This tiny but economically mighty city-state in Southeast Asia boasts a pretty impressive success story. Part of the original group of territories that threw off the shackles of British colonialism to form the country of Malaysia in the early 1960s, Singapore went a step further two years later and, dancing to the beat of its own drummer, declared its own independence. The country has been open for business ever since. Thanks to its commitment to international commerce, gambling, shipping and oil refining, Singapore was recently declared by the World Bank to be the easiest place in the world to do business and the country's coffers are all the more full because of it. It's GDP of nearly $60,000 is one of the highest in the world, meaning most of its five million inhabitants live a very cushy life, indeed. This life doesn't come without a price, however; Singapore is famous the world over for its strict rules and even stricter punishment. Caning is a favourite, and is handed down as punishment for at least 30 crimes, not all of which have to be what most people would call "serious"; crimes as small as vandalism can earn even a few strokes on the backside. Visitors should be aware that, as with anywhere, they are not above the law; foreigners can and have been caned in Singapore and those who overstay their visas by more than three months are sure to fall into that category. That said, there are draws in the country that most law-abiding visitors would enjoy, including a culture structured on those of the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Arab communities it hosts, a well kept zoo, a famed bird park, the island of Sentosa which is a veritable open-air museum, and shopping to die for. With all of this and a good quality of life, all wrapped up in a tidy little package, visitors to Singapore are sure to leave with a camera full of memories and an appreciation for the finer things in life. ~ WBB Staff Writer
Singapore and Malaysia, side by side and once together, can be seen as very far apart. On a recent journey that took me to both, I spoke with a Sri Lankan/Malaysian lady on the train and with a taxi driver from Singapore, respectively, and through the story of each it was clear that there was no love lost between the two, though perhaps more so on the part of Malaysia. The tension and bitterness here stems in part from a 90-year contract that sees Malaysia selling unfiltered water to Singapore, only for the latter to filter it and sell it back - at three time the cost, of course. Arguments over water and airspace - as Malaysia often refuses to let Singapore use its space to train the military - often predominate the relationship between the two. While travellers may want to keep their ear to the ground to see if the latest newsflash from the region will impact their travel plans, there's little need to cancel any excursions, for even short ones can offer up plenty for everyone to enjoy, from the intrepid traveller to the plucky tourist.
Singapore is like China's Miami, with four official languages, an incredible Chinatown and an awesome, authentic 'Little India'. It has the similar climate, vegetation, skyscrapers and malls, as it's American 'cousin', and it, too, is a city that doesn't sleep. It can't sleep; it's too busy eating! This tiny but mighty city state has an unequivocal amount of restaurants to choose from, offering up mostly Chinese, Indian and Malay food. I was fortunate enough to partake in a number of dishes during my stay here, particularly its Chinese and Indian cuisine. The Chinese venues near my hotel served fried food at room temperature, and while I'd much rather be served the tasty, greasy dishes right from the pan, it was still worth a mention. In Little India, however, I had the best, fresh samosas ever...just fried! It took a while to get them but they were well worth the wait. I also had a delicious yoghurt lassi at another venue in the area, and while the lassis I had in India are still the best, these ran a very close second.