I arrived in Singapore two days earlier than I had intended and I was glad to have the extra time to explore.
The Republic of Singapore that we know today was created with independence from the British in 1965, who had first established a British port on the island in 1819. After struggling with unemployment and various social problems, the country is now rich, modern, and very clean (we all know about the famous banning of chewing gum!).
Singapore has strict drug laws and I was concerned to discover that my shop-bought headache tablets were illegal without a prescription, with the spectre of the death penalty hanging over me as I arrived at customs… Thankfully, I avoided that fate and immigration went quite smoothly.
It’s quite a fascinating country, both big and small at the same time, and very multicultural. Around 2 million of the 5.4 million who live in Singapore are foreign born, with a population of mainly ethnic Chinese along with Malays, Indian and Eurasian minorities. There are four official languages, English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, and religions include Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Hinduism (alongside atheism).
There you go, Singapore 101! Now for some pictures…
So after these first two days exploring the city and the greenery, I made my move into Marina Bay Sands Hotel for the final two days of my trip…
The practical bit:
AMOY Hotel: I stayed in a “cosy single” at the new AMOY Hotel (so new that many of the taxi drivers had no idea where it was). Very friendly staff and conveniently located in Far East Square, part of the site where early immigrants first settled and where 170-year-old shop houses have been restored, within walking distance of Chinatown, the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands…
Botanic Gardens: The Singapore Botanic Gardens are huge and entry is free, with just a $5 charge for the National Orchid Garden.
Raffles Hotel: Raffles is a 5-star hotel, the home of the Long Bar and the Singapore Sling and, in the words of the website, “the white marble colonnades and the unique air of romantic grandeur transport you back to a more elegant age”. Sounds good to me!