‘The East’s great cultural melting pot’
Singapore, the stunning centrepiece of southeast Asia, is a cultural pot pourri that leaves the unsuspecting visitor dazzled by the containment of so many influences upon one small island. Sir Stamford Raffles, a 19th-century British civil servant, brought the ‘Lion City’ to world prominence after searching for a trading station to counter the Dutch influence in the Straits of Malacca, and trade has remained the island’s mainstay.
Singapore is a happy collision of opposites – grand and expensive at the famed Raffles Hotel, but low-key and cheap in the food markets of Bugis Junction and Clarke Quay. City attractions include unrivalled shopping in Orchard Road, the cultural quarters of Chinatown, Geylang Serai and Little India with the world’s first night safari.
An incredibly clean city, nothing is allowed to dull the shine – even down to the banning of chewing gum.
Yet the natural world is never far away, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has a significant area of primary rainforest within its boundaries, while for the adventurous Sungei Buluh Nature Park offers the chance for trekking. Check out Pulau Ubin’s mangrove forest, a bumboat’s ride from Changi jetty, or Kusu site of Taoists’ annual pilgrimage. Culture lovers can enjoy the fusion of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures, the main ethnic groups, with museums, gardens, parks, mosques, temples and synagogues testimony to the island’s rich national heritage.