The city-state of Singapore is one of the most thriving economies of Asia and an interesting tourist destination for several reasons. This tropical country witnessed the depletion of its natural resources, but aptly recovered to become one of the cleanest cities of the world. This is also one place where you can observe relics of Oriental heritage and colonial era along with magnificent specimens of western modernity.
Places like Chinatown still have crowded streets bustling with fortune tellers, calligraphers and temple worshippers. The overwhelming presence of Indians has also lead to formation of Little India, where you can buy saris of excellent quality as well as freshly ground spices or pictures of Hindu gods.
Malay legend has it that it was an encounter a Sumatran prince had with a lion – considered a good omen – on Temasek that lead to himfounding Singapura, or Lion City. This cannot be accurate as lions have never inhabited Singapore, and it was probably a tiger that the prince saw. Thus the region started as a minor trading post for the powerful Sumatran Srivijaya Empire. Later it became a vassal state of the Javanese Majapahit Empire in the mid-13th century.
The British established their presence in 1819 and a flourishing colony with a military and naval base was established. The growth continued in the 20th century. The Second World War crushed the power of the British and by the 1950s the country slowly moved towards self governance.
The depression of the late 1990s hit the country hard but Singapore has bounced back since.
Places of interest
Central Singapore has many relics of the Colonial era. EmpressPlaceBuilding, a powerful Victorian structure built in 1865 has a museum, art and antique galleries and a restaurant. Padang is inextricably associated with cricketing history. Raffles Hotel spells everything that is oriental luxury. There are also many imposing churches, such as St Andrew`s Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
Chinatown showcases Singapore`s rich cultural heritage and still provides glimpses of the olden days with its temples, decorated terraces and its bustling streets full of merchants, shops and activity. The ThianHockKengTemple in Chinatown is one of the must see places in Singapore.
Arab Street, the Muslim centre of Singapore, is more of a traditional textile district. You can have a whale of a time haggling for batiks from Indonesia, silks, sarongs and shirts, mix rosaries, flower essences, hajj caps, songkok hats, basketware and rattan goods. The place houses the grand Sultan Mosque, the biggest and liveliest mosque in Singapore, and the small but beautiful Malabar Muslim Jama-ath Mosque. You can treat yourself to fine Indian Muslim food at nearby North Bridge Road.
The modest but colourful Little India area is marked by wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music. Here you can pick up that framed print of a Hindu god you`ve always wanted, eat great vegetarian food and watch street side cooks make chapattis. Apart from the main market Zhujiao Centre, there are also interesting spice shops nearby. The Veerama Kali Ammam, Sri Srinivasa Perumal and Temple of 1000 Lights are the most famous temples here.
Orchard Road has some of the finest and most expensive hotels of the city. A place visited by Singapore’s elite, the place showcases the finest delights of capitalism as well as some places of cultural interest.
JurongTown, the heart of Singapore’s economy, is a huge industrial and housing area. It hosts the Haw Par Villa, a Chinese mythological theme park, the Jurong Bird Park, Chinese and Japanese Gardens and the Singapore Science Centre.
SentosaIsland is one of Singapore’s most well known and most visited attractions. It is especially crowded on weekends. It has everything from museums, aquariums, beaches and sporting facilities to walks, rides and food centres. The island also has a camping ground, hostel and luxury hotels just in case you wish to take a relaxed tour of the attractions.
Outside the urban area, there are large areas covered with primary and secondary rainforests. The large number of gardens including the well-groomed Botanical Garden and nature preserves like Bukit Timah and Sungei Buloh are worth a morning or afternoon visit. There are also historic sites and temples like the edifying ChangiPrisonMuseum and the SiongLimTemple as well as museums and science centers.
Climate is tropical- hot, humid and rainy. There are two distinct monsoon seasons – North-eastern monsoon from December to March and South-western monsoon from June to September.
Travelling to Singapore is bound to be a pleasure as there is large number of airlines fly into Singapore`s ultramodern Changi international airport. Changi airport is one of the best airports in the world where you can expect state of the art facilities rounded off with an extremely efficient and courteous staff.
You can combine your trip to Singapore with a visit to Malaysia, which is just a kilometer away across the Straits of Johor. It is also possible to travel between Malaysia and Singapore easily by bus or taxi.
Singapore is linked by plush yet inexpensive bus services to almost all large Malaysian cities. There are four trains a day from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
It is possible to travel between Singapore and Indonesia via the Indonesian islands of the Riau Archipelago, south of Singapore. Modern ferries connect Singapore with the islands of Batam and Bintan in the archipelago. From there you can use speedboats to Pekanbaru in Sumatra. Bintan is connected with Jakarta by several ships a week.
Singapore has an excellent bus network and a convenient Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system. Both are inexpensive and simple to use. Metered taxis are also easily available. Most major rent-a-car companies have their presence here. The SingaporeRiver can be traversed using chartered bumboats. There are regular ferry services from World Trade Centre to Sentosa and other islands. You can also hire rickshaws around traditional areas like Chinatown. However it is recommended that you come to an agreement on fare beforehand.