You wouldn’t think a tattoo convention would be welcome in a strict city-state that has been criticized for its disregard of individual freedoms-it banned chewing gum for 12 years (1992-2004) and still imposes hefty fines for things like forgetting to flush a public toilet or spitting in public. But Singapore’s government hasn’t found a way to stop the rise of tattooing within its borders, and the first-ever Singapore Tattoo Show will take place January 9-11.
Show organizers have invited Paul Booth, Bob Tyrrell, Robert Hernandez, and other artists to ink attendees. The convention will also include a traditional Chinese dance where performers climb inside of huge lion and dragon puppets. It all takes place at the sprawling Singapore Expo, a $220 million government-owned complex.
If you’re able to attend, make the New Majestic Hotel your home base. The façade may look like classic 1920s art deco architecture, but the space within is thoroughly modern. The lobby features a sprawling white staircase and multicolored mobiles, and each of the rooms-including at least one with his and hers bathtubs-was designed by a different local artist. Tear yourself away from the hotel’s happening Majestic Bar and head to the Singapore Flyer. The oversized Ferris wheel rises 541 feet above the city, and a ride in one of the observation capsules gives you a view of the entire Singapore island.
Next, hit Chinatown for a snack. The neighborhood was founded by Chinese immigrants who arrived on the Malay island shortly after the British turned it into a trading post in 1819. Today it’s home to almost half a million residents-and some of the best street eats in the world. Food carts along Smith Street serve everything from fish-head curry to carrot cake. Look for bak kut teh, a Malaysian-Chinese dish of pork ribs simmered in a clove-and-garlic-spiced broth and served with strips of fried dough for dipping.
Try to make it to at least one of the tourist traps Singaporeans are so proud of. Our pick is Underwater World, which includes a spa pedicure where fish nibble your feet and a tropical fish tank with openings in its glass walls that allow you to reach in and feed the marine life. (There’s a vacuum that keeps water from spilling out of the tank’s openings.) Later, relax with a pint at Archipelago Craft Beer Hub, the city’s first commercial brewery, established in 1931, which overlooks Singapore’s historic Boat Quay district.