Pre-British rule Singapore was once a small fishing village at the tip end of Malaysia and was part of the Malaysian archipelago. After the 2nd world war and in the 1950's a young vibrant Cambridge law graduate by the name of Lee Kuan Yew had visions of his little island one day appearing on the map with its own identity and character and perhaps Singapore would appear on the map despite this miniscule dot on the world map.
That vision has brought Singapore a long way from the small fishing village with no natural resources of its own and even no water supply enough for its inhabitants. And so Lee Kuan Yew began this hard and almost seemingly impossible project to create Singapore to what it is now and as you can see he made it.
He built a strong political party that ignited the progress of Singapore starting from negotiating a lifelong supply of water for his people from their neighbours - Malaysia (who are rich in natural resources and of course water) at a very low price that has now caused a tough legal battle between the two countries - but that is another story that is rather funny but clever. Another long term vision of Lee Kuan Yew is to house his growing population so he came up with an ingenious idea of building flats for the lower income groups.
The first I remember being an area called Toa Payoh. It was so popular and easily affordable more and more were built. He went on to promote savings, pension and housing plans for the Singapore population to ensure that Singaporeans are self-sufficient even when they grow old, so the Central Provident Fund was established. It worked by deducting 17% of their salaries at source every month and it was compulsory.
To build the economy he encourages attractive inducements for International companies to set up offices and factories in Singapore hence it is now one of the prominent financial centres in the world. Singapore does not have a deficit - in fact they are one of the very few governments in the world that in credit. Bearing in mind Singapore has to import everything into the country so the government needed an income...
Recognizing that many ex-British soldiers wanted to return to Singapore to reminisce hence the Singapore tourism trade boomed and that is where Singapore's main income comes from. When the SARS broke out (from the Chicken flu) it nearly crippled Singapore but being quick to act they revived the economy by cutting hotel prices, offering flight incentives, etc, etc. and they never looked back since.
To strengthen their identity and gain respect in the world platform Singapore Airlines was born and again with government influence ensured that it was one of the best (in everything) in the world. With the Singapore Airlines expanding its reach to every corner of the world, travel Singapore has never been easier for visitors coming for holiday or business trip.
On the home front Singaporeans like eating out a lot. Singapore consisting predominantly of Chinese, Malays and Indians this cause their cultures to gel together and things began to evolve like the language (called Singlish - i.e. Singapore English), the foods and drinks, etc. The Singapore food is extremely flavorsome; consist mainly of a mix of Chinese flavors like herbs with Indian spices and Malays ingredients of chilies, coconuts, galangal etc which make the local food in Singapore frequently on the spicier side.
Education was paramount in their family life hence there is no illiteracy in Singapore and universities cropped up everywhere due to their high demands. Many have also been sent abroad to USA, Australia, UK and Europe to study and broaden their horizons on world knowledge and culture.
In the 1970s from once being a colony of Great Britain and having a strong influence in their lives the new generation took to the American culture and values e.g. skateboarding, hamburgers, Starbucks, etc, etc. This could also be due to the numerous American air-craft carriers that were always docked in their ports. To encourage the gigantic air-craft carriers to stop in Singapore they had to be able to have the deep waters and space and so they did that and were once the 3rd largest harbour in the world. What a vision!
Singapore never sleeps with its night clubs, restaurants, food stalls, and shopping centres; now a new gigantic casino is being built to keep the money in their thriving city. The way I look at it the government never sleeps either as they are always looking at ways to keep on top of everything. They infrastructure is immaculate and very well run - like clockwork. Crime is very low. Streets and buildings are kept clean and pristine. There is a law that mandatory for home owners to paint their homes/buildings every 5 years or even when the appearance of your building starts to look dirty - whichever comes first.
When you are in Singapore try to observe how clean buildings are not just the streets. I can safely say hand on my heart there is also no corruption in Singapore as there are heavy penalties once caught. I can remember when I was a child that everything was cheap in Singapore but with progress there is always a price to pay and things have got more expensive.
Although the population of Singapore has grown to nearly 5 million, just over 1 are foreign workers. You will not see the locals doing manual work unless it is skilled and most of them it is because it is their own business.
In the last 15 years health care has been privatized and similar to that of the USA but the locals have been encouraged to take out insurance to cover the costs. 3 in 5 homes have domestic help mainly brought in from Indonesia, India & the Philippines.
With the introduction of their version of VAT there are occasions when the Singapore government gives that back to their locals after announcing how much they have to give back to their public. So at least once every 2 years the Singaporeans get a pay cheque from their government. How rewarding!
Fantastic for History and sight seeing,
Singapore Island, Singapore
Trip to singapore starts and concludes with one great thing - the Changi International airport. The newly built terminal has got great contours for the art lovers. Do not miss exploring this airport - has got stupendous features like the garden, meditation hall, showers, broadband PC's, cafe parlours and shopping centres. Assistance is top class. MRT and BRT cards for tourists are available at the airport. For nightlife, check Butter Factory at Robertson Quay or RAV at Circular Road. These r good options. A day at Sentosa can be fun with the cable car, sky and luge ride, 4d movie and lots of sea food. Fort siloso is worth exploring as well. Its very cheap. Vivo City is nearby and good for shopping but don't miss out on Little India if u r an indian. If u r into Yoga, go for a couple of pure yoga sessions at Orchard Road. Singapore is normally very safe for tourists. Mustafa at Little India is good option to shop. For art lovers, visit the esplanade at Boat quay. It's also good for boating and photography. Don't miss to visit the Art and history museum on the other side of the river. Give the restaurants at boat quay a miss and try the ones at Clarke quay instead.
I found the Science centre very interesting - it's worth one full day out there including the science movie. Try to see the movie on Alps if available. Night Safari at the Zoo is good but there aren't any komodos as I had read once. Jurong bird park is good but one has to walk a lot.
For budget shopping, try bugis street. It's street shopping there. For quality shopping, I liked Paragon though there are many options at Orchard. Mustafa is one stop shop though do not expect the best range of apparel here. Currency conversion and travel office is also there at Mustafa.
For moving around, one can use a cab which charges reasonably. Bus (SRT) and Tube (MRT) cards are available every corner. Climate is hot and humid. Bring your cottons. Great place in the morning and evening. There aren't any dangers in Singapore as I could see - it's safe and hospitable. Yet. check the credentials of the hotel u r booking into, carry a map and try to avoid roaming around late night in remote places.
English is understood by all. Singapore mainly comprises of Chinese, Malay and Tamils.
Perhaps the best way to tackle Singaporean sightseeing is to take one neighborhood at a time. The city is rather spread out, but individual neighborhoods are well defined and fun to explore on foot. Katong is the Peranakan area (MRT Paya Lebar Station). Peranakans are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who began intermarrying with Malays in the 1500's. They are also referred to as Baba-Nonyas. Lots of interesting lunch places are huddled around East Coast Rd and Joo Chiat Rd. The main attraction in the neighborhood is a Hindu temple called Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple on Ceylon Rd just north of East Coast Rd. Check out the painted scenes and text on the ceiling. Hindu temples are covered with intense colors, scenes from their religious history and depictions of deities.