Unique is the word that best captures Singapore, a dynamic city rich in contrast and colour where you will find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture. A bridge between the East and the West for centuries, Singapore, located in the heart of Southeast Asia, continues to embrace tradition and modernity today. Brimming with unbridled energy and bursting with exciting events, the city offers countless unique, memorable experiences waiting to be discovered. A single day’s trail will take you from the past to the future, from a colourful ethnic enclave to an efficient business centre, from serene gardens to sleek skyscrapers. Take a step back in time as you enter a traditional Chinese temple, Muslim mosque, Hindu temple or Christian church, all in one neighbourhood. Indulge in Singapore’s favourite pastime – shopping. From fascinating antiques to luxury labels. The latest gadgets to ethnic crafts, you will find them all.
Beyond Singapore’s gleaming skyscrapers and business hub status, you will find a country with a vibrant and flourishing arts scene. All year round a diverse repertoire of visual and performing arts events will provide a mind-boggling range of options. The opening of the landmark Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in October 2002 has expanded the number of offerings on the events calendar. Its distinctive architecture alone makes it worth a visit.
The earliest known mention of Singapore was a 3rd century Chinese account, which described Singapore as Pu-luo-chung (island at the end of a peninsula). Little is known about the island's history at this time but this matter-of-fact description belies Singapore's colourful past. By the 14th century, Singapore had become part of the mighty Sri Vijayan Empire and was known as Temasek (Sea Town).
During the 14th century, this small but strategically placed island had earned a new name - Singa Pura, or Lion City. According to legend, a visiting Sri Vijayan prince saw an animal he mistook for a lion and Singapore's modern day name was born. The British provided the next notable chapter in the Singapore story. During the 18th century, they saw the need for a strategic halfway house to refit, feed and protect the fleet of their growing empire, as well as to forestall any advances by the Dutch in the region. It was against this political backdrop that Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading station. The policy of free trade attracted merchants from all over Asia and from as far afield as the United States and the Middle East. By 1824, just five years after the founding of modern Singapore, the population had grown from a mere 150 to 10,000.
In 1832, Singapore became the centre of government for the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of telegraph and steamship increased Singapore's importance as a centre for the expanding trade between East and West.
Singapore had been the site of military action in the 14th century when it became embroiled in the struggle for the Malay Peninsula between Siam (now Thailand), and the Java-based Majapahit Empire.
Five centuries later, it was again the scene of significant fighting during World War II. Singapore was considered an impregnable fortress, but the Japanese overran the island in 1942. After the war, Singapore became a Crown Colony. The growth of nationalism led to self-government in 1959 and on 9 August 1965, Singapore became an independent republic.