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General Information

Singapore

An island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometers (85 miles) north of the Equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 704.0 km² (272 square miles), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Singapore is a mixture of an indigenous Malay population with a third generation Chinese majority, as well as Indian and Arab immigrants with some intermarriages. There also exist significant Eurasian and Peranakan (known also as 'Straits Chinese') communities. Singapore has also achieved a significant degree of cultural diffusion.

A city as small as Singapore can be toured in just three days, many would say, but to see all the highlights and get beneath the skin of this charming place definitely warrants a longer stay. A tour planned around the major districts allows one to appreciate its history, people and rich cultural diversity in an optimal period of time. Here is the best of Singapore not to be missed.

Points of interest

  • Colonial Core - Singapore's architectural goldmine. Let yourself be whisked back in time to 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles first stepped ashore and the Union Jack was raised. Still exuding a strong air of colonialism are well restored government buildings, cathedrals and churches, and the Singapore Cricket Club, once a sports centre for the British colonists.
  • Singapore River - This is the very origin of Singapore's prosperity, with the Merlion (the city's tourism icon) steadfastly standing guard at the mouth of the river. Quaint bridges span the river, ranging from the elegant Anderson Bridge to the simple Ord Bridge. Boat Quay, an excellent reincarnation of Peranakan shophouses and godowns, is a pleasant place to dine alfresco, with its long slew of chic cafes, restaurants and pubs.
  • Financial District - Home to the towering skyscrapers that lend Singapore its distinctive skyline. Over the years, building after building has battled to be the tallest; today, three have tied for the honours - OUB Building, UOB Building and Republic Plaza, all standing at the maximum permissible height of 280 metres.
  • Chinatown - Once a victim of redevelopment, this ethnic enclave still holds pockets of old, dilapidated buildings where Singaporeans continue to practice age-old trades. Others have been restored to their former state, like the series of shophouses at the Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area.
  • Arab Street - With its top draw being the Sultan Mosque, this is the repository of culture for Singapore's Muslim community. Muslim restaurants and coffee shops line the streets, serving up mostly traditional Indian and Malay fare. During the holy month of Ramadan, even more food stalls are set up in preparation for breaking fast at dusk.
  • Little India - A riot of colour, particularly on Sundays and during major Hindu festivals, like Thaipusam and Deepavali. Awash with scents and sights of the Indian subcontinent, this is where Indian men and sari-clad women abound, and everything needed by Indian households is found.
  • The Merlion - Was designed as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 1964. The designer was Mr Fraser Brunner, a member of the souvenir committee and a curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium. It has a lion head and a fish body resting on a crest of waves. The lion head symbolises the legend of the rediscovery of Singapura, as recorded in the "Malay Annals".

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