This city in just about fifty years has become very important and developed, with a lot of particular features and places that must be visited at least once.
Singapore was first founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 as a trading post for the British Empire. Then, during the Second World War, in 1942 the city was occupied by Japan following the “Battle of Singapore”, that was considered by Winston Churchill the worst disaster in British history. In 1945 Japan surrendered, so the city returned under the British control.
Following a referendum, in 1963 Singapore became part of the new Federation of Malaysia, but two years later the city was expelled from the federation and it finally became an independent country called “Republic of Singapore” and one of the Commonwealth states. It was from this moment that began its rapid development, which led Singapore to what it is today.
In that period Singapore was facing high levels of poverty and unemployment. 70% of Singapore’s families were living in badly overcrowded conditions, and a third of the population was living in slums at the edge of the city. Unemployment averaged 14%, the GDP per capita was just of US$516, and half of the population was illiterate. So, it was definitely a hard and difficult situation for the city.
From the year of independence to 1973, GDP increased on average by 12.7% yearly thanks to numerous reforms that tried to revive the country. More attention was paid to technology and education, efforts were made to minimize inflation and provide workers good machinery. The government also tried to push investments and make Singapore an attractive destination for foreign investments.
The standard of living was constantly rising and unemployment continued to decline till nowadays, when it is basically inexistent. Today, Singapore is a thriving trade, manufacturing, financial and commercial hub and it is also considered as the fourth richest country in the whole world after Qatar, Macao and Luxembourg.
The country is also an increasingly popular “tax haven” and it has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, in fact one out of six households in Singapore is a millionaire.
CHANGI AIRPORT AND SINGAPORE AIRLINES
During the years of the big economic growth it was also being built the Singapore Changi Airport and the Singapore Airlines Company was created. The airport was officially opened in 1981 and it is situated at about 20km from the city centre. At the 2020 Word Airports Awards it has been named, for the eighth consecutive year, as the World’s Best Airport.
This airport, in fact, has so many things that make Singapore proud. Firstly, the fact that it is one of the busiest airports in the world with over sixty million passengers every year. Secondly, for its size and the attractions that are inside. Yes, real attractions, such as a swimming pool, a 24h cinema, an entertainment area with arcade games and Xbox controls, a tropical rainforest vivarium, and even a lot of gardens such as the butterflies one, the cactus one, the crystal one, the sunflowers one and many others. All these things can be found just in the four terminals built in the past years, but there is also a special part of the airport called Jewel.
It is a nature themed building that includes gardens, attractions, restaurants, shops and it is connected to three of the four terminals. It covers an area of 135.700 m2 and it is developed on ten floors, five above ground and five basement levels. Inside we can find the Rain Vortex, which is forty meters high and is the world’s tallest and largest indoor waterfall, the Canopy Park, situated at the highest level of Jewel and where we can find a suspension bridge, two mazes called the Mirror Maze and the Hedge Maze, and, dedicated mainly to children, the Sky Nets, the Discovery Slides and the Foggy Bowls, and about 300 shops. Therefore, Jewel has a truly futuristic appearance and really gives visitors the appearance of being in the future.
Then, there is the Singapore Airlines, which is the most important airline of Singapore. As its base airport, also the airline has won several awards and has always been one of the best in the world.
Singapore is ranked as the second safest city in world and this excellent result was achievable thanks to the strong penalties taken against those who commit crimes.
Here you can find some examples of particular laws that we’re not used to:
- selling chewing gums is punished with a fine of 100.000$ or two years of prison
- spitting with a fine of up to 1.000$
- using another person’s Wi-Fi a fine of 10.000$ or three years of prison or even both
- forgetting to flush a public toilet with a fine of about 150$
- littering with a 1.000$ fine jaywalking with a fine of up to 1.000$ or three months in jail and if you are caught doing it twice your punishment will double smoking in public with a fine ranging from $200 to $ 1000, in fact you can just smoke inspecial and defined areas eating or drinking on public transport with a 500$ fine
- selling drugs or killing someone with death penalty
- rape, sexual assault with canning
These may seem too strict laws, but they do work. As written before, Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world with a very low crime rate and it is also Asia’s cleanest city and the world’s fifth cleanest city: you really can’t find any litter on the streets, every public bathroom is perfectly clean, and people feel very safe going out alone.
Singapore, at the beginning, was not just a poor city, but even a dirty and high polluted one. The government therefore understood that they needed to do something and on 12 May of 1967 Lee Kuan Yew announced: “A two-stage plan, which will transform Singapore into a beautiful garden city with flowers and trees, without waste and as neat and orderly as possible”. The first stage consisted in removing rubbish from the streets and the second one in educating people because in that time it was normal to throw rubbish out of windows or into public drainage systems or even out of vehicles.
This was important to improve public health reducing the number of mosquitos, flies and diseases, due to the tropical climate, and to attract more tourists and foreign investors. The government also took care of introducing vegetation into public spaces. So, there were made laws such as the “Parks and Trees Act” in 1975, that required the government and private agencies to reserve spaces for trees and vegetation in their projects and buildings, so that they were built numerous parks and natural spaces, and the number of new planted trees increased from approximately 158.600 in 1974 to 1.4 million in June 2014.
PLACES TO VISIT
The main things to visit in Singapore are:
Marina Bay: it is a bay located in the centre of the city and where we can find a lot of attractions. Firstly, the Marina Bay Sands, which is a 5-star hotel famous all over the world for its particular structure and its amazing infinity pool, which is also the world’s longest elevated swimming pool. It is made of three towers topped by a connecting 340 metres long “SkyPark” and, inside the hotel, one can find 2.561 rooms, lots of restaurants, a theatre, a casino and even a 3 floors mall. Unfortunately, the access to the outstanding swimming pool is reserved to hotel’s guests only, but it is still possible to go to the top of the building to see an amazing view of the city and, obviously, the mall shops are accessible to everybody.
Then there is the Singapore Flyer, which with its 165-metre high is the world’s second largest observations wheel after the Las Vegas one that is only 2.6 meters higher. From this attraction you have a very wonderful view over the central part of the city.
After that one can find the Merlion, the national symbol of the country. It is a statue representing a mythological creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish and its name in fact derives from the union of the words mermaid and lion. The fish body represents Singapore’s origins as a fishing village, while the lion’s head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, which literally means “city of the lion“.
Gardens by the Bay: near the Marina Bay Sands we can find Gardens by the Bay, a nature park divided in three different zones: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. The biggest and with most attractions one is the Bay South Garden. Here we can find two beautiful greenhouses: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The first one is the largest greenhouse in the world and it replicates a mild, dry climate. It contains plants from the Mediterranean and semi-tropical areas, and the temperature is constantly around 23 ° C / 25 ° C.
Otherwise the Cloud Forest is a little smaller and it replicates the humid climate of the tropical regions so obviously the humidity level is really high. In the centre of this greenhouse there is a “Cloud Mountain”, which is a 35-meter vertical garden with a spectacular artificial waterfall. It is all covered with plants and is made up of several floors, each one with its own theme. It is accessible by a lift that takes you to the top and then, through a path on foot, one can return down.
Finally, there is the Supertree Grove. It is made up of eighteen Super Trees, which are structures with the shape of trees made with steel and concrete with a height between 25 and 50 meters. Around their structure there are real plants, in fact they host more than 180.000 plants of 200 different species and they are not just an interesting attraction, but they also have two important functions: accumulating the heat of the sun and producing energy for lighting. They are also connected with a 128-meter walkway where you can also go and admire the beautiful view of the gardens. Every evening at 7.45 pm and 8.45 pm the trees are animated by a fantastic show of lights and music called Garden Rhapsody. It is absolutely breath-taking seeing all those giant trees “come alive” with all the lights changing intensity, colour and speed according to the music.
Orchard Road: with its 2.2 km long it is the major Singapore’s road and it is all devoted to shopping. The interesting thing is that you can find not just department stores or shops, but entire malls. So, walking down this street you find yourself surrounded by many shopping centres with hundreds of shops inside, something we are not used to at all because normally in our streets we just find simple and little shops.
Singapore Botanic Gardens: it is a giant tropical garden in the centre of the city and in January 2014 it has become an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first one in Singapore. The entrance is totally free and if you look for some quiet and peaceful place this is the perfect spot to spend your time.
Little India and China Town: to see more traditional neighbourhoods we suggest visiting Little India and China Town, which really give the impression of being immersed in an Indian or Chinese town with many colourful streets, temples, mosques and restaurants with typical food.
Sentosa: it is a very small island situated off the southern coast of Singapore’s main island. You can arrive there by car or bus using a bridge that connects the two islands, or even by cable car. Sentosa is also called “The State of Fun” because it is entirely dedicated to amusement parks, such us the Universal Studios, the SEA Aquarium, which is the third largest in the world, the Mega Adventure Park, the Madame Tussauds Museum, the Skyline Ludge, the Adventure Cove Waterpark, and lots of beaches. Despite its modest size of not even 5 km2, it is full of attractions and you will certainly always find something to do.
Obviously, there are also other places very interesting to visit in Singapore such as the Singapore Zoo, the Jurong Bird Park, the Art Science Museum and many others, but the ones above are definitely the most famous and beautiful ones.
As written before, Singapore has really overcome every limit by creating a fantastic city in less than half a century, so we let’s see what it has in store for us in the upcoming years.