Like Hong Kong, Singapore resembles a giant gleaming bazaar. In particular, that revamped one-way Singapore boulevard Orchard Road draws the hordes because it covers just about every retail angle – every consumerist whim imaginable, parading a succession of megamalls.
Slap in the heart of Orchard Road, the “landmark mall” Centrepoint dominates. Other Orchard Road malls that you can hardly avoid include the 22-storey cobalt-blue Wisma Atria, the plush Paragon and the Palais Renaissance, which is just as swanky as it sounds. This post could list another 20 imposing shopping complexes dotted along the picturesque street, lit spectacularly during the Christmas onslaught.
Instead, let's look at what else there is to Orchard Road and the rest of the culturally diverse Southeast Asian city-state aside from shopping.
10 little-known facts about Singapore
1. Orchard Road got its name from the nutmeg and pepper plantations that lined it during the 19th century.
2. Singapore's signature Merlion statue depicts an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Its name combines 'mer' meaning the sea and 'lion'. The fish body relates to Singapore's fishing village roots. The lion head represents Singapore's original name — Singapura — Lion City.
3. Singapore's lion angle stems from legend. Once, a Sumatran prince supposedly spotted some kind of monster that resembled a lion when he first stood on the island in the 14th century. In 1819, British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles established a British trading station on this island.
4. Singapore is also known as the Intelligent Island because IT colours every part of society, as does money. Singapore's unofficial '5 Cs' motto is: Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium, and membership(s) of Country club – perks the upwardly-mobile Singaporean supposedly aspires to.
5. Singapore has a couple of unflattering nicknames, namely 'Spore' with its grisly Asian plague overtones and 'the fine country' because you get fined for everything from sticking gum under your chair to feeding monkeys.
6. Aside from Monaco, Singapore is the world's most densely populated country, with 6,430 people per square kilometre.
7. Singapore is one of the world's 20 smallest countries, its area just 683 square kilometres. America is about 15,000 times bigger.
8. Along with the main island that grabs all the glory, Singapore has 63 other islands – uninhabited specks in the ocean.
9. Far more than just a pretty picture, the Singapore flag reads like a book. The colour red symbolises universal brotherhood and equality while white stands for purity and virtue. The crescent moon represents a young rising nation and the five stars mean the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.
10. The famous Singapore Sling cocktail was first served in 1915 at the Long Bar of the landmark Raffles Hotel. The cocktail consists of gin, Cointreau, cherry brandy, Dom Benedictine, pineapple juice, Grenadine, Angoustura bitters and limes.
Travel tip: If you visit Singapore, be good. Even the possession of handcuffs – even pink fuzzy ones – is banned.
Singapore is one of Southeast Asia's busiest flight hubs. Besides flag-carrier Singapore Airlines and its regional subsidiary SilkAir, Singapore hosts low-cost carriers Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia. You can also fly in via pan-Asian discount carrier AirAsia and Malaysian regional operator Firefly. There are also direct services from Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, North America, even South Africa. And you can get driven in via two peninsular Malaysia land links: the Causeway and Second Link.
For information on getting around Singapore, click here.