Singapore is a small country on a small island, but with just over five million people it is a fairly crowded city and in fact second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country. However, unlike many other densely populated countries, Singapore has over 50% of its area covered by greenery and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves, it is an enchanting garden city. Large self-contained residential towns mushroomed all over the island, around the clean and modern city center. The center of the city located in the south — consisting roughly of the Orchard road shopping area, the Riverside, the new downtown Marina Bay area and also the skyscrapers-filled Shenton way financial district known in acronym-loving Singapore as the CBD (Central Business District).
Singaporeans moan that besides shopping, dining and the movies, there's not a lot you can do here. Ignore them. The must-see list for the one-day visitor to Singapore, especially the first-timer, is absorbingly long. There is very little chance you'll get bored. Most tourists tend to gravitate first towards the famed retail stretch of Orchard Road. Fine, get your fix of bold-faced names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and every other couture label under the sun. When you've gotten that out of your system, dump your purchases back at the hotel and head out into the 'burbs where the real charm of Singapore lies.
THE Republic of Singapore consists of the main island of Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and 58 nearby islands.
Singapore's main territory is a heart-shaped island, although her territory includes surrounding smaller islands. The farthest outlying island is Pedra Branca. Singapore is slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington DC. Of Singapore's dozens of smaller islands, Jurong Island,Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the larger ones. Most of Singapore is no more than 15 meters above sea level. The highest point of Singapore is Bukit Timah, with a height of 164 m (538 ft). Singapore has reclaimed land with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed, and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area has grown from 581.5 km² in the 1960s to 710.2 km² today, and may grow by another 100 km² by 2033
Inhabitants of the Malaysian peninsula and the island of Singapore first migrated to the area between 2500 and 1500 B.C. ( see Malaysia). British and Dutch interest in the region grew with the spice trade, and the trading post of Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. It was made a separate Crown colony of Britain in 1946, when the former colony of the Straits Settlements was dissolved. The other two settlements on the peninsula—Penang and Malacca— became part of the Union of Malaya, and the small island of Labuan was transferred to North Borneo. The Cocos (or Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island were transferred to Australia in 1955 and in 1958, respectively.
Singapore attained full internal self-government in 1959, and Lee Kwan Yew, an economic visionary with an authoritarian streak, took the helm as prime minister. On Sept. 16, 1963, Singapore joined Malaya, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia. It withdrew from the federation on Aug. 9, 1965, and a month later proclaimed itself a republic.
Under Lee, Singapore developed into one of the cleanest, safest, and most economically prosperous cities in Asia. However, Singapore's strict rules of civil obedience also drew criticism from those who said the nation's prosperity was achieved at the expense of individual freedoms.
S. R. Nathan was declared president without an election when he was certified as the only candidate eligible to run in 1999 elections. In Aug. 2004, Lee Hsien Loong became the country's third prime minister since Singapore gained independence from Britain in 1965. Lee faced his first electoral challenge in May 2006. His People's Action Party (PAP) won 82 out of 84 seats in parliamentary elections.
Singapore is a cosmopolitan society where people live harmoniously and interaction among different races are commonly seen. The pattern of Singapore stems from the inherent cultural diversity of the island. The immigrants of the past have given the place a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences, all of which have intermingled.
Behind the facade of a modern city, these ethnic races are still evident. The areas for the different races, which were designated to them by Sir Stamford Raffles, still remain although the bulk of Singaporeans do think of themselves as Singaporeans, regardless of race or culture. Each still bears its own unique character.
The old streets of Chinatown can still be seen; the Muslim characteristics are still conspicuous in Arab Street; and Little India along Serangoon Road still has its distinct ambience. Furthermore, there are marks of the British colonial influence in the Neo-Classical buildings all around the city.
Each racial group has its own distinctive religion and there are colorful festivals of special significance all year round. Although the festivals are special to certain races, it is nonetheless enjoyed by all.
In Singapore, food is also readily and widely available. There are lots of cuisines to offer. We have, Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian and Western, Italian, Peranakan, Spanish, French, Thaiand even Fusion. It is very common to savour other culture's food and some of the food can be very intriguing. Indian food are relatively spicier, whereas Chinese food is less spicier and the Chinese enjoy seafood. Malay cooking uses coconut milk as their main ingredient, that makes their food very tasty.
National Museum of Singapore
The Singapore History Museum, originally opened in 1887, is an architectural gem with each of its two levels reflecting a different order of Greek classical architecture. Of particular note are the three-dimensional reconstructions of historical scenes and events tracing Singapore's development from a sleepy fishing village to the present day metropolis. Another exhibit shows the world of a wealthy Straits Chinese family at the turn of the century, complete with elaborate Peranakan furnishings and finery. The Children's Discovery Gallery is another compelling attraction, with interactive exhibits designed to explain Singapore's cultural heritage, visual and per forming arts. In addition to the Singapore History Museum, Singapore offers a number of museums with specific themes.
Jurong Bird Park
Southeast Asia's largest bird park, Jurong Bird Park is home to over 8,000 birds of 600 species from all over the world. Highlights include the world's largest collection of Southeast Asian Hornbills and South American Toucans, and the world's second largest penguin exhibit. Daily shows include Breakfast with the Birds (9am-llam), Birds of Prey, Penguin Feeding Time and the Jurong Bird Park All Stars Bird show.
The dark holds many surprises... and more so at the Night Safari, where you can look a one- horned rhinoceros in the eye or hear the howls of a pack of striped hyenas.There are 1,200 animals of over 100 exotic species to watch out for. Strike out on your own along the walking trail or relax in a tram ride - whichever you choose, the Night Safari is a wild adventure not to be missed.
Singapore Zoological Gardens
In its lush jungle setting, Singapore's renowned 'open' zoo is a haven for both animals and visitors. More than 2,000 creatures are housed in landscaped enclosures, with rock walls and streams replacing cages.Special attractions include Children's World, where kids can interact with animals and enjoy excellent playgrounds, the six island Primate Kingdom, the sea lion and penguin gallery, the air- conditioned polar bear exhibit and a miniature railway.Feeding shows take place throughout the day; favourites include the primates, reptiles, elephants and sea lions. Among the zoo's many endangered species is the world's largest colony of orang utans, with whom you can enjoy breakfast or afternoon tea if you book in advance through your hotel. Allow a whole day to enjoy the zoo's attractions.
The Singapore Crocodilarium
Over 1,000 crocodiles can be viewed at close range. Additional attractions include a reptile product shop. Feeding time is 11am on Tuesdays.
Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom
Enjoy watching exotic species of butterflies in this butterfly aviary. Visitors can also spot the well-camouflaged butterflies in the Insect Safari Tunnel. Explore over 2,500 species of insects categorized by their geographical locations. You can get to see rare species including fist-sized horned beetles and metallic blue butterflies. Each and every species has a detailed explanation of its origin. This is a great education tour for children and families.
Chinatown Here amidst narrow streets of picturesque shophouses and restaurants brimming with life, the temple idol carvers, herbalists, calligraphers, traders and trishaw drivers pursue a way of life that has changed little for generations. Incense stream from the old temples, the elderly spread their wares out on the pavement for sale and sea cucumbers, regarded as a delicacy, dry in the sun. Much of Chinatown has recently been renovated, but the old traditions endure. A walk around the streets of Tanjong Pagar reveals local craftsmen at work making clogs, kites and traditional seals for stamping documents. During Chinese New Year, the whole of Chinatown is lit up and buzzes with activity as stalls sell a variety of festive goods.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Spread over 52 hectares close to the centre of the city, the Botanic Gardens combine both primary jungle and manicured gardens which together hold thousands of species of plant life, including many rare specimens. Malaysia's rubber industry had its origins in the Botanic Gardens in the late 19th century when colonial botanist Henry Ridley propagated rubber plants from London's Kew Gardens. A lake adds to the serenity of the gardens, and is home to water fowl, ducks and kingfishers.
Geylang & Katong
Geylang, traditionally the home of Singapore's Malay, Arab and Indonesian communities, is alive with market stalls and bustling crowds, particularly during Muslim festivals. Spices and rattan from Indonesia, gems from Burma, cotton and gold from India and perfumes from Arabia - this is the place for the adventurous shopper who enjoys old shophouses as a backdrop to bargain hunting. The Malay influence is strong throughout Geylang and this is reflected in both the shops andthe food centres where nasi padang,a dish served with rice, vegetables and meat, is a particular favourite. Wander through the numerous lanes off Geylang Road for some delightful scenarios of local life and stroll down Joo Chiat Road for a glimpse of traditional Chinese businesses such as joss stick and candle makers. Also, drop by at Malay Village. Its shops display a potpourri of Malay traditional items like handicrafts, fabrics, prayer rugs, furniture and antiques.
Visitors from the majority of countries can can enter Singapore without a visa for a period between 2 weeks and 3 months. Currently, over 30 nationalities are required to obtain a visa in advance. Citizens from Assessment Level I countries (mostly Arab countries, plus Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh) can apply for an electronic visa online. Citizens from assessment Level II countries (Russia, many former Soviet states, China, India and Burma) have to apply for a visa at an embassy. For visa free countries entry permit duration (in most cases either 14 or 30 days) depends on nationality and entry point.
The Singapore dollar or Dollar (sign: $; code: SGD) is the official currency of Singapore. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents.
How To Get There
Most people arrive in Singapore by air. Its status as a major airline hub in Asia makes Singapore a natural starting or ending point for a multi-country tour of Southeast Asia. Since its an island, you can naturally arrive by sea, although it seems that very few do. Lastly, you can get to Singapore by road or train from Malaysia.
As noted above, Singapore is a major air hub. Most large international airlines have routes to Singapore, in addition to the island's own highly regarded airline, Singapore Airlines.
A number of regional airlines, especially budget carriers, call on Singapore, and a few of them are even based there. Here's a short list:
This Singaporean airline flies to destinations such as Yangon, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and many cities in Indonesia.
Air Asia is Malaysia's discount domestic carrier. If you book well in advance you can ge tsome absolutely rock bottom fares. Air Asia flies to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur.
Jet Star Asia
One of Singapore's own home grown budget carriers. We've actually found flying with Jet Star to be a rather pleasant experience. See our complete review of Jet Star Asia
for more information.
Valuair merged with Jet Star in early 2005 but still operates under a separate name. You can book through flights on either airline. Valuair flies mainly to destinations in Indonesia, including Bali, as well as Hong Kong and Manila. Tiger Airways Probably the largest of Singapore's budget carriers. Destinations include Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Macau and Manila.
Changi Airport, Singapore
Changi rates high on many people's lists of the world's best airports. It certainly rates high on our list as well. The shopping and food outlets on offer are extensive and various, although the prices aren't that much of a bargain. Add to that free Wi-Fi and plentiful free internet terminals as well as day rooms, complete gyms and easy access
to the city.
Photo Credits:Eric Madeja, Jollence Lee, Prakash Tilokani, Sabah Tourism Board,