The Republic of Singapore
is a city-state in Southeast Asia, situated on the southern tip of the Malay
Peninsula, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of the Indonesian
Riau Islands. The name Singapore was derived from the Malay word singa
(lion). Singapore was originally a small Malay settlement until 1819, when
the British started a trading post that developed into an important
commercial and military imperial base.
Except for the interruption for the three years that the Japanese occupied
Singapore during World War II, it was a British Crown Colony from 1867 until
1963, when it declared independence from Britain. Singapore joined the
Federation of Malaysia shortly afterwards. On expulsion from Malaysia in
1965, Singapore was separated from its traditional markets and faced
economic degeneration. In resolution, government-led rapid industrialisation
and business-friendly policies stimulated some of the fastest economic
growth in the modern world. Singapore now has one of the highest gross
domestic products (GDP) per capita rates in the world; it is a major
financial, transport and medical hub. Crime is low, and Transparency
International consistently rates it as one of the least corrupt countries in
What to see in Singapore: Orchids will be there to greet you at
Singapore Airport, and if that whets your appetite then, as soon as you can,
head for the National Orchid Garden in the Botanical
Gardens on Cluny Road. Including hybrids, there are hundreds of different
orchids on show in the garden. If you go early you can have breakfast in one
of the park restaurants.
If you go early to our second attraction, you may find yourself going round
the Asian Civilisations Museum in Empress Square in the
city centre on your own. Presenting the history and culture of the trade
between China and the Indian Ocean countries with interactive screens and
displays, the museum is air-conditioned and well stocked with artefacts and
pieces from other Asian states, including textiles and musical instruments.
In common with many of the world’s capital cities, Singapore has a giant
wheel, the “Singapore Flyer”, which claims to be the
tallest of the lot at 165 metres (541 feet). From the top you can see all
over the city of Singapore and into Malaysia. A great place to go with the
family or just with friends is “Lockdown SG”, a reality
gaming area which simulates an online computer game! You can stay in the
‘top secret’ room for one hour playing detective and trying to solve
puzzles. The aim is to use your skill and intelligence as a team to find the
keys and escape from the room – don’t worry, if you fail they let you out
after an hour anyway!
In contrast to most cities in Asia, you won’t see any food stalls on the
street in Singapore. When the government swept them away the gap was filled
by an excellent Singaporean institution: food courts, known as “hawker
food centres”. These food outlets are owned by the government, and
are frequently in air conditioned shopping malls or other commercial
buildings, but many of them are open-air – in fact you are never far from
one in the city. They sell cheap, reliable food and are ideal for the
tourist on a budget or visitor wanting to experience local cuisine safely.
Two of the best are Maxwell Road Hawker Center on the edge of Chinatown, and
Old Airport Road Hawker Center, where you can get excellent sea food at half
the price of city centre restaurants.
If you can afford it, there’s still only one place to stay in this modern
city, the 5 star, colonial style Raffles Singapore on Beach
Road. A byword for elegance and service for the last 125 years, Raffles only
has suites, 84 of them in the glorious Courtyard and legendary Palm Court.
If the room rate is too high for you, there’s always Afternoon Tea, but, be
warned, if you are not properly dressed the Sikh doorman will politely
refuse you entry. If that happens, go round to the Long Bar
for the obligatory “Singapore Sling”.
At the other end of the scale, the Little Red Dot hostel at
125 Lavender Street is popular with backpackers. Accommodation is in a
choice of “capsule” bed for more privacy and quiet, or in a 6 person
dormitory, and bathroom facilities are shared. This hostel is handy for the
MRT station. For something in between try the Ibis
Singapore on Bencoolen – a modern 3 star hotel with clean, well equipped
rooms with fridge and tea and coffee facilities. There is a bar and
Singaporean restaurant, and the hotel is well situated only a 20 minute
drive from the airport and convenient for the city centre.