The Foundation of Singapore

According to legend, Singapore was founded centuries ago when a prince from Sumatra landed on the island and saw a lion. He took it as a good omen and founded a city called Singapura, which means lion city. In fact the name Singapura was not recorded until the 16th century and Singapore was really only a trading post with a small population not a city.

Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. Raffles became a clerk for the British East India Company in 1795. He rose rapidly in the company. In 1805 he was sent to Penang and in 1811 he was made Lieutenant Governor of Java.

In 1818 Raffles was made governor of Bencoolen on the island of Sumatra. Raffles believed the British should establish a base on the Straits of Melaka and in 1819 he landed on the island of Singapore. The island consisted of swamps and jungle with a small population but Raffles realized it could be made into a useful port.

At that time two men were vying to become Sultan of the Empire of Johor, which controlled Singapore. In 1812 the Sultan died and his two sons quarreled over the succession. Raffles supported the older brother Hussein and recognized him as Sultan. Raffles made a deal with him. The British East India Company was given Singapore in return for an annual payment. In 1824 the Company was given the island in return for a lump sum of money.

The British established a new trading post at Singapore and it grew very rapidly. Europeans, Malays, Chinese, Indians and Arabs all came to live and work there. By 1824 the population had risen to 10,000.

In 1826 Singapore was joined with Melaka and Penang to form the Straits Settlements. In 1867 Singapore became a Crown Colony ruled directly by the British government rather than the East India Company. By 1870 the population of Singapore had risen to 100,000.

Many grand buildings were erected in Singapore in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among them was the Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall, which was built in 1862. Several temples were built at that time including the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which was built in 1842.

When the Suez canal was built in 1869 Singapore became even more important as a 'gateway' between Europe and eastern Asia.

Modern Singapore

In the early 20th century Singapore continued to prosper. Huge amounts of rubber and tin from the region were exported from Singapore. Meanwhile Chinese immigrants continued to arrive.

Then in January 1942 the Japanese conquered Malaysia. On 15 February 1942 Singapore was forced to surrender. The Japanese called Singapore Yonan, which means Light of the South but their rule was totalitarian and brutal. Thousands of Chinese Singaporeans were executed. However, Japan surrendered in August 1945 and on 5 September 1945 the British re-occupied Singapore.

However after 1945 Singapore slowly moved towards independence. In 1946 the Strait Settlements were dissolved and Singapore was separated from Malaysia. The People's Action Party was formed in 1954 and it proved to be a major force in Singaporean politics. In 1955 a new constitution was introduced. Under it 25 out of 32 members of the legislature were elected. In 1957 it was replaced by an elected 51 member legislature. The Peoples Action Party led by Lee Kuan Yew won 43 out of 51 seats. Self government was granted in 1959. Lee Kuan Yew became prime minister.

In 1963 Singapore joined with Malaysia. However the union was short lived. Singapore left in 1965 and became completely independent.

From 1965 to the 1990s Singapore enjoyed rapid economic growth. By the 1990s it was a newly industrialized country and the people had a high standard of living. However, the government was authoritarian and society was strictly controlled.

In 1990 Lee Kuan Yew resigned as prime minister. He was replaced by Goh Chok Tong who served until 2004. He introduced a more liberal regime.

Lee Hsien Loong is the current and the 3rd Prime Minister of Singapore who took over in 2004. He is the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. 

Today Singapore is a prosperous nation and its economy is growing steadily. Singapore is also a very busy and successful port. Today the population of Singapore is 5.6 million.

Singapore Flyer
Gardens by the Bay
Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands, Bay East Garden

1. Marina Bay Sands

The opulent Marina Bay Sands resort complex includes a high end luxury hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, the ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck. The Skypark Observation Deck is a brilliant vantage point for taking in the entire city. The Skypark's viewing deck and infinity pool are found in what looks like a ship at the top of the hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to use the infinity pool, but anyone can visit the observation deck. From the Skypark, you can see the innovative double helix bridge, the port, the Gardens by the Bay and the impressive skyline.

While up there on top of the city, guests can grab a snack or a coffee at the rooftop restaurant. The elegant opulence of the Marina Bay Sands exemplifies Singapore's style and status as a major international city in Southeast Asia.

2. Gardens by the Bay

Once you have glimpsed this beautifully designed green space, you won't be able to stay away. Wander through the Bay East Garden, perfect for enjoying the vibrant plant life and escaping the city bustle for a while. You won't want to miss Supertree Grove, where you will find a cluster of the iconic, futuristic structures designed to perform environmentally sustainable functions. Then, head to the Cloud Forest Dome to see the world's tallest indoor waterfall and learn a bit about biodiversity. 

3. Botanic Gardens

Not to be confused with the Gardens on the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Singapore received its first UNESCO World Heritage nomination for its botanical gardens, and with good reason. The city can sometimes feel like a concrete jungle, albeit a clean and comfortable one, but the botanic gardens preserve pieces of Singapore's wilder heritage.

Here, a walking trail leads to the gardens' heritage trees, which are conserved as part of an effort to protect the city's mature tree species. Make sure to visit the impressive National Orchid Garden as well. Other popular things to do include visiting the eco-garden, eco-lake, bonsai garden, sculptures, and several other formal gardens.

4. Singapore Zoo

Promoting itself as the world's best rainforest zoo, the Singapore Zoo is a pretty impressive place. The facility is clean and inviting, and the animals appear well treated, with plenty of lush vegetation and habitat space.

The orangutans are particularly impressive, and visitors can watch as babies and adults alike swing high above their platforms and snack on fruits. There is also a large chimpanzee family, zebras, meerkats, a komodo dragon, mole rats, white tigers, kangaroos, and many other creatures.

Guests can observe feedings for some of the animals. Allow at least three hours to make your way around the zoo. If the zoo does not satisfy your need for getting close to wildlife, there's also the Night Safari, River Safari, including a giant panda forest, and the Jurong Bird Park.

For a unique and personal wildlife experience, try the Singapore Zoo Breakfast with the Orangutans. 

5. Orchard Road

One could be forgiven for coming to Singapore and doing nothing but shopping, as this is is a world-class city for style and designer chic. The Orchard Road area is a great place to start a shopping spree, as there are high end stores at every turn. You would expect nothing less from a neighborhood that boasts 22 malls and six department stores. There are also four movie theaters, including an IMAX cinema, and a KTV karaoke establishment.

If you get hungry while burning through all that cash, there are plenty of eateries in the neighborhood serving international food.

6. Singapore Flyer

If the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands does not quite do it for you, try taking in high tea while looking out over the city from the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest giant observation wheel. Choose from several different packages that allow you to be served and pampered while enjoying a view that encompasses not only the Singapore skyline but as far away as the Spice Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia's Straits of Johor.

There are several different ticket packages to choose from, and each includes access to the multimedia Journey of Dreams exhibit, which delves into Singapore's history and the creation of the Singapore Flyer.

Flights last 30 minutes and run from early morning until late at night, so you can choose which view of the city you want to enjoy: the beginning of another bustling day or when Singapore is aglow after dark.

7. Raffles Hotel Singapore

This colonial building is one of the world's last grand 19th-century hotels, once visited by literary luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad, as well as movie star Charlie Chaplin.

Built in 1887, the property has served as a city landmark for well over a century and continues to live up to its tony reputation with excellent food and service. The classical architecture and tropical gardens provide a refined setting and represent another facet of Singapore's varied and rich history.

The Raffles Hotel Singapore is located in the city's Colonial District, which is also home to several other historic sites, and a good place to base yourself in the city. Here, you'll find the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, is said to have stepped ashore in 1819. The story has it that he saw the small fishing village but recognized its potential as a port, so he purchased the land from the Sultan of Johor and invited Chinese and Indian immigrants to move here. And so the seeds of Singapore's multi-ethnic identity were sown.

8. Chinatown

Singapore's Chinatown neighborhood will bring you right to China. From the small family run stores and authentic Chinese food to the bright red lanterns, there is excitement and hustle in this district. You can visit the Chinese Heritage Centre and see the impressive and beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. Another temple worth seeing is the Buddha Tooth Relic temple.

Heritage markers have been installed throughout the neighborhood in English, Japanese, and simplified Chinese, so visitors can better understand the significance of the area. But this neighborhood is not just a testament to the influence of the Chinese throughout Singapore's past. This is a progressive neighborhood, with free Wi-Fi for all, and it is home to the trendy Ann Siang Hill area, where the quaint bistros and upscale boutiques could be at home in any Western city.

9. Sentosa Island

Singapore is not exactly known as a beach destination, but if you are really craving some fun in the sun, Sentosa Island is the place to find it. Siloso Beach is a good spot for getting in beach time, and visitors can play volleyball on free courts or go kayaking and skimboarding. There are several other beach attractions as well, plus an Underwater World aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins.

A must see on Sentosa Island is the Merlion, Singapore's famous statue that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. You can take an escalator to the top of the statue and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Adventurous types will want to check out The Flying Trapeze and the SeaBreeze Water-Sports @ Wave House, where you can try your hand at flying strapped to a water-propelled jet pack.

10. Clarke Quay

The "center of commerce during the 19th century," Clarke Quay lives up to its legacy as a busy hub. Today, it has a more polished sheen, so after a long day of shopping on Orchard Road, visitors can happily head to Clarke Quay for an evening of waterfront dining and entertainment.

River taxis and cruises also depart from here, giving tourists the chance to admire some of the city's historic bridges and view landmarks like the Merlion from the water. The Quay's biggest hit with younger tourists is a giant bungee jumping attraction, an adrenaline packed thrill ride. 

11. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore occupies 49 acres of Resorts World Sentosa. The park is arranged thematically, with each area paying tribute to a location, film, or television show. Destinations include New York City, Hollywood, Madagascar, and a trip back to Ancient Egypt. Fiction themed areas include Shrek's Far Far Away, Lost World, and Sci-Fi City, where Battlestar Galactica-themed dueling roller coasters and an indoor dark coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, dominate the thrill rides.

In addition to the many rides, that range from kiddie-friendly to daredevil, the park also has diverse dining options, shopping, and live shows throughout the day and night.

12. Merlion Park

Singapore's Merlion is just what it sounds like, the figure of a mythical creature that has the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish. The Merlion represents the city's humble start as a fishing village combined with its traditional Malay name Singapura, "lion city."

The structure, which was relocated to Merlion Park in 2002, where it can overlook Marina Bay, weighs 70 tonnes and stands at 8.6 meters tall, spouting water from its mouth in a fountain.

The "Merlion Cub" sits nearby, only two meters tall but a hefty three tonnes, and there are five additional official Merlion statues throughout the city. Merlion Park is an ideal spot for photo opportunity, whether you are taking a selfie in front of the iconic creature or capturing the magnificent views from the park as it looks out over the bay.

13. Fort Canning Park

As military strongholds go, Fort Canning has had a long and varied life. Built in 1859, the fort was originally meant to defend Singapore against attacks but it became a bunker during World War II and was eventually surrendered to the Japanese in 1942.

Now in peacetime, the original building is home to modern performing arts troupes, and the park regularly sees picnics, concerts, theater performances, and festivals.

Other attractions at the park include relics from Singapore's early history, from as far back as the 14th century, and Sir Stamford Raffles' personal bungalow. Guests can also see a replica of the spice market Raffles established in 1822, as well as ASEAN sculptures that were erected in the 1980s.

14. Pulau Ubin (Granite Island)

For a look at what life in Singapore was like before it was all about glamor and skyscrapers, visit the small island of Pulau Ubin, where fewer than 100 people still live in the same simple way as they did in the 1960s. The island's name is Malay for "Granite Island," a title given due to its past prominence as a quarry town.

Today, it is a peaceful, rustic place where tourists can enjoy unspoiled forests and diverse wildlife. The island is also home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, which contain a coral reef teeming with sea life.

The island is easily reached by boat, a 10-minute ride that departs from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

Battlestar Galactica roller coaster
Marina floating stage
Raffles Hotel
Singapore Flyer
Marina Bay Sands & Gardens on the Bay
Marina Bay Sands
Cloud Forest Dome
World’s tallest waterfall
Infinity pool Marina Bay Sands

The Singapore Sling, widely regarded as the national drink, was first created in 1915 by Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Primarily a gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling also contains pineapple juice, lime juice, curaçao and Bénédictine. Giving it the pretty pink hue are grenadine and cherry liqueur. Bartender Boon deliberately chose to give the cocktail this rosy colour. The ever insightful, Boon saw a niche in the market and decided to create a cocktail that looks like plain fruit juice but is actually infused with gin and liqueurs. The clever bartender made the beverage pink to give it a feminine flair which, together with the use of clear alcohol, led people to think it was a socially acceptable drink for women. With that, the Singapore Sling was born. Needless to say, it became an instant hit. In the Hotel's museum, visitors may view the safe in which Boon locked away his precious recipe books, as well as the Sling recipe hastily jotted on a bar receipt in 1936 by a visitor to the Hotel who asked the waiter for it. One story that is told, is that the drink was created when an Officer walked into the Long Bar and saw a beautiful lady sitting there. He asked Mr Boon to create a cocktail that matched her red lips and the result was the Singapore Sling. The historic Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, is the home of the iconic Singapore Sling. The earthy decor of the two-storey Long Bar is inspired by Malayan life in the 1920s. The deep, rich colours and lush greenery transport patrons to the edge of a tropical plantation. In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere, guests are invited to brush peanut shells off the table and bar counter to the floor. This is quite possibly the only place in Singapore where littering is encouraged.

When “Makan” or "have you eaten", is the main greeting in Singapore, that immediately tells you something about the importance of food in the country.

On your quest for Authentic Food in Singapore, do not be surprised by the depth and diversity of the local flavors. Food in Singapore has cultural influences from everywhere, and have been assembled together to create something totally unique. You will find Chinese, Indonesian, Southern Indian influences and not surprisingly, a significant Malay influence. 

1. Chili Crab

Your visit to Singapore will not be complete without trying this National Dish of Singapore, which is an iconic Singaporean seafood dish. While there are ways to cook up the delicious crab, the two most famous styles are Singapore crab with a spicy tomato chili sauce and crab with black pepper sauce. The chili crab is actually not chili or spicy despite its name. It is covered in a thick delicious chili paste which is perfect to dip fried buns called mantous, which are served with the crab.

2. Hainanese Chicken 

Hainanese chicken is a rice dish with juicy steamed white chicken cut into thin pieces. The chicken is served over fragrant rice with light soy sauce. The dish is topped with cilantro and sesame oil and accompanied with a garlic-chili sauce. The rice is cooked in the chicken broth with ginger and pandan leaves giving it its unique fragrance.

3. Fried Hokkien Mee

This famous Singaporean dish found in Malaysia and Singapore, originated from Hokkien, in the Southern province of China. Hokkien Mee is prepared differently depending on where you have it.

In Singapore, it is a stir-fried dish made of a combination of rice and egg noodles. It comes with prawns, squid, oysters, spring onions and fresh lime. The dish is served with a thick and fragrant sauce made from fresh shrimp and dried prawns. Served on the side is a sambal sauce with red chilis and a light soy sauce.

4. Char Kway Teow

Char Kway Teow is one of the most popular dishes found in both Singapore and Malaysia. This dish is part of the Singapore food culture. This is a stir-fried dish made of flat rice noodles, with prawns, eggs, slices of Chinese sausages, bean sprouts, Chinese chives and shrimp-paste. It is stir-fried over very high heat with a light and dark chili soy sauce. It is similar to Pad Thai and hard to resist. It can be quite fatty but it is truly exceptional.

5. Pork Satay

Grilled bamboo skewered pork served with spicy dipping sauce. The sauce is a combination of soy and peanut sauce and chili. Pork satay is served with cucumbers and onions. It is a great snack to enjoy on a late night.

6. BBQ Sambal Stingray 

One of the dishes that I can not get enough of when I am in the city, is bbq sambal stingray. It is generously lathered with sambal chili sauce, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed and grilled at the same time. You will find bbq sambal stingray at various seafood stalls throughout Singapore, but one that I really enjoyed going to was Chomp Chomp Food Centre.

7. Kaya Toast with Kopi

Toast and coffee might not seem that exciting as a breakfast dish. But in Singapore, it is treasured and referred to as Singapore’s National Breakfast. The taste and flavors are outstanding. Kaya toast is toasted bread with butter and kaya, a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. Not too sweet, this is one of the most delicious jams. The breakfast dish is enhanced even further when paired with soft boiled eggs and a steaming cup of coffee or tea.

Kopi, the signature coffee drink comes with sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This famous breakfast food in Singapore is the perfect start to a new day or for a snack in the middle of the day.

Gardens by the Bay, Supertree Grove
Gardens by the Bay
World's tallest indoor waterfall
Singapore Flyer

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