Just near the Equator is a small tropical island so unusual that it is known by many names. The geographers call it Singapore. Visitors call it Surprising Singapore, "Garden City" and even "Instant Asia." All these descriptions are true. Singapore with a truly international atmosphere with the warmth and friendliness of Asia. It is small - just under 640 square kilometres. Yet within this space are all the attractions a visitor could wish to find.
Singapore has gone from strength to strength since Sir Stamford Raffles claimed the island as a British trading post in 1819.
Following independence in 1965, Singapore has become Southeast Asia's most modern and successful city, a vibrant metropolis where 3 million Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians live and work side-by-side.
MODERN TROPICAL CITY
Singapore is a thriving business and financial centre for Southeast Asia. It has the world's busiest port, and its award winning airport serves more than 60 major airlines, including the country's own international carrier, Singapore Airlines.
This is a bustling city-state with excellent communications and transport, including a hi-tech Mass Rapid Transit system and plenty of inexpensive taxis.
Singapore has an astonishing mix of old ethnic areas, modern offices and shopping complexes. It has over 70 world class hotels, 18 lush golf courses, and a host of tourist attractions.
When the sun goes down, Singaporeans come out to play. From classical symphonies to Chinese operas, jazz to ballet, rock to Hollywood's latest hits, Singapore offers unlimited entertainment. The discos rock with the latest hits, the clubs play all your favourite tunes, you can boogie to live music on Bugis Street, or you can be a star for the night at one of Singapore's popular karaoke lounges. Alternatively, go on a pub crawl in Tanjong Pagar, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay or along Orchard Road.
Singapore offers sports for all sorts. Hire a sailboard at the East Coast Parkway, or bike along the 8 km track. Swim at a sandy beach, feast on seafood at a clutch of nearby restaurants, or try your hand at kite flying.
Catch a ferry to the outlying islands of St John's and Kusu, where swimming lagoons and cool, shady groves combine to make for a relaxing day out of the city. Drop into the Bukit Timah Turf Club for a day of horse racing at one of Asia's most beautiful courses, or watch a polo match at the Singapore Polo Club. You can play a round of golf, or brush up on your tennis at the hotel courts or nearby public facilities.
A WORLD OF ATTRACTIONS
Quite apart from its shopping and ethnic areas, Singapore offers a range of attractions to fascinate all ages. Its beautiful open-concept zoo has captured international attention. Here, in a park-like setting, natural barriers replace bars, giving the best possible environment for animals and visitors alike. Have breakfast with a gentle orang utan, and see endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, the pigmy hippopotamus and the golden tamarin.
The Jurong BirdPark has 20 hectares of beautifully landscaped parklands housing thousands of colourful birds, many of them free to come and go as they please. The whole family can enjoy the comical parrot circus and be enthralled by the birds of prey in the King of the Skies show.
Sentosa Island, now linked to the main land by a causeway bridge, is devoted to fun and entertainment for the whole family.
Apart from superb beaches, Sentosa offers two golf courses, swimming lagoons, and an Asian village featuring ethnic foods, arts and crafts from all over the region, plus thrilling rides. There are also museums highlighting maritime history and Singapore's early days, including the years of World War II. In addition, Sentosa offers two resort hotels, wonderful underwater sights in its walkthrough oceanarium at Underwater World, a museum featuring rare stones, a dancing fountain, watersports, nature trails and an historical fort.
Chinese mythology is celebrated at the famous Haw Par Villa where hundreds of statues depicting ancient legends are brought to life using electronic wizardry that is unmatched in Asia. Cheer for the"good guys" at the Legends and Heroes Theatre, and see the creation of the world in an action-packed audio-visual presentation.
Then go back in time to China's 7th century Tang Dynasty with a visit to Tang Dynasty City, an intriguing cultural and historical theme park. This is a faithful recreation of the ancient Chinese city of Chang-An - complete with Emperors, courtiers, bandits, concubines and 1,200 life-sized terracotta warriors.
At the Empress Place Museum, displays of rare archaeological and cultural treasures from the People's Republic of China are found in a magnificent 19th century colonial building, while outside, bumboats ferry visitors along the Singapore River which threads through the financial district.
For more than 150 years, the River was Singapore's trading heart. Now the prewar trading houses and godowns at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay have been elegantly restored as shops, restaurants, markets and bars, and the area has been transformed into the city's newest and most exciting leisure and entertainment centre. Don't miss the Disney Adventure Ride at Clarke Quay.
For many visitors, Singapore is synonymous with Raffles Hotel, formerly the haunt of royalty, film stars and famous authors, and now beautifully restored to her former glory. Sip a Singapore Sling in the famous Long Bar, enjoy a curry in the Tiffin Room, and visit the museum and Jubilee Hall to delve into the fascinating history of the "Grand Old Lady of the East."
For those who prefer to get away from the madding crowd and commune with nature, the beautiful tropical Botanic Gardens sprawl over 52 hectares close to the city centre. Tree-studded reserves abound in Singapore, including the lush 81hectare Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with its primary rainforest. Add beachside parks and unspoilt reservoir belts, and it's easy to see why Singapore is known for its clean, green, tropical environment.