If "downtown" is defined as where the action is, then Singapore's downtown is Orchard Road. Here are some of the city's most fashionable shops, hotels (which often, like the Hilton, have expensive, upscale malls all their own), restaurants, and nightclubs. The street has been dubbed the 5th Avenue or Bond Street of Singapore, but, air of luxury aside, it has little in common with either of those older, relatively understated marketplaces for the wealthy. Orchard Road is an ultra-high-rent district that's very modern and very, very flashy—especially at night, when millions of light bulbs, flashing from just about every building, assault your eyes. Additionally, this is Singapore's best place for people-watching; a perfect distraction from or alternative to a shopping adventure. Relative to the other neighborhoods, there are few sites of historical interest along Orchard Road.
A Good Walk
Start at the bottom of Orchard Road and head toward the junction with Scotts Road, the hub of downtown. You'll see the enormous Istana, once the official residence of the colonial governor and now that of the president of the republic. On the other side of Orchard Road and a few steps down Clemenceau Avenue is the lovely old Tan Yeok Nee House. Built in 1885 for a wealthy Chinese merchant, the house has served various purposes, including headquarters for the Salvation Army. It's now the Asian campus for the University of Chicago's graduate business school. Turn on Tank Road and continue to the Chettiar Temple, which houses the image of Lord Subramaniam. Return to Orchard Road and turn left. On the right is Cuppage Road, with a market (open every morning) known for imported and unusual fruit and a row of antiques shops.
Returning once more to Orchard Road, you'll pass the block-long Centrepoint; immediately after it is Peranakan Place. A detour up Scotts Road leads to the landmark Goodwood Park Hotel which offers one of the most civilized high teas in town. Farther up Scotts Road is the Newton Circus food hawker center.
Retrace your steps to the intersection of Scotts and Orchard roads. Walk up the left side of Orchard Road, past the Wheelock Place Building, which houses the large Borders, as much a social center as a bookstore. Taxi drivers call this section of Wheelock Place "the rocket," and you'll see why. As you continue up Orchard Road, the Palais Renaissance will be on your right. Just before Orchard turns into Tanglin, you'll find the Tanglin Shopping Centre on your left; the second floor has some of the best antiques shops in town. Tanglin Mall, at the junction of Tanglin and Napier roads, has chic boutiques and an excellent food court. Flip to the Shopping chapter for more information about Orchard Road.
Orchard Road has so many shopping diversions that you should allow three to four hours for the walk. Set aside half an hour for the Chettiar Temple and, if you are an antiques fan, at least an hour for the Tanglin Shopping Centre. Avoid the area on Saturday if you're not big on crowds.
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