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Insider’s guide to Singapore: What to eat, drink and do in the cosmopolitan city-state

It’s boom time for Singapore. Once considered perhaps a bit boring, the island country is not just reclaiming its status as a travel hub — it’s a popular transit point for tourists coming to, or leaving from, Asia — the destination is also gaining popularity as a place to stay and holiday .

With over five million people crammed into 729 square kilometers, the cosmopolitan city-state I call home celebrates both the modern and the time-tested. There’s architecture that honors the past, while skyscrapers reflect its status as a modern financial center. There’s a hawker fare that showcases Singapore’s multiracial and immigrant cultures, but no shortage of western fine dining either. And despite the pandemic, new attractions have sprouted within the garden city. Here are five spots I recommend for your next trip here.

For impressive bird’s-eye views: SkyHelix Sentosa (Imbiah Lookout)

Rising to a maximum height of 260 feet, SkyHelix offers 360-degree views of Singapore.

Touristy as it may sound, the country’s highest open-air panoramic ride — located on Sentosa, an island just off the mainland — will give you a new perspective, akin to watching a 12-minute reel of Singapore’s development. As the SkyHelix rises, you may feel like you’re emerging from a tropical rainforest. Another world opens up as you ascend further and glimpse military barracks, built on Sentosa during British colonization, which have since turned into heritage hotels. At the highest point, you’ll see in the distance: a prosperous Singapore, glittering with skyscrapers on the mainland.

For a taste of heritage cuisine: Remapa (2 Paya Lebar Rd.)

Nasi lemak, a traditional Malay dish, at the restaurant Remapa.

This restaurant’s name is a portmanteau of rempah (Malay for “spice paste”) and “papa.” The latter is a reference to chef Damian D’Silva’s reputation of him as the grandfather of Singapore heritage cuisine, an expansive amalgamation of traditional recipes spanning Chinese, Peranakan, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. As diverse as Singapore itself, the dishes are colorful and fragrant with spices and herbs. Try the vegetarian chickpeas, which marry Indian and Eurasian curry flavors with blistered red peppers, fresh tomatoes, Kashmiri chili powder and turmeric powder.

For cocktails with a sustainable spin: Analogue (30 Victoria St.)

With a focus on sustainability, Analogue serves cocktails on a countertop made of repurposed plastic.

Home to a thriving bar scene, Singapore boasts six of the World’s 50 Best Bars of 2021. Vijay Mudaliar, co-founder of Native, which clinched the sustainable bar award in 2019, opened Analogue last year. Located in a restored chapel, with a countertop made with about 3,500 pounds of used plastic, Analogue takes sustainability a step further. It has a plant-based menu and wants to educate people on ingredients they can eat more of in the future. For example, cacti and succulents that thrive in hot temperatures find their way into Cactus, a refreshing drink also made with mescal, prickly pear, pink dragon fruit and more.

For lessons on Singapore folklore: Hell’s Museum (262 Pasir Panjang Rd.)

Hell's Museum depicts the punishments that await wrongdoers in the afterlife.

Opened last October and stretching over 40,000 square feet, this museum explores concepts and perspectives about death and the afterlife across different civilizations, religions and cultures. Expect to see exhibits like a traditional Chinese graveyard on-site. More macabre (but fascinating to many foreigners) are the 10 Courts of Hell, a series of dioramas based on Taoist teachings depicting the thick punishments one gets in the afterlife for crimes committed before death.

For an immersion in nature: Gallop Extension at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (Gallop Gate entrance)

LI-SINGAPORE-AUG6 Part of the Gallop Extension, the Forest Discovery Center showcases Singapore's ecosystems.  Uploaded by: Joe Howell

With a babbling brook and two stately manors atop rolling hills, these grounds resemble a bucolic English countryside more than a tropical rainforest. But this is an accurate reflection of Singapore under British colonialization. In March, the eight-hectare Gallop Extension was added, opening new attractions such as the Botanical Art Gallery and Forest Discovery Center. At the former, visitors will be able to see a selection of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ art collection, which includes more than 2,000 botanical paintings, and hundreds of sketches and line drawings.

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