Singapore is more well-known for its other name, Singapura. The myth goes that a lion sighting by a Palembang prince known as Sang Nila Utama in the 14th century gave the young prince inspiration and hence, ‘Singapura’ – Singa is Malay for lion. Singapore may be a young country, but she’s built a reputation for being a prized location amongst neighbouring countries.
She was a busy trading settlement between the 14th to 16th centuries, her attractive location between China and Europe making her a viable port ruled and guarded fiercely by the ancient kingdoms of Melaka and Johor-Riau. She then became an object of affection attracting much rivalry amongst the Dutch, the Portuguese, with the British finally winning her hand in a historic treaty in 1819, all thanks to Sir Stamford Raffles.
Want to have an urban detox? Our islands are either a short boat ride away like Pulau Ubin, or a drive further into the hinterland, like Coney Island. Many Singaporeans head for Pulau Ubin, a charming, idyllic island just 45 minutes away by boat.
You can cycle, trek, or eat seafood there, witnessing the slow pace of island inhabitants who still live off their farm produce in houses with zinc roofs just like early Singapore. Or head to Coney Island and see the only cow, its origin unknown, roaming freely in the grassland there.
While hot weather is a given in Singapore, be prepared for rainfall in the afternoons. The hot air builds up as a prelude to cumulonimbus clouds, leading to rain. During the wetter monsoon seasons of November to early March, arm yourself with an umbrella as heavy winds from Indonesia bring in unpredictable torrents.
Also, be prepared for ‘air condition weather’ in the buildings here where temperatures go as low as 16 deg Celsius. It’s so cold that locals bust out their winter wear sometimes.
The good thing about a fast-paced life and long daylight hours all year-round is that the busy urbanite can work all day and then live it up at night. Too busy to get your shopping done? Check out 24 hours Mustafa Shopping Center, a well-known mall in Little India for all kinds of food, sundry, even clothing items and a good place to get your supper fix.
There are late night spa parlours, 24-hour supermarkets, food outlets(dim sum at 1 am in the morning, anyone?), arcades, and for the fitness enthusiast, all-night gyms. It’s a city built for the workaholics in the world.
It may seem like we have our noses in each other’s armpit given our dense population but head out to our nature reserves and parks. You’ll find tons of green space where you can swing an arm around without hitting anyone.
East Coast Park in the East, Southern Ridges in the North, Botanic Gardens in the Centre, Chinese Garden in the west…and I am not even done yet with the list of parks and gardens in this country. Why so much greenery? All thanks to our founding father, the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, who introduced the vision of a ‘garden city’ in 1967, shortly after Singapore’s independence.