Modern Metropolises of the East: Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur
The concept of a city break has been revolutionized by the ultramodern metropolises of Asia and the Middle East. Few cities have embraced the future of urban spaces as wholeheartedly as Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.Picture one of these cities and you’ll immediately know what we mean: awe-inspiring steel and glass skyscrapers refracting sunlight onto city centers buzzing with life; innovative green spaces breathing fresh life into the area; leisure-seekers thronging to megamalls or finding unexpected attractions.
If you’re looking for a city break that dazzles you with each new sight and where boredom is never an option, these three destinations share the same aspirational attitudes, gravity-defying skylines, and irresistible cultural dynamism.
Not many cities can match Singapore for its immaculate cleanliness and constant innovation. Take the Gardens by the Bay, a “forest” of synthetic trees with greenery climbing up the side of each purple trunk. It represents the best of Singapore, combining cutting-edge architecture and eye-catching designs with a dedication to bringing nature into the heart of the city.
You’ll see the same blend of ideas in popular attractions such as the Marina Bay Sands, a resort combining museums, hotels, and shopping malls in strikingly designed buildings. Families will undoubtedly be enchanted by attractions such as the Night Safari – a zoo of nocturnal animals – and Universal Studios Singapore.
One of Singapore’s most appealing features is its open embrace of multiculturalism. The neighborhoods of Little India and Chinatown transport you to different corners of the planet, while the flavors of Singapore are equally global. Stroll around one of the night markets or glistening malls to pick up snacks and meals from all around the world.
Dubai is a city for dreamers, where if you have the idea of creating an entirely artificial island or skiing in the deserts of the Middle East, you can make it happen. The results of Dubai’s ambitions can be seen everywhere you look, from possibly the most luxurious hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab, to its tallest building, the BurjKhalifa. Dubai’s growing significance as a global financial hub has been matched by its increasing popularity as a vacation destination; the city’s effortlessly efficient tourism infrastructure means that sometimes it can feel like one big playground.
Megamalls such as the Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates bring in the crowds seeking high-end shopping, hours of entertainmentand, yes, an afternoon of skiing on snowy slopes. Parks such as the Miracle Garden and Zabeel Park cheerily defy their desert location by staying resolutely green and colorful. The beaches of Dubai are equally enticing, offering waterparks, sunbathing, and swimming in safe, clean water.
If the hypermodernity of Dubai can feel overwhelming, you’re never too far away from the traditional side of the nation. The city’s souks, running along the edges of Dubai Creek, feel a world away from the megamalls, packed into narrow alleyways where the air is filled with the smell of spices and the sound of haggling.
Charismatic Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur – or KL as its fondly known by its residents – may feel a bit more chaotic than Dubai or Singapore. Yet the louder, busier atmosphere here only enhances the restless energy of Malaysia’s exhilarating capital. Like those other two futuristic destinations, KL has an abiding affection for cloud-piercing skyscrapers and sleek, multifunctional malls. Its skyline is instantly recognizable by the two Petronas Towers, among the tallest in the world and linked by a dizzying skybridge.
It’s also a city that has carved impressive amounts of space out of its bustling center to make room for peaceful parks. Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park, for instance, is a maze of walking trails through tranquil greenery, with botanical gardens, beds blooming with orchids, and even two of the city’s finest museums. The Batu Caves, in the north of the city, are rich with history and culture – and are also home to a gang of mischievous macaques who will look to poach your lunch.
The primary appeal of KL, however, is probably its mouthwatering food scene, where delicious dishes are only ever a few paces away. “You can head out and find food 24 hours a day – even on a public holiday,” explains Pauline Lee of Simply Enak, who take visitors on food tours of the city. You could be snacking on street food in a night market one moment and dining on Michelin-starred dishes the next. Don’t miss the chance to try nasi lemak, Malaysia’s delicious national dish of coconut milk rice served with fried fish and beans.