Singapore, little India and Chinatown among them. Orchard Road has shopping. There is yet another Asian Civilizations Museum and a Singapore History Museum. Fort Canning is historically important and a pleasant respite from the city itself.

There are multiple river cruises to take, one of them being the River Explorer that passes major attractions in the central city, such as Raffles Landing and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino. A Hop-On-Hop-Off day pass is available.

More

We stayed at the Fullerton Hotel, located in a choice spot by the river. The public areas are pleasant and the staff was accommodating. We had absolutely no problem during our three-day stay there.

But, the room we were in, #741, was damp. Clothes draped on a chair would feel wet after a time. It seemed there was a mildew odor in the air.

This could be because it had rained a lot, their air-conditioning was not tuned properly or the hallways were so long they received little ventilation. In the hot, damp climate of Singapore, inhabitants rarely opened windows and even if they did a breeze might not grace them.

#7

Photo Fullerton Hotel at night

Whatever, the case, a room at the more recently built Fullerton Bay Hotel might work better, or one of the other hotels along the Riverfront, the Mandarin Oriental, Sands Marina or the Pan Pacific, among others.