The Bugis were the original masters of the trade winds that brought them into Singapore carrying sacks of nutmeg and pepper in order to sell them on the city’s docks in the early 19th century. That combination of tribal island traders, Arab, Chinese, Indian and Malay merchants, operating under British overseers continues to give Singapore its attractive combination of cultures set against a landscape of tropical vegetation surging against the manicured lawns and cream colored British colonial buildings. Cool, stately examples of colonial architecture dot the city. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles founded the city as a trade friendly outpost located where the Singapore River meets the sea. The master designer of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, (the senior minister) kept a core faith with Raffles' notion of a service providing port and shaped the city into the metropolis it is today. The city’s current commitment to modernization adds futurism as yet another element into the city’s mélange. Though modern Singapore is characterized by gleaming towers, Blackberries and vast air-conditioned shopping mall honeycombs, it still retains that essential presence of the Malays, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Javanese and other spice islanders that traveled in on small trading dhows, prahus and junks.
Singapore’s colonial landmarks continue to thrive because they keep redefining their purpose. Take the 1890 Gothic Chapel and cloister, known as Chijmes; it now houses galleries, shops and restaurants. The Singapore River and its adjoining 19th warehouses were turned into bars, shops and restaurants in the mid-90s at Clarke and Boat Quays. Almost every night, a young crowd packs these bars and restaurants. Such neighborhoods as Little India, China Town, Geyland Seray (a Malay enclave) and the Arab Quarter also have such landmarks as the Sri Mariamman Temple in Little India and the various mosques that grace the Arab Quarter.
The Marina Bay Sands, a three-towered 55-story hotel will feature more than 2,500 luxury hotel rooms and suites. A 2.2 acre SkyPark will sit on top of the three towers, more than 650 feet off the ground. The SkyPark features three pools, several restaurants and bars, extensive gardens, and stunning views of the skyline. It will also feature two theaters, expansive shopping and entertainment options, restaurants from the world's top celebrity chefs, and an Arts and Exhibition museum. Other attractions on offer at Sentosa include a Universal Studios theme park, a casino and the world's largest oceanarium.
Singapore has a strong Chinese essence that goes by the name Peranakan. The origins of Peranakan cooking began when Chinese merchants came to trade and married local Malay women who fused the foods they grew up with to the Chinese cooking their husbands grew up with. Food is one of the best reasons for visiting Singapore; Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian and virtually all of the European cuisines are well represented. Though the city’s got more than its share of top restaurants, it’s in the hawker stalls lined up along Newton Circus, where the city’s cuisine really shines.
Changi Airport, one of the elite airports in the world, is a hub for a wide array of carriers near and far. Singapore Airlines has direct service from Los Angeles, Newark, New York (JFK), Houston and San Francisco. Just 87 miles north of the Equator, Singapore’s temperatures range between the 80s and the high 90s.
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Singapore Keeps Adding Rooms and Reasons to Go
Singapore’s 21st century development is consistent with the vision of Raffles in the 19th century and Lee Kuan Yew in the 20th
By James Ruggia
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