|Marina Bay, Flower Dome and Singapore Flyer ©Singapore Tourism Board|
Singapore (新加坡), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia.
|Marina Bay Panorama ©Singapore Tourism Board|
While the earliest known historical records of Singapore are shrouded in time, a third century Chinese account describes it as “Pu-luo-chung”, or the “island at the end of a peninsula”. Later, the city was known as Temasek, Javanese for “Sea Town”, when the first settlements were established from AD 1298-1299, becoming an important port for the Sumatran Srivijaya kingdom.
During the 14th century, this small but strategically-located island earned a new name. According to legend, Srivijayan prince Sang Nila Utama landed on the island and, catching sight of a strange creature that he thought was a lion, decided to found a new city he called Singapura, Sanskrit for Lion City. Alas, there have never been any lions anywhere near Singapore (until the Singapore Zoo opened) or elsewhere on Malaya in historical times, so the mysterious beast was more probably a Malayan tiger.
Modern Singapore was founded in the 19th century, thanks to politics, trade and a man known as Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. During this time, the British empire was eyeing a port of call in this region to base its merchant fleet, and to forestall any advance made by the Dutch. Recognising the immense potential of the swamp-covered island, Raffles, then the Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) in Sumatra, helped negotiate a treaty with the local rulers and established Singapore as a trading station. The city quickly grew as an entrepot trade hub, attracting immigrants from China, India, the Malay Archipelago and beyond.
Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2). With a population size of over 5.5 million people it is a very crowded city. However, unlike many other densely populated countries, Singapore – with more than 50% of its area covered by greenery and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves – is an enchanting garden city.
Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and a tropical climate, with tasty food, good shopping and a vibrant night-life scene, this Garden City is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for a lot of reasons. One of which is the less stringent entry requirements.
Singapore ranks 5th on the UN Human Development Index and the 3rd highest GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing.
There are four official languages: English (common and first language), Malay, Mandarin, Tamil; almost all Singaporeans are bilingual.
|Keong Saik – Frontal façade of Potato Head Folk, road junction ©Singapore Tourism Board|