Asian Civilisations Museum
Singapore's Chinatown evolved in about 1821 when the first Chinese junk arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province. Its four main districts - Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Pasoh - each have a distinctive flavour of their own. The Chinese heart, in the Trengganu/Smith Street area, is marked by the Fuk Tak Chi and Thian Hock Keng temples. Housewives haggle for the best produce making this a lively and noisy ethnic quarter at times. But peace and quiet is available in the temples and at Yixing Xuan's Teahouse where the ancient, ritualistic art of making tea as a metaphor for life goes on.
Raffles Hotel :
Built in 1887 and declared a National Monument exactly 100 years later, Raffles Hotel is one of the world's last remaining Victorian grand hotels of the East. Its 160 million Singapore Dollar facelift in 1991, based on its heyday in 1915, has ensured the hotel retains the unique charm of an age and sensibility now just a memory. Tourists flock for afternoon tea in the Tiffin Room and a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar.
Chinese and Japanese Gardens :
Situated at the very west end of the MRT line and lying side by side, these gardens are something of a haven of tranquility away from the city. The 13-hectare (32.5-acre) Chinese Garden portrays the Imperial Sung Dynasty style and echoes the grandeur of the Beijing Summer Palace with its bridges, pagodas, stone-boat and teahouse. The Japanese Garden, by contrast, emphasises Zen simplicity with stone lanterns, hillocks and a dry garden. Classical Japanese motifs help create an atmosphere of anodyne calm.
Supreme Court and City Hall
Dating from 1939, the Supreme Court is one of the last colonial constructions. Its Corinthian columns surround stately interiors featuring murals by Italian artist Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli. Next door is City Hall, another giant structure, built in 1929, and the site of the Japanese surrender to Lord Mountbatten in 1945. Visitors may tour the premises with the useful Guide to the Supreme Court and attend most open court hearings. Visitors who want to learn more about the local judiciary can visit the Multimedia Gallery, as well as the Supreme Court Open House-cum-Exhibition.
Singapore Botanic Gardens :
Singapore Botanic Gardens offer a reminder of a real land that time forgot: the gardens epitomize the tropical island's luxuriant parks with a combination of primary jungle and elegantly laid out flowerbeds and shrubs. Spread over 52 hectares (128 acres), the gardens hold more than half a million species of plant life. The National Orchid Garden has the world's largest orchid display featuring over 20,000 orchids.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve :
This 164-hectare (405-acre) reserve, 12km (7.5 miles) from the city centre, is one of only two world nature reserves within city boundaries (the other is in Rio de Janeiro). The reserve contains more species of trees than the entire North American continent. Almost all of the island's forests were destroyed at some point in its history. Species of larger animals were rendered extinct, but, today, the fortunate visitor may glimpse a flying lemur or anteater. Only here is there a substantial area of primary rainforest.
Changi Prison Chapel & Museum :
Singapore has not always been smiling faces and success. During World War II, three years of conflict with the Japanese before capitulation saw 50,000 civilians and soldiers imprisoned in Changi. The new home of the Changi Prison Chapel and Museum was recently completed and is four times larger than the original. The chapel is a replica of many chapels built during the conflict. The museum records the daily life of prisoners in photographs, paintings and sketches.