The Republic of Singapore, commonly referred to as the ‘Lion City’, ‘Garden city’ or the ‘Red Dot’, is the world’s only Island State, meaning the city itself is an Island and the Capital of the same name. Sitting just 137km north of the equator, this diamond shaped city gem is a must place to visit.
The Republic of Singapore
The Republic of Singapore, commonly referred to as the ‘Lion City’, ‘Garden city’ or the ‘Red Dot’, is the world’s only Island State. Meaning that the city itself is an Island and the Capital of the same name. Sitting just 137km north of the equator, this diamond shaped city gem is a must place to visit.
The Republic of Singapore’s history is interesting and rich. The earliest recorded name for the present day republic is ‘Temasek’, which in the Old Javanese language means ‘Sea Town’. A Prince from Palembang in Indonesia went hunting there. He came across a strange animal with an orange body and a black head, probably a lion. The Prince believed it to be a good omen so in 1324 he founded the City of ‘Singapura’. Singa meaning lion and ‘Pura’ meaning city, hence ‘Lion City’. A little known fact is that there were actually no Lions in the Republic of Singapore!
Sir Stamford Raffles
Sir Stamford Raffles (of the world famous Raffles Hotel) founded colonial Singapore as a trading post of the East India Company and after Japan’s occupation during WW2, Singapore was finally given independence from Great Britain in 1963 and became The Republic of Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles had a great contribution to Singapore’s development as an Asian Tiger economy (‘four Asian Tigers’ or the ‘Little Dragons’ as it is also known as are the economies of Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore), based on trade, global commerce, finance and as a major transport hub. It is officially known as the easiest place to conduct business in and as such has the world’s highest concentration of millionaires, with 142,000 of them having US $1 million or more in investable assets.
Singapore is also the most Technology minded and ‘Techno’ ready nation in Asia. Other standings for the ‘Lion City’ or “Red Dot” noted world-wide, are being the Top International Meeting city, third largest foreign exchange center, the city with the best investment potential, third largest financial center, third largest oil trading center and having the world’s second largest container port. It has also deservedly earned the top AAA sovereign rating of all Asian countries for the past decade. The nickname ‘Red Dot’ is so popular that there are number of places in the city embracing it such as the Red Dot Restaurant, 'Red Dot Brewhouse', Red Dot Museum and many more.
Despite the small size of this country, just 693 sq km, and the longest river, the Kallang, being only 10km long, the mightiness of the ‘Red Dot’ name completely justified, having in mind that the total population is 5.69 million people, covering an average of 7.9k people per square km.
Cost of Cars in Singapore
Because The Red Dot is such a tiny nation, the Cost of Cars in Singapore is high, and the number of vehicles has to be restricted for the city island to be able to move. To purchase a car, you must first purchase a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) at a cost of about $53,000 for cars up to 1,600cc and 130bhp (as at July 2016) which has to be renewed every ten years. Then, import duty can be up to 300% of the cost of a Supercar, making it an expensive venture to own a car.
MRT Singapore - 1987 to 2016 and beyond
You will discover that the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT Singapore) is the main method of transportation along with buses and taxis respectively. You can find a lot of useful information on MRT Singapore operating hours, routes and fares. Why not download the MRT map here? An interesting fact is that MRT Singapore map changes every year so the MRT map 2015 will be different from the one for 2016.
Singapore Points of Interest
Finding the top most attractive things to do and see in Singapore is not an easy task as this vibrant, energetic city full of culture, gastronomic delights and stunning architecture offers something for everyone.
Singapore points of interest, what are they? With plenty for children and things to do for couples, the Lion City is one of the best spots to spend quality time with your loved ones. Just a few suggestions of where to go in Singapore, why not start with the fabulous 'Marina Bay Sands'? Being the focal point of the bay, this epic resort and numerous buildings offers you opportunities to see many things such as the 'ArtScience Museum', huge shopping, dining and casino to choose from. If you are looking for things to do in Singapore at night, you must not miss the 'Wonderfull – Light and Water Show' at 8pm every evening, lighting up the waters and surrounding landmarks. It is no wonder it adorns many a postcard front.
Raffles Hotel History
You simply cannot write about Singapore without saving some space for the famous 'Raffles Hotel'. It is now an iconic building in the city but not many are familiar with the rich Raffles Hotel history. This Colonial, decadent and extravagant hotel started life as a privately owned beach house in the early 1930’s. The owner Dr Charles Emmerson died in 1883, but his lease on the property didn’t expire until 1887, so in the interim the ‘Raffles Institution’, the most prestigious of schools, leased it.
Sarkies Brothers - Raffles Hotel Singapore
Who were the Sarkies Brothers? Well, On December 1st 1887 the Sarkies Brothers took over the lease and in just a few months they created a ten bedroom high-end hotel, namely ‘Raffles’.
Wealthy clientele flocked there due to the high standards and its location on the sea front, as a result extensions were added and in 1899 it was completed with 75 guest rooms using the region's first powered ceiling fans and electric lights.
Over the following years the Raffles hotel went through tough times with the Sarkies Brothers bankruptcy, The Great Depression and WW2 led to a much needed complete renovation of the tired and well used building in 1989 at a massive cost of $160 million. The hotel reopened in 1991, the extensive renovation had converted every room into a suite and created the famous ‘Long Bar’, a popular retreat for the internationally renowned author Ernest Hemingway.
The Long Bar - Raffles
The Long Bar is the home of the well known gin based 'Singapore Sling', a cocktail served in just about every lounge/bar world-wide.
Today, the brand has grown so much that it went out of the Singapore borders. One can also find the 'Raffles Hotel in Dubai' , as well as in many other places in Asia and the world. One of the best dishes you can have at the hotel’s restaurants is the Raffles Hotel dim sum, prepared by a specific recipe kept in secret.
Raffles Hotel High Tea
The Raffles Hotel now has an adjoining shopping arcade housing 40 plus boutiques and most of the hotels restaurants. You can dine in tremendous style at places like the legendary Long Bar, Tiffins Bar, Raffles Grill and the Writers Lounge, a tribute to the literary luminaries who have written or stayed at the hotel over the years. Even if one’s purse cannot stretch to staying in the hotel, enjoying a Singapore Sling or High Tea in the lavish surroundings really is a ‘must’. The Raffles Hotel High Tea is anything but a casual experience. It is considered the best afternoon tea in Singapore and implies a strict dress code for those who would like to enjoy it.
Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest
As mentioned Singapore is also known as the ‘Garden City’, and for good reason; 'Gardens by the Bay' is simply huge complex, with over-sized climate controlled conservatories, you can experience chilly mountain temperatures while admiring an abundance of trees and plants. The famous Supertree structures around the gardens offer an impressive skywalk over the gardens providing tourists a unique aerial view. The two settings are known as the flower dome and cloud forest. Twelve of the structures in the gardens are located in the central grove where every night you can see the gardens’ light and music show. For the slightly braver diners who aren’t afraid of heights, the 50 foot tree in the center offers a unique dining experience in the form of ‘Supertree by Indochine’, with a 360 degree view from the lounge and a roofless tree top bar, definitely a unique dining experience.
Where do you find a 35 meter tall mountain in a city center? In the Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest of course! A lift will take you up through the mountain mist where you can look down at walls of tropical mountain flowers, weeds and orchids. Here you can find the Flower Dome which also houses the ‘Pollen Restaurant’ that creates its unique dishes using cultivated herbs and vegetables from their own gardens. A Gardens by the bay Map is available for all and highly recommended as it’s a large area to cover in humid conditions – don’t want to be getting lost.
Singapore Botanic Gardens Unesco
On the fringe of the city’s shopping belt you will find the 156 year-old 'Singapore Botanic Gardens'. Spread over 82 hectares, there are over 10,000 species of flora and it is one of only three tropical gardens to be honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rated as Asia’s top park attraction. Within the main gardens you will find the National Orchid Gardens, famous for housing the largest Orchid collection in the world with 1,200 different species and 2,000 hybrids. A green fingered gardener’s delight. Can you imagine what beautiful of an experience would be to go to a botanic garden concert? A true celebration for all your senses! Singapore Botanic Gardens are easily accessible as part of the MRT and generous amount of parking space. Enjoy a traditional or international cuisine meal at the Botanic Garden restaurant and treat your body and soul to a complete relaxation.
Visitors can see a myriad of plants such as Magnificent Tree Ferns & Cycads, the Peacock Spikemoss, cacti and euphorbias and other drought-tolerant species such as agaves, yuccas and grass trees. In the medicinal garden there are over 400 varieties of plants used medicinally. You can also witness carnivorous plants such as Nepenthes or pitcher plants, the list is mind blowing.
This tiny island state is also an island of vast contrasts, it has both a ‘Little India’ and a ‘Chinatown’ districts, each offering shopping and gastronomic delights second to none. Those are distinct cultural areas where vibrant cultures add even more beauty to the city. Little India hotels and restaurants enjoy a great number of visitors all year round. Places such as Banana Leaf, Gayatri, Gurkha Palace, Kailash Parbat, Anjappar, and Delhi Restaurant are just some of the best Indian restaurants in Little India.
As you would expect Asian cuisine is in abundance from the finest of dining rooms such as the Summer Pavilion, Peach Blossoms, Din Tai Fung, Tong Le Private Dining and Cassia to the finest of street food, aka ‘Hawker’s food. Places like Eminent Frog Porridge, Song Fa, BBQ Seafood, Crab Party and the Ah Hock Fried Oyster House provide diners super value, super tasty, authentic dishes loaded with flavor for the more adventurous diner looking to experience ‘local’ cuisine in ‘local surroundings.
Whether you want to sip a Singapore Sling in the lavish Raffles Hotel or partake in a glass of iced Cha Yen in the café around the corner; Singapore has it all and caters for all cultures and palettes from every corner of the world for every gourmet lover.
Singapore Zoo Night Safari
Not everything in Singapore is about gardens, hotels and dining. Animal lovers can now enjoy the fabulous ‘number one’ tourist attraction, the world’s first Nocturnal Zoo, the Singapore Zoo Night Safari.
Opened in 1994 and set in some 90+ acres of land and attracting over one million visitors every year, the amazing Singapore Zoo Night Safari is full of surprises. Other ’nocturnal’ zoos reset the animals’ internal day-night clock so they can be open for visitors during the day for customers. Not this one! Treat yourself and your friends or family to the Singapore Zoo Night Safari, explore various species in their natural hours of activity.
To see every bit of this fantastic place without getting lost, you will definitely need a Singapore Zoo Night Safari map. The amazing complex is divided into six different geographical zones, which, if feeling energetic can be explored on foot or more easily seen from a tram. Here you will find no cages, everything is either moats, hot wires disguised as trees or metal ‘cattle’ grids allowing all the animal inhabitants a real sense of freedom.
Every evening you can enjoy a 20 minute performance from the in-house troupe of tribal warriors; complete with their fiery stunts, along with the unique dining experiences offered by the Ulu Ulu Safari Restaurant or onboard the Gourmet Safari Express.
With 38 truly well earned awards of merit from various organizations and Government initiatives, Singapore Zoo Night Safari really is an attraction, certainly worth keeping the children up late for!
The array of animals is quite amazing and includes such specimens as: Fishing Cats, Sri Lankan Leopards, Snow Leopards, Bats, civets, and the only venomous primate - the slow loris. See two of Australia’s truly amazing possums – the brush-tailed possums and sugar gliders, the list is almost endless.
Wild Wild Wet vs Adventure Cove
Talking of children, what else can they enjoy in Singapore? Well, the answer is the ‘Wild Wild Wet’ theme park. Opened in 2004 this water wonderland is one of the largest in Singapore, boasting some real adrenalin-pumping rides as well as wave pools and water slides. Excitingly, the park went through renovation in 2016 and the visitors can enjoy a set of Wild Wild Wet new rides. Please note that on some of the rides there is a child height restriction for safety reasons, but there really is something for all children of all ages to enjoy and for adults too for that matter!
Singapore Language and Religion
The four official languages of Singapore are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, but the diversity of other languages, religions and customs is mind-blowing. The major religions in Singapore include Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Taoism, although you will find other branches of religions and ‘blended’ religions in families.
To support the different beliefs of Singapore, on the island there are a variety of stunning places of worship to visit. Dating back to the early 20th century the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See is the biggest Mahayana Buddhist temple in Singapore. Muslims can celebrate their faith in the oldest mosque on the island The Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka and the Hindu’s temple from ancient times is the Sri Mariamman. Christians mostly worship in the Armenian Church, which is the oldest Christian church in Singapore and the Singaporean Taoists can practise their beliefs at places like the Thian Hock Keng which is one of the most important Taoist temples in Singapore.
Singapore culture facts and diversity are truly amazing! So many cultural differences, yet such a strong nation on such a tiny piece of land.
Singapore Holidays and Festivals
Having said that, it comes to no surprise Singapore Holidays and Festivals are hard to count. Some of the most important international holidays celebrated in the Republic of Singapore include New Year’s Day,, Good Friday, Labour Day and Christmas Day. Huge festive activities take place for the Chinese New Year, Vesak Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Hari Raya Haji and, of course, Singapore National Day.
It also wouldn’t be a piece of cake to give you a full Singapore festivals list. These events are a huge part of life on the island, honoring a mixture of cultures from their rich heritage throughout the year. Each festival has its own set of beliefs, values and traditions.
One of the greatest celebrations in Singapore is the Chinese Festival of Arts, also known as the Huayi. It is held at Esplanade, showcasing Chinese talents of theatre, music, dance and the arts and is held mid-January to mid-February.
River Hong Bao
Another important day on the Chinese calendar is the River Hong Bao, celebrated to bring in the Chinese New Year. This festival is usually held for a period of seventeen days, with large-scale displays of Chinese mythical characters including the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. There is an abundance of street food, souvenirs and handicrafts and the festival runs all day, but there is no denying that an evening visit is preferable with the array of light displays illuminating the evening sky.
The Chingay Parade is a part of the traditional celebrations in Singapore during the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities. This parade has now become an international event with a huge variety of acrobatics, dancing and magical display performances.
Hungry Ghost Festival
The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Seven Month Festival, is one of the most significant celebrations for the Taoists in the Lion City. They believe that the month of the ‘hungry spirits’ is the most important month of the year, it is the time when the gates of hell open freeing the spirits who can wander freely among the living on Earth. Other cultural beliefs suggest that by offering food to the hungry ghosts, their businesses would not be blemished by the spirits.
Falling on the 15th day of the lunar month, the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Mooncake or Lantern Festival, is traditionally celebrated during the farming year at harvest. Night bazaars with stunning lantern displays, full of bright colors and dazzling lights is a sight to be seen for everyone. During this same period the MoonFest runs, a mix of authentic Chinese performances is presented for a total of five days.
The Muslim festive calendar is not ignored either, with Hari Raya Puasa, or known to others as Eid Al Fita. This is a very important religious holiday in Singapore celebrated at the end of the Ramadan fasting period.
The most significant event for the Hindus, Deepavali, the festival of lights, falls in October, lasting throughout the entire month. Deepavali commemorates the defeat of Narakasura by their Lord Krishna, marking this date the New Year for them.
The Thaipusam festival on January 30th is said to be the highlight of traditional festivals in Singapore. Hindus celebrate in honor of their Hindu god, Subramaniam, by piercing their bodies with large steel hooks and perform other sacrificial acts like walking on hot coals. It is a huge crowd pleaser and attended by thousands.
On a lighter note, here’s a fun culture fact - Singaporeans take the world of dating very seriously indeed. Here the government will help out like no other in the world, as they have established a ‘Social Development Network’ (SDN) promoting marriage, creating opportunities and services for singles to find their life partner. SDN pride themselves on enabling the single community to understand and develop relationship and dating skills, ‘ensuring quality and credible dating services are available’.
Whatever you wish to see, experience and absorb, this magical city has it all. There are a total of three visitor centers in the Republic of Singapore and it is highly recommended to pop in to gather literally an arm-full of information to make sure your visit/stay is a treasured and memorable one.