The British imported Chinese workers as well as peoples from other parts of the empires. These groups often congregated into their own districts, giving Singapore areas with distinctive buildings and styles. Take a walk down Arab street, where you'll find fabrics from across Asia. Not far from here, along Serangoon street, is "little India." Of course, there's also a Chinatown.
Over the last few years or so, numerous "historical" areas have been developed, such as Bugis Junction, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Tanjong Pagar. These are very tourist-oriented areas, where the development has a Disneyland quality to it. The buildings have been completely gutted, and some even built from scratch, to conform to an ideal of what we think old Singapore should look like, rather than what they really were. That doesn't make them bad places for eating a relaxing dinner, though.
Our favorite is Clarke Quay. It has the requisite compliment of far too many restaurants to choose from easily, but unlike Boat Quay just down the river, it also has carts and small curio shops to poke around in while trying to decide what kind of food you're in the mood for. Not that Boat Quay is without its own charms. Almost all the dining area is right on the river. Across the river, the neo-classical museum is brightly lit at night, making a highly romantic setting for an intimate dinner. After dinner, take a stroll down past the end of Boat Quay where the plaza of a large modern office complex affords many places to sit and watch the lights play on the water. At this point you're not far from what is currently the most popular club in Singapore, Centro.
The oddly domed Esplanade, Singapore's new cultural center.
An impressive new cultural center opened in October 2002 on the waterfront near Suntec City. The center has theaters, concert halls and galleries. The building itself promises to be controversial, as many compare it to a pair of gigantic housefly eyes.
Even if you're not interested in a cultural performance, the center is worth checking out for the fantastic view from the food court in the rear. From here you get a gret view across the harbor to the relocated Merlion with the skyscrapers of the the business district in the background. The view is slightly better in the daytime than it is at night, but its a great place for lunch or dinner. There are several restaurants ranging from quick-service to fine dining formats.