A local’s guide to Singapore
- By Shibani Mahtani
- Photos by Ore Huiying
Some people write off Singapore as staid. They just aren’t looking hard enough.
The small city-state is much more than its reputation for cleanliness, safety and predictability. One of the most ethnically diverse cities in Asia, it’s also quickly transforming into a cultural destination for the region. Its architecture — meticulously planned and painstakingly preserved — is a testament to its influences: colonial monuments left behind by the British, public housing complexes dreamed up by Singapore’s early leaders, and iconic hotels and skyscrapers that arrived recently astride a wave of new wealth. Look even closer, and you’ll see quiet movements emerging: space made for local artists and writers, or conversations broached on race and LGBT rights, once taboo topics.
But above all, this city and its people are defined by their food, a truly exceptional cuisine that reflects the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian populations who call Singapore home. It is only through eating your way around this city that you can truly feel its pulse and start to understand its fierce pride.
Meet Shibani Mahtani
Shibani Mahtani is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Washington Post, covering countries that include the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. She joined The Post's foreign desk in 2018 after seven years as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Southeast Asia and later in Chicago, where she covered the Midwest.
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Explore more of Singapore
- Get the EZ-Link transit card to use our cheap, efficient transit system. The tourist pass gets you unlimited rides for about $7 a day and about $14.50 for three days.
- Please, no chewing-gum jokes. Yes, its sale is banned, except for dental and nicotine varieties. No, you won’t get fined for chewing it. (You will see Singaporeans jaywalking without fear of fines or canings. We aren’t that straight-laced.)
- Download the apps Grab and Gojek, the local versions of Uber and Lyft.