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Why you should visit Singapore in 2012
New cultural venues
In February, 2011, the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands opened to the public as the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. First there is the architecture of the building (shown right), which is designed to look like a lotus flower in order to metaphorically welcome guests from all walks of life. The museum itself houses more than 50,000 square feet of exhibits for visitors to explore, helping them to better understand the connection between art and science.
The National Art Gallery in Singapore is undergoing a complete renovation and is being relocated to the center of the Civic District. The new visual arts venue will be housed in two adjacent heritage buildings: City Hall and the former Supreme Court building. It will be the largest of its kind in Singapore, and will "focus on the display, appreciation, promotion, research and study of Southeast Asian and Singaporean art, as well as play host to international art exhibitions". The completed project should be done by the end of the year, and until then travelers can still visit the former National Art Gallery, which features an array of local and cultural works.
Last September, Singapore unveiled their Louis Vuitton Island Maison to merge luxury shopping with art and architecture. As the brand's first-ever island maison, the store's interior is nautically themed and will also introduce cultural elements of the area into the design. Along with selling designer accessories, the venue will also feature a contemporary artwork tunnel as well as a bookstore housing works on art, culture, and design.
Tourists who want to shop should also take a stroll down Orchard Road. While expensive, it is the best in Singapore in terms of quality, choice, and how many shops are centered in one place. Even if you're short on cash, it's worth it to visit Orchard Road just to window browse and check out all of the diverse architecture. If you're on a budget and want to buy something, check out the Far East Plaza, which is on Scotts Road in the Orchard Road District and is home to countless boutique shops and non-chain stores.
In June, 2012, Singapore will be able to welcome visitors to the brand new Gardens by the Bay. The park, which is being constructed to be the "Central Park of Asia", will encompass 250 acres of land in the Marina Bay District. The project is meant to align with the city's vision of transforming into a giant garden. Some major attractions include the Heritage Gardens (shown right), the Flower Dome, Dragonfly Lake, Bay East Gardens, and Golden & Silver Gardens.
Asia's first river-themed animal park
Scheduled to open very soon, River Safari Singapore will be the first river-themed animal park in Asia. Visitors will have the chance to take boat rides and get a close-up encounter with freshwater environments and animals. The goal of the park, which is a project of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, is to educate people on freshwater habitat conservation. Some of the experiences you can have include visiting the Amazon Sunken Forest (shown right) and meeting manatees and arapalmas, riding down the Mekong and seeing Long-tailed Macaques and giant catfish, floating down the sacred healing waters of the Ganges and spying ancient Indian Gharial and narrow-headed turtles, and more.
Last year, Singapore prepared for hotel expansion through many efforts. For instance, the well-known Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort (shown right) underwent a $63 million renovation while new properties like the budget-friendly Ibis Singapore Novena and the luxurious Fullerton Bay Hotel opened their doors to guests.
And, expansions are continuing into this year. In August, 2012, visitors to Singapore will be able to stay at the brand new chic and trendy island resort, W Singapore Sentosa Cove, which will be the W Hotel's first property in Singapore. Moreover, this year the Pan Pacific Hotel Group will be opening a brand new property that is planned to be one of the most eco-friendly hotel options in Asia, PARKROYAL on Pickering. The venue will feature energy and water regulation, solar-powered landscape lighting, and rainwater harvesting as well as lush skygardens, reflecting pools, and waterfalls. Around the hotel property, the landscape will hold a relaxing, tropical feel.
High quality food
Most people would agree that the number one reason to visit Singapore is the food. Even international food expert Anthony Bourdain has toted Singapore as being the most "foodie destination" in the world and has said that once you've had the food there "you can't go back to the way you were before". One excellent way to get a taste of the street food culture in Singapore, which is high-quality and authentic, is at a Hawker Centre. Here you will be able to sample an array of local cuisines that have undergone careful preparation, like Laksa (shown right), Beef Rendang, and Hainanese Chicken Rice for a good price.
Sinapore also has some excellent new restaurants that have just opened up. To help you experience the hawker food culture even further, there is The Food Republic Beer Garden. Here you can choose from 18 different push-cart stalls offering street food as well as experience live music until 1AM. What's also great about this place is it's housed in an old Tiger Beer lowry making it great choice for beer lovers and oenophiles.
There are also L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon Restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa, both opened by Michelin star chef Joël Robuchon. The two restaurants are the chef's first venture in Southeast Asia and give guests the opportunity to sample two unique fine-dining menus at the same resort.
[images via ArtScience Museum, Schristia, Gardens by the Bay, River Safari, Shangri-La Sentosa, Diane Bondareff]