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The Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore.
The Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore.

Culture shock and awe in Singapore Add to ...

As I near the end of my week-long escape, I savour my favourite frozen dessert – palm-sugar drenched shaved-ice – and wonder if I’ll ever find this in Toronto. Singapore has been a feast for the senses, but I’m just about full. Thankfully, all those “exotic” fruits I’ve been eating all week – durian, mangosteen, longan, rambutan – no longer seem so strange, and I know just what to look for when I get back home.

IF YOU GO

The fantastic service and free booze (even in economy) on Singapore Airlines may be just what you need to get you through an 18-plus hour flight, but you’ve got to get to New Yor k, Los Angeles or San Francisco first. The other option for Canadian flyers is to connect onto Singapore Airlines in Frankfurt.

This is a safe city to travel in at night, but respect the city’s rules. And make sure you don’t litter, it’s a $500 fine. (On the super-clean subway, where you can’t eat either, a flower fell out of my hair and my guide scooped it up before it even hit the ground.)

 

WHERE TO STAY

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore Lushly landscaped, the Shangri-La is true to its name in this busy city. The Garden Wing has had a recent luxe overhaul: the rooms are cushier, the TVs much bigger and the garden around which it’s built is a true centrepiece. One lovely amenity includes a daily supply of local fruits to your room. Book a table one night at Shang Palace, one of the best fine-dining Cantonese restaurants in town. Rooms from $395. 22 Orange Grove Road, shangri-la.com/singapore

The Scarlet Walk into this 80-room boutique hotel in the chic Ann Siang Hill district and you’ll think you’ve wandered into a Parisian boudoir. The doormen and desk clerks swan about in long black coats and the guests are definitely hip and young. But rooms at this great Chinatown location come without windows (just skylights) unless you book a deluxe one. Rooms from $320. 33 Erskine Road, 65-6511-3333; thescarlethotel.com

WHERE TO EAT

Pollen Newly opened in Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay, Pollen offers superb Mediterranean-inspired fine-dining. It’s an offshoot of Michelen-starred chef Jason Atherton’s London restaurant, and signature dishes include scallop carpaccio ($26) and herb-roasted pork belly ($48). After dinner, relocate to the dessert bar to watch the pastry chefs at work. Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive, 65-6604-9988; pollen.com.sg

Long Beach A long-time local favourite, this seafood restaurant is famous for its steaming bowl of Black Pepper Crab. At the Dempsey Road location, four long rows of tanks rise up one wall filled with fish and shellfish from all over the world. Order the crab dish, and lots of deep fried buns to mop up the loads of spicy sauce. Five locations. Longbeachseafood.com.sg

Wild Rocket Lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low takes Singapore’s favourite flavours and ingredients and takes them upmarket. Dishes include soft-shell crab with squid ink and mantou. Tasting menu from $95, four course meals from $65. Found on the outskirts of Little India, Wild Rocket is connected to the high-concept hostel Hang Out (no grubby backpackers here) and a decent pub. 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Mount Emily, 65-633-99448; wildrocket.com.sg

Maxwell Food Centre Choose from dozens of stalls. The longest lineup is for chicken rice at Tian Tian ($3). But don’t stop there. Wash it down with sugar-cane juice ($1.50) and a box of ondeh-ondeh (coconut balls with a palm-sugar filling) for $3. If it’s busy, reserve your table by placing a tissue on your chair – seriously. South Bridge and Maxwell Roads

The writer travelled courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board.

(Editor's note: The spelling of The Scarlet hotel has been corrected. Rooms with windows are available in the deluxe category, incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of the story.)

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