Long-haul flights are best managed by having a stopover. When flying to Europe, I always break the journey in Singapore; other options include Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Korea and the Middle East (your choice of airline will determine this decision).
If time only permits breaking the trip in one direction, it is best on the homeward journey for several reasons: you can get a head start on adjusting to the time difference, plus it is less distance to carry any items you buy.
One Singapore shopping experience that I will never forget was in the small hours of the night (around 3am) at Mustafa Centre, which never closes. Its multiple levels extend in a labyrinth of narrow aisles with shelves stocked with every imaginable item, from clothes and electronics to luggage and homewares. This shopping mecca is a typical example of the limitless possibilities for consumers in this lively city at the very hub of South East Asia.
Being close to the equator, Singapore is the perfect destination for comfort travellers, as it is hot all year round, so everywhere is air conditioned or has fans. The street food is influenced mostly by Malaysia, which means Indian and Chinese food is available everywhere. For tourists there is an abundance of places to go, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Raffles Hotel and the National Gallery. My favourite spot is the Botanical Gardens, which extend for several kilometres and have many sections devoted to a wide range of plants from all over the world. Like all of Singapore, they are beautifully maintained and well signposted.
Much of Singapore’s beauty is best appreciated at night when it is a little cooler, and the city’s lights, sounds and fragrances captivate the senses. Possibly the most dazzling sight of Singapore is its space-age city skyline; this scene is especially spectacular on the harbour front, where reflections from the water and a nightly laser and fountain display add to the free attractions of this international gateway.
Another feature of Singapore that appeals to me is the variety of cultures occupying this island nation; within a short distance of each other are Little India, Arab Street and China Town, as well as several beautifully preserved British Colonial buildings – all fringed by the towering futuristic city that has grown around them in modern times.
Singapore’s train service is also world class; at about $2.50 for most journeys, its network covers the metropolitan and downtown area. The journey itself is so smooth, that standing passengers rarely hang on to anything as the train gently pulls into each immaculately clean station. Visitors with time to spare can readily access Malaysia by road, via a bridge; the immigration process is handled efficiently by both nations, so that day-trips are made feasible, as well as longer visits to resort islands and lesser known destinations for travellers drawn away from the tourist trails.
If you are transiting Singapore and not stopping over, Changi Airport is a destination in itself. It has an abundance of attractions including a butterfly garden, orchid displays, ornamental fish ponds and countless shops and eateries. Transit passengers can walk several kilometres in the departures area: an excellent form of exercise prior to the next leg of a long flight, and an opportunity to recognise Singapore’s appeal, for the next time you pass through and, if I were you, stay longer.