Singapore

What it is like:
Singapore is one of the few sovereign city-states (along with Monaco, San Marino and Vatican city ), i.e. the whole island is one city run by one government. With an area of 707.1 km2 , and a population of 4.84 million (in a 2008 report) , Singapore is the second-most densely populated independent country in the world after Monaco. I can not describe how it was like during major celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it was almost suffocating! Yet, amidst this unbelievable density and humidity, you will not face the horrific experience of body odors in the metro.

Etymology:
Singapore means in Malay means “Lion-city”, that’s why you’ll find the lion figures everywhere and very popular in the souvenirs shopping. But I heard that lions never lived there.

History:
Before the early 19th century, Singapore was just a fishing village, that’s why you will not find much remains of this period. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles (from the British East India Company) thought it was an appropriate place to establish a port along the spice route, which was a good decision because it gained a lot of importance (commercially and military) for the British empire. You’ll easily find “Raffles” everywhere, on street names, metro station names, statues,,,, Seems like they appreciate him a lot.

For more history (source: wikipedia):
The city was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, which Winston Churchill called “Britain’s greatest defeat”. Singapore reverted to British rule immediately after the war, in 1945. Eighteen years later the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, less than two years later it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on 21 September that same year. It is also a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Airport

Changi Airport is the main airport in Singapore, it has 3 terminals. The first one was opened in 1981, the second in 1990 and the third was opened last year. The people are very proud of their airport, it is a common theme for souvenirs shopping (key chains, fridge magnet, coaster,,). My flight was from the second airport, and if that’s the old one, I really can’t wait to see the new one.

Needless to say it is very clean, very organized, very diverse. I liked also the services it provided, from luxurious spa, rooms, cinema, comics stand, even Play Station 3 and Xbox stands! And the general atmosphere is very relaxing, with running water, trees, warm colours and nice music, relatively unlike other airport experiences in Europe that I faced.

Food
All the travel guides will tell you how diverse food is in Singapore, mainly because of the diverse ethnicities living there. There are all sorts of Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese food, even Burger King, Starbucks, and other main burger and pizza and coffee outlets are available. If you decided to go for a bit adventurous experience, you can go for the Asian cuisine, and if you are like me, not knowing much about it, I advise you to look at the items in the featured pictures of the menus, because this is not like Peking restaurant that we know here in Cairo. And if you were tired from the trial and error, I suggest you head for the restaurant in Marriott hotel in Orchard road (it’s the main shopping area), it blends eastern and western cuisine in a beautiful maneuver. And while you are there, you can go for an ice cream right across from the hotel, this ice cream offers 16 flavors of chocolate, 12 flavors of sorbet among others! Check out the chili chocolate, it’s pretty interesting.

Weather
As a tropical climate, there is only one season in Singapore, hot and humid. So forget about the extra jacket, and bring extra T shirts and an umbrella. The temperature ranges from 22 °C to 34 °C, and the average humidity in the morning is 90% and in the afternoon 60% , and it is said that it sometimes reaches 100% !!

Shopping
In general, shopping in Singapore is not cheap, but you can find anything you want. Orchard road is the main shopping hub with all the international brands you can imagine. You can easily find the same brand outlet repeated every couple of streets. And if you are looking for cheaper souvenirs shopping, then head for China Town, it is interesting. There are also districts for Arabs and Indians, but I didn’t have the chance to visit them.
For books lovers, check out Borders at Wheelock Place and Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City, both on Orchard road.

Security
Security is a serious business in Singapore. I heard that spiting on the street and chewing gum are punished by law, but I didn’t notice that except in comic fridge magnets. What was evident though is the very strict drug law, in the entrance card, there is notice in large bold font saying “drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty”!
I also heard that overstaying your visa is punished by caning!

For more info:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Singapore

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