One of the smallest 20 countries in the world, Singapore provides the culturally curious traveller with a snapshot of the Far East cased in a land where Western home comforts are readily available.
Although based on one main island, Singapore is actually a collection of 63 islands, most of which are uninhabited, and due to its proximity to the equator, experiences near-summer weather conditions all year round.
The official working language of the south-east Asian state is English but, like its cultural attractions, the language of use is more of a mixture between the colonial’s tongue with Chinese, Malay and even Tamil thrown into a dialect known as ‘Singlish’.
Travellers venturing to Singapore this month (September) will be lucky enough to be in town for the Hungry Ghosts festival which is a tribute to the dead souls whom the local Chinese community believe have been allowed to roam the earth for a short period of time. Locals make offerings to the ghosts, burning paper versions of everyday items such as money, televisions or even houses and cars to appease those who have passed through death’s door and to ward off bad luck.
The more tangible pleasures include outdoor live music performances and a vast amount of traditional food will be on offer because the locals believe that by coming together and dining as group they can harness the power to prevent the return of the spirits for another year.
The festival ends on September 21st so spontaneous travellers still have chance of catching the tasteful twilight of this historical event.
Tourists after a more upbeat holiday will find no shortage of nightlife in the largely urbanised country.
Two of the liveliest areas for evening activity are along the Mohamed Sultan Road and Chinatown, where trendy bars and clubs abound.
Down by the bay, numerous bars offer cheap drinks, meals, live music as a boisterous crowd of revellers are always ready to pick up the party, with the Red Lantern Beer Garden on Collyer Quay as a notorious tourist favourite.
The pick of the clubs has to be Zouk. Hardcore clubbers will adore the multi-storied venue, which is internationally acclaimed and has attracted many top DJs in its time. It is also connected to the Phuture and Velvet Underground establishments.
For a more relaxing evening, visitors may want to travel to the favourite haunt of one of Singapore’s most infamous former inhabitants. Nick Leeson, the merchant banker from Watford whose shady stock market dealings led to the collapse of Barings Bank, used to adore Harry’s on Boat Quay for its live jazz and blues, washed down with a few choice cocktails.
Singapore has a great deal to offer in a country that is 15,000 times smaller than the USA – tourists can enjoy the mysterious pleasures of the Orient while retreating to Western bars and clubs to party, Eastern style!