Thian Hock Keng Tao Temple, interior, Singapore

Singapore, the Lion City - In a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 22nd October 2019

Where Does the Name Singapore Originate?

  • Singapore was named Singapura, which translates as Lion City in Sanskrit, by a Sumatran Prince after he thought he saw a lion on the island.

Is Singapore a Country?

  • Singapore is one of only three surviving city-states in the world (the others are the Vatican and Monaco)
  • Singapore is made up of the main island and 63 other  islands, which are mostly unoccupied and used for military or industrial purposes.

Is Singapore Expensive?

  •  Singapore is the most expensive country in Southeast Asia

Facts and Factoids

  • Singapore lies one degree north of the Equator
  • Chewing gum is banned in Singapore, except for those with a medical prescription.
  •  The Great Singapore Duck Race is held every year in order to raise money for charity. In 2002 it broke a world record with more than 123,000 toy ducks racing on the Singapore River.
  • Singapore has the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (35 meters high) and the largest fountain in the world (The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City, which cost  about US$6 million to build).

Singapore - Background and a Brief History

  • Singapore's history dates back at least a millennium. It was once a maritime empire known as Temasek which was then subsumed into and several successive sea based empires. Singapore as we know it, dates back to 1819 when Thomas Stamford Raffles established the island as a British Empire trading post. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959, joined the the new federation of Malaysia, alongside Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak, in 1963 and was expelled in 1965 for ideological differences. with leader, Lee Kuan Yew.
  • Despite its lack of natural resources Singapore developed rapidly as a major trading, aviation, financial, and maritime shipping hub, Along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, it was known as The Four Asian Tigers for its exceptionally high growth rates. It consequently has very high standards of living.
  • The country is a multi-party democracy with free elections, The People's Action Party (PAP) has governed the country continuously since 1959.

What to See in Singapore?

  • There are many hotels at differing rates. I would choose one with great views across the bay or close to Clarke Quay for river views and easy central access.
  • You might want to get an MRT rail pass. It goes to most places very easily. You can even use this from the airport if you want to.
  • See Singapore the Theme Park, for my last walking tour. I would divide the central city into three main walking areas:
  1. Bay Gardens and colonial area to the south and around the bay. There’s a lot to do and see here, especially in the Bay Gardens area. You can walk right round the bay in a circle anticlockwise, going past the Merlion and ending at the Padang if you wanted to. There are also galleries/museums here. You could probably walk all of this and there are lots of places to sit and rest/eat on the way
  2. Clarke and Boat Quays (very touristy – riverside bars and restaurants) to the north of centre and China Town to the west. Chinatown is also very touristy too now but very interesting and lots of hawker- food stalls and little shops. There are several nice temples in this area, Hindu, Buddhist and Tao. You can also get boat/harbour cruises up the river either from the Bay area or further up at the quays. Again lots of places to sit.
  3. Raffles Hotel is iconic (though queues for the bar can get very long and it was all being renovated when I was there) and Little India to the east. Bus or MRT both go here very easily.
  • Further out, to add on to the above if you want - the zoo - which is in peaceful tropical grounds and/or the Botanic Gardens. These are both to the north in the same direction. Nothing is very far away in Singapore - though the traffic can be bad. This is the third most densely populated country in the world.
  • There’s also Orchard Road and numerous other malls for shopping - though it's definitely not cheap any more.
  • Final suggestion, Sentosa Island to the south west - Universal Studios, other theme parks and beaches, though the new Bay Gardens area seems to have superseded much of this in terms of interest.

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