Located just north of the equator at the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, and separated from Malaysia by the narrow strait of Johor, Singapore is among the most tourist-friendly, peaceful, aesthetically appealing and cleanest counties on earth. Singapore boasts an efficient airport, high-caliber hotels, good drinking water, and impeccable roads.
One of Asia's greenest cities with one of the highest living standards in the world, Singapore is a unique blend of high tech western facilities and an exotic fusion of Asian cultures. For travelers who want to see China, India and Malaysia but are limited by time, Singapore provides a glimpse of all three in one country. It ranks among one of the most successful multicultural societies in Asia where Malaysian and Indian minorities live in harmony with the Chinese majority.
The appeal of Singapore lies in its immense diversity as well as history. Singapore features some of the most imposing modern architecture side by side with quaint fishing villages, which have remained mainly unchanged for more than a century, and stately British colonial edifices. With its Victorian government buildings, shrines, temples and mosques, it combines elements of China, India, Malaysia, Arabia and Britain dispersed amidst lush tropical gardens.
Singapore owes its prosperity to the vision of two men: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who first gained Singapore its international acclaim and Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore. It was Raffle's arrival in Singapore in 1819, which started a transformation of a small settlement of 150 into an international trading port. His statue now marks the site where Raffles is believed to have first landed in Singapore in 1819.
The name of Singapore (Lion City) is now commemorated by the mythical Merlion, half-lion, half -fish, which serves the Emblem of Singapore. It is one of the most photographed sites.
Singapore has something for everyone - be it cultural sightseeing, shopping or dining. One would enjoy exploring Colonial Singapore, including Boat Quay (the restored shophouses along the Singapore River), the Empress Place (originally the courthouse built by the East India company), the Parliament building housed in the 1827 mansion, to name only a few.
Singapore rightly enjoys a reputation of a shopper's paradise. One of the most famous shopping areas is the Orchid Road, the 5th Avenue of Singapore, lined with malls, department stores and boutiques.
There are also fascinating ethnic communities of China Town, Little India and the Arab Street where one can browse through a wet market and shop at colorful quaint shops that sell spices, framed silk tapestries, antique porcelain, textiles, jewelry, and flowers. These districts are home to some of the city's best Hindu and Muslim shrines, including the magnificent Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore. Only a block away there is the pretty Jamae Mosque with its pagoda-like minarets reflecting strong Chinese influence.
Frequently referred to as the food capital of Asia, Singapore offers excellent varied dining opportunities - nearly every cuisine on earth is represented in Singapore to suit every palate and budget.
One of Singapore's highlights is the Botanical Gardens. It is particularly renowned for its National Orchid Garden, a stunning display of gorgeous vibrant flowers. Orchid lovers should also visit the Mandal Orchid Farm, one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
On the west coast, one can tour the Tiger Balm Gardens (similar to the one in Hong Kong) and the beautiful Chinese and Japanese gardens. The latter is one of the largest formal Japanese Gardens outside of Japan. The Jurong Bird Park, home to some 3,600 animals, also boasts the world's largest aviary.
Walking enthusiasts would enjoy hiking trails through the 148 acres of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, a patch of untamed tropical forests only eight miles from downtown high-rises. For families with children, there is a Disney style recreational park with rides, the Underwater World, Asia's largest oceanarium, Nature World with Asia's largest collection of living butterflies and the adventure island of Pulau Ubin with fishing huts built on stilts over the water.
Singapore is a convenient hub for day trips to neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. It can also be easily integrated into a longer itinerary to explore other nearby destinations from Indonesia to Vietnam.
Singapore is one of the busiest ports in Southeast Asia, and many cruise lines include it in their itineraries. We would recommend spending at least three days in Singapore to fully appreciate this remarkable country. Please contact us to receive information about available cruise itineraries or a tailor-made vacation to Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Photos courtesy of: Singapore Tourism Board and Fullerton Bay Hotel