Singapore

Short history

Singapore’s history streches back over 800 years. Initially, it thrived as a maritime emporium, drawing the attention of various regional powers. The key moment in its history came in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles established it as a British trading post, marking the beginning of significant colonial influence. This period saw Singapore grow into a busy port, crucial to British trade routes. Following the hardships of World War II, a growing national consciousness paved the way for self-governance in 1959. Singapore’s brief union with Malaysia between 1963 and 1965 was a significant but challenging chapter, culminating in its independence as a Republic on 9 August 1965. Since then, Singapore has embraced multi-racialism, which has shaped its policy-making in critical sectors such as education and housing, fostering a unique identity in the heart of Southeast Asia.

Geography

Singapore sits strategically in Southeast Asia, between Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the south, being a critical juncture of sea routes connecting the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. The country’s main island, significantly urbanized, is characterized by undulating central hills and flat, expansive plains, especially in the east where most of the island’s airport and industrial facilities are located. Noteworthy is Singapore’s continuous effort in land reclamation, which has expanded its land area, accommodating its dense population and urban infrastructure needs.

Singapore’s climate typifies that of a tropical rainforest, with no distinct seasons but a relatively uniform temperature, high humidity, and abundant rainfall throughout the year. This climatic condition is consequential for its green spaces.

The urban layout of Singapore showcases a meticulous planning approach, mixing skyscrapers and public spaces to create a harmonious environment. Distinct neighborhoods mirror the country’s multicultural identity, while its coastal position has influenced the development of waterfront areas, further accentuating its geographical allure.

Population

As of the latest statistics, Singapore’s population size stands at approximately 5.7 million people, sharing space on an island that continuously grows through land reclamation. The demographic picture of Singapore is predominantly composed of ethnic Chinese, making up about 74.3% of the resident population. Malays, the indigenous people of Singapore, constitute about 13.5%, while ethnic Indians form 9.0%. Other ethnic groups, contributing to the multicultural milieu, make up the remaining 3.2%.

This demographic diversity has fostered a multilingual society where English is widely recognized as the common language of communication. Additionally, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil are acknowledged as official languages, each representing the primary vernacular of Singapore’s major ethnic communities. The island state is also an eclectic mix of religions coexisting in harmony, with Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism being the most commonly practiced.

Main sights

  • Marina Bay Sands: An integrated resort known for its extraordinary architecture, including three towers topped by a unique sky park with panoramic views of the city.
  • Gardens by the Bay: A futuristic park that features the famous Supertree Grove, Cloud Forest, and Flower Dome, creating a spectacular green space in the heart of the city.
  • Singapore Botanic Gardens: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this park is home to the National Orchid Garden.
  • Sentosa Island: A resort island south of the city that caters to all ages, with attractions ranging from beaches and theme parks like Universal Studios Singapore to luxury hotels and golf courses.
  • The Singapore Flyer: One of the world’s largest observation wheels.
  • Merlion Park: The home of Singapore’s mythical Merlion, a statue with a lion’s head and the body of a fish.

Food

  • Hainanese Chicken Rice: Often considered Singapore’s national dish, this simple yet flavorful meal consists of poached chicken and seasoned rice, served with chili sauce and usually accompanied by a bowl of chicken broth.
  • Chilli Crab: A signature seafood dish, Chilli Crab features stir-fried crab coated in a sweet, savoury, and spicy tomato-based sauce. It’s typically enjoyed with mantou (fried or steamed buns) to mop up the delicious sauce.
  • Laksa: This spicy noodle soup is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines. It combines rice noodles or vermicelli with chicken, prawn, or fish, served in a spicy coconut milk-based soup.
  • Char Kway Teow: A popular hawker stall favorite, this dish is a stir-fried flat rice noodle meal cooked with eggs, prawns, deshelled cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), and bean sprouts, seasoned with soy sauce and chili.
  • Roti Prata: A South Indian-inspired dish, Roti Prata is a flaky, buttery flatbread often served with a side of dhal (lentil curry) or curry sauce for dipping. It can be enjoyed as a savory meal or a sweet treat if filled or topped with ingredients like sugar, banana, or chocolate.

Fun facts

  • Singapore is renowned for having the “World’s First Night Zoo,” the Night Safari, which provides an insight into the nocturnal animal kingdom, having over 2,500 animals from various species.
  • The country holds the record for the world’s highest man-made waterfall located within the Jewel Changi Airport, towering at 40 meters. This marvel combines nature with engineering in a bustling travel hub.
  • Singapore’s Changi Airport consistently ranks as one of the world’s best airports, not only for its efficiency but also for its indoor nature sights, including the Butterfly Garden, which houses over 1,000 butterflies.
  • The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel is famous for its architecture and the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool.
  • Despite its small size, Singapore is home to more than 300 parks and 4 nature reserves, reinforcing its status as a “City in a Garden” and underscoring its commitment to preserving green spaces amidst urban development.