Comprised of one major island and about 60 smaller islets, although it had been inhabited as part of various local empires since the second century AD, modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company in 1819, who later gave his name to the famous Raffles Hotel, the home to the Singapore Gin Sling. Britain obtained sovereignty in 1824, and – although briefly occupied by Japan during the Second World War – remained British until it declared independence in the 1960s. As a result of this considerable British influence, English is the dominant language of Singapore’s four official languages.
A popular tourist destination, Singapore has fabulous shopping and dining; both are considered national pastimes. The cuisine in Singapore is heavily influenced by its main ethnicities – particularly Chinese, Malay and Indian – with an increasing hybridization of the different styles, such as Peranakan style which fuses Chinese and Malay food. Each of these different ethnicities has left their indelible mark in their own distinctive districts.
Although much of Singapore has been built up, with very little natural rainforest left remaining, Singapore is popular for its Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Botanic Gardens, the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.
Singapore also offers the island of Sentosa – a gorgeous, long sheltered beach for those who love the sun, sea and sand; two golf courses; the Resorts World Sentosa which includes various attractions such as two casinos, a Universal Studios theme park, Marine Life Park and oceanarium; and the Fort Siloso which was first built and armed in the late 19th century, used as a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War during the Japanese Occupation, and has been converted into a military museum in 1974. Also, a short 45-50 minute catamaran trip takes you to the Indonesian island of Bintan – with its tropical climate and fabulous beach resorts it is becoming an increasingly popular destination to rival Bali.
Singapore may be small, but it offers a veritable melting pot of cultures and experiences, from chilling out at a beach resort, nature parks and gardens to cosmopolitan shopping and dining, as well as theme parks and casinos.