Singapore is South East Asia's cosmopolitan and ultra modern city-state. Known for its skyscrapers and affluent way of life the country consists of a main island linked by a causeway and bridge to the southern end of Malaysia and about 50 smaller islands. Not only has it become one of the world's most prosperous places its great diversity of people from different cultures, religions and lifestyles make it a fascinating place for a holiday. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos and Thais mix easily with Europeans and other Westerners mix in this hi-tech city. The unique atmosphere is embellished by the ongoing British colonial influence which is felt in the super clean nature of the city and its green and well manicured parks.
This famous grand Victorian hotel in the old colonial district is synonymous with style and sophistication. Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling are just some of its former visitors. A perfect setting for a Singapore Sling or an afternoon tea.
Temples, terraces, markets and shops provide all manner of services from traditional Chinese healing to restaurants, textiles and jewellery in a bustling honeycomb of streets. The oldest Chinese district.
The first Indian settlers arrived with the colonial governor Sir Stamford Raffles in the early 19th century, bringing with them colourful silks, spices, incense and other aspects of Indian culture. Temples, fortune-tellers, busy restaurants and all manner of shops can be found here.
Kampong Gelam is said to have taken its name from the Gelam tribe of sea gypsies who lived in the original Malay village. Sir Stamford Raffles allotted the area and it became the centre for Arab trade and Malay culture. A significant building in the area is the stunning Sultan Mosque. Its domes are decorated with thousands of glass bottles.
The Singapore Zoo includes eight zones recreating different geographic regions including the South East Asian rainforest, African savannah, Nepalese river valley, Burmese jungle and South American pampas. It is home to more than 2,000 animals including Komodo dragons, polar bears and monkeys.
49-acre stretch of land in the Jurong Lake area containing one of the world's most extensive bird collections and the largest in South East Asia. Eight thousand birds comprising 600 different species are here. Stunning sights include the 98ft Waterfall Aviary and The Penguin Parade which includes a viewing gallery where visitors can see penguins moving underwater.
The largest collection of 20th Century Southeast Asian art presented in 13 galleries. More than 4,000 permanent artworks represent the nation's official art collection.
128 acres of forest and specialty gardens close to the city centre. The National Orchid Garden is the world's largest featuring more than 20,000 varieties. Outdoor concerts are popular in the gardens.
Chinese and Japanese landscape designs are presented in two immaculate neighboring gardens. The Imperial Sung Dynasty garden boasts the world's largest Suzhou style Bonsai garden outside of China, containing over 1,000 plants. Zen is the central theme of the Japanese Gardens, including a series of peaceful rock gardens and summerhouses.
The tropical climate remains fairly constant throughout the year ranging from hot and humid to very hot and humid. The average daily temperature is 27 Centigrade. It rains more between November and January which are generally the coolest months. February is usually the sunniest month and December the coolest.
The Great Singapore Sale
International Singapore Arts Festival
WOMAD World Music Festival
Singapore Film Festival
Singapore Food Festival
Despite earlier Chinese and Malay settlements in the region the area which is now modern Singapore was little more than a swamp with a tiny village until Thomas Stamford Raffles, a representative of the British East India Company, landed in 1819. Within a few years the population had grown from a few hundred to over ten thousand and Singapore rapidly developed into an important trading post and major entry point to the East for Westerners. Japan occupied the island for three years during the Second World War until it was liberated by the British. Following World War Two Singapore achieved independence and developed into a considerable economic power under a fairly authoritarian government.
The easiest way to enter Singapore is by air. There are a number of high quality airlines based in and out of Singapore including Singapore Airlines. Changi Airport is the main airport. It is big, clean and well maintained. Taxis, shuttle bus, or subway will take you into the city. All are reasonably cheap and reliable.
Singapore has very strict drug laws and drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty which is also applied to foreigners. As always, travellers should take care with their baggage and secure it appropriately.