Singapore Reminds me of a Person who makes an exhaustive list of New Year's resolutions and then manages to keep every single one of them. In other words, Singapore runs reliably and efficiently—like a Swiss watch. It's secure, clean and has a cutting-edge infrastructure. And it's a great choice if you're traveling to Asia for the first time and you have concerns about successfully navigating Asian culture. Because of its British heritage, many of Singapore's residents speak English.
Asian cities such as Tokyo, Bombay (Mumbai) and Bangkok can be overwhelming and confusing. Not so Singapore. This is good, and not so good. Some visitors find Singapore too westernized, with all its skyscrapers. Some bristle at all its rules of conduct: Littering is strictly punished, and they used to confiscate chewing gum from arriving visitors because of the clean-up problems that discarded gum presented.
Not long ago, Singapore's yuppies had their noses so far down to the grindstone that the birth rate was falling. The government took to sponsoring yuppie "Love Boat" cruises in Singapore harbor in an effort to encourage young professionals to let nature take its course.
Singapore is adjusting to this over-developed need for control, and the pendulum is swinging from round-the-clock business to the creation of more opportunities for leisure. An example of this is the upcoming debut of the state-of-the-art ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer, scheduled to open in March. It will rise 541 feet into the air, providing panoramic views of Marina Bay and the financial district skyline. The Singapore Flyer will surpass China's Star of Nanchang and the London Eye as the world's tallest observation wheel. Each of its 28 "capsules," which are fully air-conditioned and UV-protected, will accommodate up to 30 people.
Rides will last about 37 minutes, and prices start around $20 for adults. Individual capsules can be rented for approximately $685. Express boarding (which allows riders to bypass the line on crowded days) and cocktail flights are also available. Hours of operation will be 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. Pedestrian access to the Singapore Flyer is along the Marina Bay waterfront and Raffles Avenue.
In another leisure development, Singapore's island resort of Sentosa is transforming into a destination for families. Reached by a short causeway, Sentosa is a popular destination with both visitors and locals. It has a 1.2-mile beach and a number of attractions, including two golf courses.
The $3.4 billion development Resorts World at Sentosa—slated to be operational by 2010—will offer a variety of family-friendly attractions, including Marine Life Park, Equarius water theme park and the largest Universal Studios theme park in Asia. It will also have six hotels totaling 1,830 rooms, including Hotel Michael, designed by award-winning architect Michael Graves.
Once you have visited Singapore and shopped on Orchard Road and dined alfresco at Boat Quay, you'll be ready to brave the Asian swirl of Bangkok's tuk-tuks and sidewalk restaurants, Mumbai's mass of humanity and Tokyo's science-fiction embrace of the future.