Singapore is on a mission, and it’s to attract as many world class residents as possible. The tiny island ~which calls itself the little red dot~ recognizes that it has no resources left to poach, except its people.

Gardens by the Bay waterfall.

World’s tallest indoor waterfall

Fundamentally, this will have to mean a change, however, in a culture known for not celebrating those who rock the boat. Famous for its cleanliness and safety, Singapore is, after all, Asia~ some say Asia-lite ~ and has plenty of character to exhibit, if it only will let its nails be a little dirty on prom night. Stamping out rows of ancient, glorious shophouses to build malls, paving overgrown Chinese cemeteries to build highways ~ these are some of the practices Singapore should step away from, and quickly, if it wishes to lose its “vanilla” veneer.

This doesn’t have to come at the expense of all the good the city has to offer ~ fine restaurants, an efficient public transit system, premiere events and museums, and a network of schools that offer both local and international education on the highest levels.

From the East Coast of the U.S., the flight to Singapore seems daunting (21 hours!) and the first time I took it on I had a minor freak-out in the lounge just before boarding. But think of it this way: when else do you get to sit, have someone bring you soft drinks (or bev of choice) and peanuts, and watch as many movies as you want, without bickering over titles? Drink, sleep, movie, REPEAT. Then repeat again and again and again …
Downtown’s most famous hotels embody two opposite images of Singapore: Raffles, the Colonial era pile with bamboo-accented bar, and Marina Bay Sands, complete with a ship on top, rooftop pool, lobby casino and swank shops. But there are other charming options as well: The Fullerton blends the best of both, a sleek interior in a neoclassical shell perched waterfront.
If you’re searching for a taste of old Singapore, don’t miss a wet market, or Arab Street, with its textile shops and towering mosque. Touristy but worth it are Garden’s by the Bay, the Botanical Gardens, the National Museum of Singapore and the National Gallery of Art. Take time to browse the outlandishly spectacular shops lining Orchard Street. Lesser known destinations include Clarke Quay (locals pronounce it ‘key’) and beaches at the far end of Sentosa.