Singapore, a cosmopolitan star amongst 63 islands
One of Singapore’s most interesting aspects is the cosmopolitan nature of its population, a natural result of the country’s geographic location and the flourishing commercial relations woven over time. Founded by Thomas Stanford Raffles as a commercial base in 1819, the small seaside town of Singapore attracted migrants and merchants from China, the Indian sub-continent, Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula and the Middle East. Founded as a humble fishing village, inhabited by an indigenous settlement up until the end of the nineteenth century, it has become one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Asia, with Chinese (74.2%), Malay (13.4%), Indian (9.2%) and Eurasian ethnic groups. As a reflection of this cultural collage it has adopted four languages: English, Chinese, Malay (the national language) and Tamil. Located in south-east Asia and covering an area of about 710 square kilometres, it is one of the smallest countries in the world, the smallest in the region, and inhabited by around 5 million people -hence it’s nickname “The Little Red Dot”. Today Singapore is a vibrant city with skyscrapers and picturesque gardens, which are part of a thriving ecosystem. Here you can explore the rainforest or simply stroll amongst the island’s flower gardens and parks, like the Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Gardens, which has over 3000 species of orchids. The nature reserves are home to thousands of creatures, including many species of birds and insects, whilst taking part in a Night Safari or visiting the Jurong Bird Park you can experience close encounters with some of the rarest species in the world. Abounding with culture, art and architecture, Singapore is a dynamic city full of contrasts and colours with numerous shopping malls, museums and places of interest: shopping on Orchard Road or parties in Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are a prime example. There are many annual events like the Chingay Parade, the Mosaic Music Festival and the night time Formula 1 Grand Prix. The Marina Bay quarter, south of Riverside, features malls, congress centres, a 6 star hotel, casinos, restaurants, bars, the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay, the Art-science Museum, Sands Sky Park and Singapore Flyer. For trendy shopping, Orchard Road has many renowned shopping malls: Ion, Paragon, Ngee Ann City, Mandarin Gallery and Knightsbridge. The cultural districts of Kampong Glam, Little India and Chinatown offer ethnic products, jewellery, textiles and antiques. These accompany the favourable culinary locations, a union of Chinese, Malay and Indonesian flavours. There’s also plenty of international cuisine: Thai, Korean, Mongolian, Japanese, Italian and the casual atmosphere of a French Bistro. In the surrounding areas, accessible via a two-hour ferry ride, are the beaches of Langkawi, Tloman, Miri, and Makassar. Direct ferries to the main Asian cities with stops in Malacca, Penang, Lombok, Bali, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok, are also available.