Singapore: This Article Has Not Been Authorized
In an effort to draw tourists and industry, Singapore is trying to change its image -- and the international media has run many a story about how the "nanny state" is finally letting down its hair. But we prefer to admire Singapore for what it is, even if that's not the message the government wants to send.
10. And they are loosening up
Most foreigners expect Singapore bars to be dishwater dull. Not so. Whereas Bangkok is positively cracking down on nightlife, Singapore recently established 24-hour licensing laws in some areas, meaning the bars never close. The Tiger beer is served round the clock at Boat Quay, an area of converted shophouses (from which Singapore's forefathers traded and plied the muddy Singapore River for work). The Chocolate Bar is the hot place for the no-longer-illegal tabletop dancing. Of course, all that drinking tends to also make for lots of retching kids, and nearby Clarke Quay might be a more appealing option. Other happening areas and venues include Mohamed Sultan Road, Club Street in Chinatown (a fancy row of watering holes--dress up and head straight for Aphrodisiac), the Liquid Room at the Gallery Hotel at Robertson Quay (which attracts style mavens and the pink dollar--remember, gay parties have just been permitted), and Attica at Clarke Quay. The city's most famous nightclub continues to be Zouk, where brand-name international DJs come to spin. And the neighborhoods of Empress Place and Emerald Hill draw older, more sophisicated crowds.
Best of all, getting back to your hotel is never much of a problem, what with the negligible crime rates and plentiful taxis. Do bear in mind that most cabs' fares increase by 50 percent after midnight. Could it be because the nanny state wants to give you an incentive to get a good night's sleep?
Singapore is genuinely multiethnic
Chinese form 77 percent of the population, Malays 14 percent, and Indians 8 percent. It makes for an interesting place in many ways, especially culinarily. There's straightforward ethnic food: For Chinese, eat at Crystal Jade Kitchen and Just Greens Vegetarian Food; for Malay, go to Kampong Glam's Kandahar Street and the Geylang neighborhood for mom-and-pop outlets; for Indian, seek out the Ananda Bhavan restaurant. Even more fascinating are the many fusion cuisines, like that of the Peranakan community (descendants of intermarried Chinese and Malays) and the Mamaks (Indian Muslims). One savory Peranakan (a.k.a. Nonya or Baba) dish is babi pongteh, a mix of pork, shallots, soybean paste, and garlic. Nonya is really popular now, especially as traditional Peranakan areas such as Katong and Joo Chiat become gentrified. Murtabak, a flatbread filled with onion and minced beef, is a staple at every street stall, or go to Nonya restaurants such as the Blue Ginger or Chilli Padi. Afterward, sip a teh tarik: A strong tea strained through muslin and poured back and forth from a great height, it's Singapore's equivalent of a cappuccino frothed by hand.