Thian Hock Keng, the "Temple of Heavenly Bliss," is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore. What was originally a makeshift altar became a full-blown temple in 1841, and it still shines today with red and black lacquer and gold gilt. The shrine honours Ma Po Cho, the Patron Goddess of Sailors, but it also gives a shout out to the Protector of Life, the God of War, the Goddess of Mercy and the Sun and Moon Gods through intricate carvings and statues.
Singapore is one of two cities in the world (the other is Rio de Janeiro) with a significant primary rainforest within its boundaries. Hike or bike your way through jungle paths in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, home to more than 840 flowering plants and over 500 species of animals. Keep your eyes peeled for exotic birds, butterflies, monkeys, flying lemurs and the carnivorous pitcher plant. These reserves also contain more species of trees than the entire North American continent - a great reason to encounter the forest canopy on a treetop suspension bridge spanning two peaks.
Like its culture, Singapore's cuisine is a blend of flavours. For a taste of an original Singaporean libation, follow in the footsteps of great writers, celebrities and other influencers to the renowned Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling cocktail was created in 1915. The British colonial building is now a national monument, and sipping the drink is a monumental event. Sip the tropical concoction in the Long Bar as punkahs, small waving ceiling fans, cool and transport you to another era.
Shopping for Bargains
If you're into shopping, you've come to the right place. Singapore's Orchard Road is a stretch of sheer shopping pleasure where you can find giant department stores, chic fashions and specialty shops. To try the art of haggling, head to the smaller shops and street vendors where prices aren't marked. Let the bidding begin!
Use your right hand in public and your left hand in private to sync up with Indian and Muslim society customs. When making gestures, use your right hand, and when pointing, use your knuckle to be more polite. Remember to remove your shoes and cover your legs and upper arms before entering places of worship. Wearing slip-on shoes and carrying a sarong in your day bag, ladies, will help simplify the transitions.
Singapore's currency is the Singapore dollar (SGD). Credit cards are usually accepted. Bargaining is encouraged when prices aren't marked. Singapore's banking hours are generally Mondays to Fridays, 10:00am to 3pm, and Saturdays from 9:30am to 11:30am.