With its rich cultural heritage derived from its Chinese, Malay and Indian population, the tiny island of Singapore is becoming one of the healthiest (and most expensive) city-state in the world.
Filled with green spaces, Singapore is great for cycle and running lovers.
An interesting place for food enthusiasts as well, thanks to the mixture of cultures.
For those curious about heritage and oriental culture, a must-see visit is Thian Hock Keng, the oldest and most important Chinese Temple in Singapore. Also known as Temple of Heavenly Happiness, this sacred space is a reminder of Chinatown's beginnings.
Built for the worship of Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea, the Temple was visited by early Chinese immigrants to give thanks and offer incense for their safe passage across the vast waves of the South China Sea. Today's worshippers come to the sacred space to pray for peace, protection and good health.
A rare example of Temple, that encompasses Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Ancestral Worship - other deities located in the temple are Baosheng Dadi (the God of Medicine and Health), Guansheng Dijun (worshipped for spiritual protection), Kai Zhang Sheng Wang, Cheng Huang Ye (the City God) and Confucius – it keeps attracting devotees of different dialect groups and from all walks of life with dedicated festivals, events and rituals.
During these times, cultural performances, guided tours and other activities are held at the Temple, expect the place to be crowded.
For all Buddhist culture lovers, another must-visit cultural site is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the five-storey Temple and admire its impressive array of relics.
Built in 2007, the design was inspired by the Buddhist Mandala, a symbol of Buddhist culture that represents the universe, and it gets its name from what the Buddhists regard as the left canine tooth of Buddha, recovered from his funeral pyre in India and displayed on the temple's grounds.
Revered artefacts of the Buddha, such as bone and tongue relics are held on the third floor of the Temple, where The Buddhist Culture Museum is located.
It's important to note that “the Buddha Tooth Relic is housed in a giant stupa weighing a whopping 3.500 kilograms and made from 320 Kilograms of gold, of which 234 kilograms were donated by devotees. Only monks are allowed into the relic chamber, but visitors will be able to see the tooth relic from the public viewing area”.
An interactive workshop is led by the Temple's resident venerables to whoever wants to discover more about Buddhism.
Chinese Heritage Centre is the place to visit if you want to find more about overseas Chinese communities and admire the building’s architecture.
The best way to appreciate the cultural diversity of Singapore, is to take one of the main multicultural walks. Because ethnic diversity is apparent out on the streets.
An interesting walk is Feng Shui Tour, where you can embark first-hand on learning more about this ancient practice, rooted in Singapore, that influences culture and has shaped the city skyline.
Take a trip down memory lane and visit pre-colonial places like the Sultan Mosque. Or follow a sensory trip through the aroma of spices, and visit Little India and Chinatown.
And then comes Waterloo Street, a 550-metre-long strip, that shows harmony among different religious practices can co-exist. Here Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Hindus share the same little space and devotees pay their respects to their cult. Shuttle between Sri Krishnan temple to Maghain Aboth, the oldest synagogue in Southeast Asia to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.
There are also natural attractions. One stands out, Flower Dome, probably the largest glass greehouse in the world.
Among our Holistic Travel Guide destinations, this location is probably less spiritual than others but interesting in its own way.
Enjoy the difference
✒ BY MARGHERITA ANTINORI