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Do you remember the last time somebody flogged you? Literally! Singapore is not a place that spanks its tourists, but anyone who violates one of the local laws can be sentenced to flogging. This also includes people who prolong their stay in this beautiful city for longer than it is allowed. Armed with prejudices that will disappear as soon as you leave the impressive Changi airport, you will notice that in Singapore you can find cigarette butts on the sidewalks, that people smoke, and that you can even see graffiti art. However, if you fail to report your cigarettes, the penalty for an unopened box can be as high as 45,000 kuna. Possession of drugs is punishable by death. Numerous other smaller violations are punishable by flogging.
Immediately when you step off the plane and enter the airport building, you will notice that you have arrived to one of the best developed world economies. The airport is open around the clock, providing a whole lot of content to the tired passengers who need to kill some time, and some of it is even free. Why not enjoy a foot massage after a long flight when it’s free? Or see a movie in the movie theater? Or visit a garden with tropical butterflies?
The first contact with the city will be marked by sweltering weather, no matter the time of day you exit the airport. This island state is located some eighty kilometers from the equator. On a surface that is a little bit smaller than two islands of Krk, Singapore is home to 5 million people. Regardless of the multitude such a multicultural nation has, Singapore seems vary spacious. It has its own beaches, jungles, and very broad streets with buildings that seem to be rising from the jungle. Singapore is not a cheap place, especially not by Southeast Asian standards. Still, they are very fair in their offer, so the money you spend is not wasted. Although they often call it the biggest shopping center admitted into the United Nations, Singapore has far more to often than huge stores with very competitive prices.
Food in Singapore is divine and quite cheap. You can have a meal for around 20 kuna, and choose from a fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab and numerous other cuisines. This mixture of nations offers quite a nice culinary adventure. Expensive cuisine can be found in a mythical place in Singapore you just have to visit – the Raffles Hotel. A night’s accommodation cannot be found for less than 3,500 kuna, but a simple visit to the hotel will cost you nothing. This hotel came up with the famous Singapore Sling cocktail. In the same Long Bar where the bartender Ngiam Tong Boon came up with the famous drink in early 20th century, some of the more decadent visitors killed the last specimen of the Singapore tiger, eradicating this species from the face of the earth.
If you make a reservation in advance, you might even catch a place in the restaurant, and for some 250 kuna enjoy in not only the delicacies but also the atmosphere that is enhanced by the sound of the harp and the hotel’s rich history from the golden days of travel – early decades of the 20th century.
The decadence of richer visitors from the past who shot a tiger in the bar was somewhat remedied by the protection of flora and fauna in modern day Singapore. The modern Singapore Zoo protects many animals from extinction, and it also boasts the biggest orangutan population outside of their natural habitat. Another indication of the Zoo’s quality comes from Michelin who awarded it three stars. Night safari is quite a popular attraction. You may need to wait several hours for a 30-minute electrical train ride. The waiting time can be shortened with a dinner in one of the numerous restaurants offering local cuisine, in shopping or by enjoying one of the numerous programs on offer. Jurong Bird Park is a treat for all bird lovers, while the botanists will enjoy the botanical gardens.
Singapore’s architecture is influenced by colonial and contemporary architecture, as well as those of the local nations that were placed in separate city districts by the British colonizers. A short walk can take you from the futurist neon jungle into India, China, Malay Peninsula, or the Middle East. It is exactly this mixture of different nations and customs they brought with themselves that has turned Singapore into a place where in a relatively short time you can see the sacral architecture of numerous religions. Almost all world religions live in a peaceful coexistence in Singapore. Visitors of different confessions are welcome.
Psychedelic Burmese Buddhist temples, pagodas of Vedic religions, Islamic mosques as well as Catholic churches seem like they are competing which one will look the best. The thing you should definitely not forget that there is always good food around places of worship! Across from the Masijid Mosque in Arab Street you will find the famous Islamic restaurant Zam Zam, with more than hundred years of tradition of preparing Halal cuisine. It is not a restaurant that can be found on Michelin’s or Zagat’s list, but just like with everything in Singapore, there is a rule for the restaurants – if there is a line in front of the restaurant, join in, it’s worthy to try. There is a dish resembling borek that we can recommend. The joy of listening to the sound of muezzin coming from the minaret will cost you extra 15 kuna. Of course, you should also try the local specialties, including Laksa chicken soup with a special pastry and big scampi swimming inside, while the breakfast special is kaya egg and chicken spread, colored green with locally growing herbs. Another famous dish, chilli crabs, can be had for free – if you look for a coupon at the tourist stand! Delicious and free!
Shopping is also a story unto itself. The concentration and number of shopping malls and local bazaars is amazing. It’s almost like the entire city is one big duty free shop. The merchants are relatively fair when it comes to prices, largely because of the big competition, but in some parts of town you can shop around the clock throughout the year, like for example the Mustafa bazaar in Little India. You can buy almost anything there, apart from chewing gum. For some reason, chewing gum is treated somewhat more lenient than narcotics. You can get them only in pharmacies, where the addicts will be entered into a special register. The quantity you get is for personal use, of course.
Swimming and beaches may perhaps not be the first image you associate with Singapore, since this small country is one of the leading merchant ports. But this does not mean that this segment is non-existent. Sentosa is an island of some 5 square kilometers that is annually visited by 5 million visitors! The beach is around two kilometers long and has two five-star hotels, two golf courses and several theme parks. Various beach parties can gather around 20 thousand visitors.
It perhaps may not offer what the Croatian coast has to offer, but we can learn a lot from this example and implement it in Croatian tourism. There are plenty of attractions on the island, but merely lounging on the beach is also acceptable. Lying on comfortable beds under the clear skies in the heat of more than 30 degrees Celsius, drinking cocktails or cold Veuve Clicquot, eating tropical fruits and looking at the background with tankers from all around the world is not unbearable, on the contrary.
In the evening you will go somewhere else anyway – to explore the night life in many of the bars in this miniature state. The most famous club is Zouk that no party animal should miss. It is said to be one of the best clubs in the world. Although the gay population is repressed, there is a multitude of clubs and bars, many of them organizing theme nights on Sundays. On Thursdays, girls around the country get not only free admission to the clubs, but free drinks as well.