Monday, December 20, 2010

Travel: Singapore

Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island country off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, in Southeast Asia. It is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north, and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south. Singapore is the world's fourth leading financial centre and a cosmopolitan world city, playing a key role in international trade and finance. The port of Singapore is one of the five busiest ports in the world.

Singapore has a long history of immigration. It has a diverse population of close to 5 million people made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Asians of various descents, and Caucasians.[14] 42% of the population in Singapore are foreigners who work and study there. Foreign workers make up 50% of the service sector. The country is the second most densely populated in the world after Monaco. A.T. Kearney named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2006 in its Globalization Index.

Before independence in 1965, Singapore was a vibrant trading port with a GDP per capita of $511, the third highest in East Asia then. After independence, foreign direct investment and a state-led drive for industrialisation based on plans by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Goh Keng Swee created a modern economy.

The English name of Singapore is derived from the Malay name Singapura (Sanskrit सिंहपुर "Lion City"). Today it is sometimes referred to as the Lion City. Studies indicate that lions probably never lived there; the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama, founder of Singapore, who gave the city its name, was most likely a tiger.

Singapore consists of 63 islands, including mainland Singapore. The main island is widely known as Singapore Island but is officially called Pulau Ujong (Malay: transliterated as island at land's end [of the peninsula]). There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia: the Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north, and the Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's many smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 166 m (545 ft).

Singapore has on-going land reclamation projects with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed, and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 704 km2 (271.8 sq mi) today, and may grow by another 100 km2 (38.6 sq mi) by 2030. The projects sometimes involve some of the smaller islands being merged together through land reclamation in order to form larger, more functional islands, as in the case of Jurong Island.

Singapore is a popular travel destination, contributing to the importance of its tourism industry. Total visitor arrivals were 10.2 million in 2007. To attract more tourists, the government has decided to legalise gambling and to allow two casino resorts (euphemistically called Integrated Resorts) to be developed at Marina South and Sentosa in 2005. To compete with regional rivals like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai, the government has announced that the city area would be transformed into a more exciting place by lighting up the civic and commercial buildings. Food has also been promoted as an attraction for tourists, with the Singapore Food Festival held every July to celebrate Singapore's cuisine. Other annual events in Singapore include the Singapore Sun Festival, the Christmas Light Up, and the Singapore Jewel Festival.

Singapore is promoting itself as a medical tourism hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care in the country each year, and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue. The government states that this could create some 13,000 new jobs within the health industries.


The Merlion
The Merlion was designed as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 1964. The designer was Mr Fraser Brunner, a member of the souvenir committee and a curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium.

The Merlion has a lion head and a fish body resting on a crest of waves. The lion head symbolises the legend of the rediscovery of Singapura, as recorded in the "Malay Annals". In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek, a Javanese word for sea. In the 11th century A.D, Prince Sang Nila Utama of the Sri Vijaya Empire rediscovered the island. When the Prince first landed on Singapore's shores, he sighted a mystical beast which he later learnt was a lion. The Prince then decided to name the island "Singapura" which in Sanskrit means Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The fish tail of the Merlion symbolises the ancient city of Temasek and represents Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village.

The MerlionThe Merlion statue, measuring 8.6 metres high and weighing 70 tonnes, was built by the late Singapore craftsman, Mr Lim Nang Seng. It is made of cement fondue. A smaller Merlion statue, measuring two metres high and weighing three tonnes was also built by Mr Lim. The body is made of cement fondue, the skin from porcelain plates and eyes from small red teacups.

Its First home

The Merlion and the Cub were originally located by the Esplanade Bridge, just 120 metres from their present location. Also called the Merlion Park, the area soon became a popular tourist attraction and took its place among the famous landmarks of great cities of the world. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, officiated the installation ceremony of the Merlion on 15 September 1972. A bronze plaque commemorated the auspicious occasion with the inscription, "The Merlion has been erected as a symbol to welcome all visitors to Singapore".

Today, the Merlion attracts more than one million visitors a year who make the trip to the Merlion Park to photograph this world famous icon at her new home, at the adjacent to One Fullerton.

Sentosa Island
A former fishing village turned British military base, Sentosa was transformed into an idyllic island resort in 1972 for the enjoyment and recreation of everyone. To describe Sentosa as merely one thing or another would do no justice to the multiple facets of this island jewel half a kilometre south of Singapore. Afterall, it is the variety and versatility that make Sentosa (meaning peace and tranquillity) different and special for millions of visitors from all around the world. And unlike any other vacation destination, you are right on the fringe of the city's buzz, which is just minutes away by cable car, ferry or via a 710-metre road link.

Once you step afoot the island, you can find your own slice of paradise among the many exciting attractions - history and culture come alive, entertainment by day and night, lush green surroundings to explore, manicured gardens, dancing fountains and two challenging international 18-hole golf courses with scenic undulating views.

Today, Sentosa is a 390-hectare recreational haven boasting a kaleidoscopic range of attractions and activities which cater to a wide audience.

Open: Daily

Admission: Island admission is SGD 2 per person

Contact: Sentosa Development Corporation, 33 Allanbrooke Road, Sentosa Singapore 099981.
Tel: (65) 6275 0388 or 1800-7368672 (toll-free in Singapore only)
Fax: (65) 6275 0161
Getting There:
Cable Car:
The Singapore Cable Car opens from 8:30am - 9pm (daily).

Normal cabin (One Way): SGD 10.90 adult, SGD 5.50 child.

Normal Cabin (Return Trip): SGD 11.90 adult, SGD 6.50 child.

Glass cabin: SGD 18 adult, SGD 11child .
Prices are inclusive of GST but do not include admission to Sentosa.
For more information on cable car ticket prices, click here.

Sentosa Bus Services: SGD 3 per person inclusive of admission to Sentosa, two-way bus transfer from HarbourFront Centre Bus Terminal and all internal transportation.

Operating Hours: 7am-11pm Sun-Thur 7am-12.30am Fri, Sat & eve of public holidays
Last bus leaving Sentosa: 11pm Sun-Thur 12.30am Fri, Sat & eve of public holidays.

Drive to Sentosa and pay SGD 2 for individual entry and SGD 2 for parking.

Visitors can walk into Sentosa Via the Causeway Bridge (7am - 12mn). Island admission charge applies.

Sentosa 4D Magic
Sentosa 4D Magix presents an interactive movie experience with 4-dimensional digital effects.  This multi-million Sentosa 4D Magix Theatre is the first in Southeast Asia.  Using a state-of-the-art digital projection system, movies come to life right off the big screen. Have a seat and feel a whole new generation in movie magic!  Equipped with in-built speakers as well as environmental effects like water features, seat vibration, leg ticklers and base shakers to give you THE ultimate difference.

Be tossed about in your seats. Feel the wind blowing in your face and the water rushing your way.  Let the synchronization of this wide spectrum of special visual, sound, motion and environmental effects put you right in the middle of the action.

Skyline Luge Sentosa 
Part go-cart, part toboggan, the Luge offers a truly unique outdoor experience suitable for all ages that is not found anywhere else in Singapore or Southeast Asia.

Giving you full control, navigate down 650 metres of the Jungle Trail or 688 metre of the Dragon Trail as thrillingly fast or cruising slow as you like. After Luge, board the Skyride and take in the fantastic panoramic scenery of the city skyline and beautiful coastline. Truly an experience not to be missed.

As darkness settles, a whole brand-new adventure awaits you. Thrill-seekers will discover a different challenge while manoeuvring down each track with unique lightings. On the Skyride, enjoy a breathtaking view of Singapore as the city skyline and harbour transform into a dazzling city of lights at night.

The Merlion
No visit to Sentosa is complete without meeting its most famous, 37-metre tall resident, The Merlion.

When you step inside the Merlion – an enduring icon of Singapore that's half-lion and half-fish – you'll be transported to the depths of the ocean to meet legendary sea dragons and mythical mermaids. Re-live the origins of the Merlion in a captivating animated feature and visit the Mercubs to discover what fortune has in store for you.

Climb to the crown and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular 360o view of Sentosa, including Singapore's southern shores and a glimpse of the dazzling city skyline. Back on the ground, take an amble along the Merlion Walk, a 120-metre-long Gaudi-inspired mosaic walkway.

Songs of the Sea
Songs of the Sea brings you a mesmerizing show with a live cast, dramatic effects and pyrotechnics. Water jets, flame bursts, lasers and captivating music make this a one-of-a-kind entertainment spectacle that's fun for everyone. A rain or shine event, this is one performance that you won't want to miss.

Palawan Beach
With a suspension bridge linking beach-goers to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia (and also Asia's closest point to the Equator), Palawan Beach, Singapore's happiest family beach, boasts interesting shops and eateries that are a favourite with adults and children alike. Whatever you decide to do, you are bound to have fun at this family-friendly beach.

Images of Singapore
This award-winning attraction brings Singapore's past to vivid life using multimedia displays, multi-screen theatre presentations and life-sized tableaus depicting local history.

Images of Singapore is more than a walk down memory lane; it is a journey to the very soul of the nation. Here, legend, facts and folklore are creatively interwoven into an "I am there" experience. Journey from the earliest days of founding fathers to today’s modern Singapore and discover a place where cultural diversity, unity of values and adventure converge.

Let our guides take you on a journey through time in the yesteryears of Singapore, from the moment when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stepped along the banks of Singapore River. Do not to miss Ah Chai and the Peranakan Bibik as our guides takes you further to explore the depths of the building that once used to be a military hospital. Be amazed by the colourful myriad of the festivals celebrated in Singapore!

Don't forget to take a piece of living history home with you at the Images of Singapore shop! It offers unique souvenirs, a fine collection of books on culture and cuisine, as well as special–interest and historical titles.

Singapore Chinatown
Singapore's Chinatown evolved around 1821 when the first Chinese junk arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province in China. The passengers, all men, set up home around the south of the Singapore River which is known today as Telok Ayer. Conditions were harsh. The only source of fresh water were from the many wells in Ann Siang Hill and at Spring Street. Each household had to collect fresh water in bullock-drawn carts, hence Chinatown's local name - Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water).

Chinatown is full of contrasts and fascinating details. A place where many of our forefathers first made their homes, where the historic buildings have been lovingly conserved, where century-old beliefs are still practiced, and, in a manner true to the New Asia -Singapore spirit, where fashionable new ideas have taken root. Much of Chinatown has recently been renovated, but the old traditions endure. During Chinese New Year, the whole of Chinatown is lit up and buzzes with activity as stalls sell a variety of festive goods.

South, across the river, the monolithic towers of the Financial District cast long shadows over Chinatown, whose row of shop-houses stretches for around one kilometer, as far as Cantonment Road. Singapore's World Trade Centre is a fifteen-minute walk southwest of the outskirts of Chinatown, and from there cable cars run across to Sentosa.

Chinatown, with the major draws being more shopping and eating. Antique shops abound, specializing in everything from large furniture and decorative pieces to small jewelry, porcelain and jade. Haggling, bargaining, whatever you call it, it is the rule of the day with shopkeepers. Even if English communications break down, you can trust commerce to prevail.

In Chinatown alone, there are many places of interest, including mosques, temples, markets, parks, and shop houses. Here you will find the Chinatown Heritage Centre which is located in Pagoda Street. This is a museum where you will learn all about the history of Chinatown and also how the early Chinese immigrants live in hard lives. The Thian Hock Keng Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple. It is wonderfully decorated. Sri Mariamman Temple is Hindu and the city’s oldest. The entrance tower is colorful and covered with deities and floral designs. The peaceful co-existence of the different places of worship in the same area, even until today, reflects the racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

For an authentic taste of Chinese culture, try visiting a teahouse and the Thong Chai Medical Institute, then take a peek into a typical middle-class Chinese home in the 1920s at the Chinaman Scholar's Gallery. Don't forget to stop by Food Street for an alfresco meal and the various Chinese pastry shops for home-made tarts and cakes and try the famous dim sum.

Chinatown can be divided into four main districts - Kreta Ayer , Telok Ayer , Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Pasoh - each with a distinctive flavour of its own. The heart of activity is in the Trengganu/Smith Streets area.
Getting There: A short walk from Outram Park (EW16) or Chinatown (NE4) MRT Stations.

Kampong Glam
The name Kampong Glam comes from the Glam tree which grew in the area. Medicinal oil was extracted from the tree and its bark used by the Buginese and Malays to caulk their ships.

Kampong Glam is a sea of sounds and colours. Originally a fishing village at the mouth of the Rochor River, it was the historic seat of Malay royalty in Singapore. Today, you can still see where the Istana Kampong Glam (the Sultan's Palace) stands or step into Sultan Mosque, the biggest mosque in Singapore with the capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 Muslims in congregational prayers. Look out for the Arab cloth merchants with their delicate silks and velvets, food stores selling traditional Arab-Muslim food stuff and merchandise of all kinds.

Sultan Mosque
With its massive golden dome and huge prayer hall, the Sultan Mosque is one of Singapore's most imposing religious buildings, and the focal point of Muslims in Singapore. The mosque, designed by Denis Santry, was built in 1928.