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Sprawling shopping centers, a multi-ethnic population, and a whole island packed with tourist attractions…say hello to Singapore.

December 14, 2009 9:42 by

The heart of the commercial district, Orchard Road, is an impressive avenue lined with imposing malls and five-star hotels. And while the shopping centers are suitably modern, and the hotels luxurious, what dazzled me most were the grand Christmas decorations all along the avenue.

A glittering Christmas tree outside the newly opened ION Orchard towers over a street packed with Santa Clauses, reindeers, and (strangely enough) an enormous Garfield in a Santa Claus outfit.

Christianity, however, is not the only major religion in Singapore. According to the nation’s official tourism website, the main religions are Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. The list of minorities is significantly longer.

Singapore is best described as multi-religious and multi-ethnic, where religions and cultures are accommodated rather than subdued (so long as they follow the government’s rules, of course). It makes for an exciting destination, where a district offers cultural and culinary experiences unlike any other in Singapore.

Most famously, you have Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street, where you’ll find markets, food stalls and the hand crafted goods. Most tourists flock to Chinatown, although I’d recommend a trip to all three for a taste of the nation’s multiculturalism.

Close to Chinatown is Clarke Quay, where bars and restaurants on either side of the river attract tourists and wealthy city residents. While the restaurants are overpriced, and the area looks a little too planned, an evening spent enjoying a chilled Tiger beer by the river is priceless.

But I was a woman on a mission, and no ice cold beers or tempting shopping districts were going to deter me: I was in Singapore to eat chili crab.

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