Multi-cultural Singapore is a fascinating place. Malays, Chinese, Tamils, Indians and Gulf Arabs appear to live happily together with their European, American, Australian and Pacific region neighbours.
Singapore is also a multi-religious country with Buddhism and Taoism being the most prominent religious groups, apart from Christianity and Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism. During my visit there a while ago there was no sign of any frictions between the various religious groups. One of the nicest features of Singapore to me was the plentitude of temples, mosques and other places of worship. For instance you’ll find Chinese temples all over Singapore, even in Little India, not just in Chinatown. Colourful and accessible, you can usually wander in without disturbing anyone. In most temples you need not remove your shoes, and dress codes are usually non-existent. Photos are allowed in some, but not all, so better ask. Flash photos and taking pictures of people praying is considered bad manners anywhere, no matter what the rules are.
It is well worth a visit. Singapore is often dubbed the Switzerland of Asia. Most visitors, and all of the locals, are heavily into shopping for mostly Western goods. I personally preferred shopping at the local street markets and going to an Indian fortune teller who was aided in the task by his pigeons.
Some good tea is to be had there too, black, green, yellow, white or red. The best place for your early morning tea might be on the terraces of Raffles Hotel (declared a National Monument in 1987), whereas for afternoon tea I would suggest a nice cup of Chinese tea in Chinatown. There are two types of places to go for tea, teashops and tea shops.
Tea shops are stores that sell tea. You also can enjoy drinking tea there. You will probably feel obliged in the end to buy something, but if you wander into a larger, brighter one when they are not too busy and mumble about wanting some tea but you’re not sure what kind, with the right attendant you might end up sharing some pleasant chat while sampling all sorts of tasty brews. You don’t pay for the samples but, like I said, are expected to buy some loose tea in the end. Regular teas are reasonably priced, but there are some amazing offers for sale as well. The teas come loose in big urns, so the shop will measure out just the right amount you actually want to buy. It all makes for a pleasant diversion.
Teashops are like Star****s in that they sell you a cup of tea and a place to sit and enjoy it. You’ll see them all over Singapore’s Chinatown, and they make nice places to get off your feet after all that shopping. But they tend to be a bit crowded at times.
Go and see for yourself if you have a chance.
The Singapore Arts Festival is going on at the moment and until 24 June, just in case you wanted to know. For instance ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will be performed by the Vilnius City Theatre from Lithuania tomorrow, 5 June.