Flag of Singapore


The island city-state of the Republic of Singapore is the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the Indonesian Riau Islands and south of the Malaysian state of Johor, it lies 137 kilometres (85 miles) north of the Equator. According to the quality-of-life index by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore has the highest standard of living in Asia, and is ranked 11th in the world.

The name 'Singapore' was derived from Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city). Folklore attributes this name to a 14th-century Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who, on landing at the island after a storm, renamed it Singapura after sighting an animal he took to be a lion.

Singapore has traded in its rough-and-ready opium dens and pearl luggers for towers of concrete and glass, and its steamy rickshaw image for hi-tech wizardry, but you can still recapture the colonial era with a gin sling under the languorous ceiling fans at Raffles Hotel.

At first glance, Singapore appears shockingly modern and anonymous, but this is an undeniably Asian city with Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions from feng shui to ancestor worship creating part of the everyday landscape. It's these contrasts that bring the city to life.

One day you're in a hawker stall melting over a bowl of Indian curry, the next you're enjoying high tea in whispered environs complete with air-con, starched linen table cloths and gliding waiters. Super-safe and mega-clean Singapore may be, but its sultry rhythms wash inexorably beneath the regimented beat of big-city life.

In the crowded streets of Chinatown, fortune tellers, calligraphers and temple worshippers are still a part of everyday life. In Little India, you can buy the best sari material, freshly ground spices or a picture of your favourite Hindu god. In the small shops of Arab St, the cry of the imam can be heard from the nearby Sultan Mosque.

Map of Singapore