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Singapore

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About Singapore

Singapore is made up of a low-lying Island and 58 smaller islands within its territorial water. 50% of the land are urban areas while parkland, reservoirs, plantations and open military areas occupy 40%. The whole island measures approximately 42km from east to west and 23km from north to south at its widest points. While there are built-up, high-density areas all around the island, the main city area is in the south, built along the shores of the Singapore River, a "recreational" river, offering waterfront housing, riverside dining, and water-sports facilities to the present and future generations of Singaporeans.

Jurong, situated to the west of the island is an industrial area with a number of tourist attractions. There are colonial home areas in the East Coast, a major beach park and the international airport. To the northeast, huge modern housing developments are developed, while at the central northern part has most of Singapore's undeveloped land and what is left of its forest. Singapore is connected to another mainland, Malaysia, by a 1-kilometer-long causeway. According to current plans, land reclamation and housing developments will mould and change Singapore's geography dramatically.

Climate

Singapore's temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees Celsius, even at night, and usually climbs up to 30 degrees Celsius during the day making it hot and humid all year-round. Eventually, humidity is high around the 75% mark. Singapore is wettest from the month of November to January and is driest from May to July. Due to Singapore's near proximity to the equator, it gets plenty of sun throughout the year.

People

Diversity is the key to Singapore's population. The chinese population consists of 78 percent, malays 14 percent, and indians 7 percent. The remainder consists of other nationalities. The chinese population migrated in waves from southeast China. The Hokkien from southern Fukian province accounts for nearly 45 percent of Singapore's Chinese community. The Teochew, from Guangdong province, also has a significant presence here, constituting 22 percent. The Cantonese and Hakka populations are the remainder. Among these groups are an increasing number of Baba, or Straits Chinese. The Baba speaks English or Malay as a first language but maintains a Chinese culture. Traditionally, they were the offspring of Chinese immigrants and Singaporean women, today the term Baba is applied to anyone with a Singaporean lineage of several generations.

Malay-Singaporeans are mostly descendants from the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, or other islands of the Malay Archipelago. Indians first arrived from Penang and Malacca, with others following later from the east via India and Sri Lanka. About two-thirds of the Indian population consists of Tamils from southeastern India. Others include Malayalis, Punjabis, and Gujaratis.

History

Singapore might have remained a quiet backwater if not for Sir Stamford Raffles' intervention in 1819. The British had first established a presence in the Straits of Malacca (now called Melaka) in the 18th century when the East India Company set out to secure and protect its line of trade from China to the colonies in India. Fearing another resurgence of Dutch expansionism - which had been the dominant European trading power in the region for nearly 200 years - Raffles argued for an increased British presence, which he was promptly given.

Migrants, attracted by a tariff-free port, poured in by the thousands and a flourishing colony with a military and naval base was established. Singapore's inexorable growth continued into the 20th century. By the 1950s, burgeoning nationalism had led to the formation of a number of political parties as Singapore moved slowly towards self-government. The People's Action Party, with the Cambridge-educated Lee Kuan Yew as leader, was elected in 1959. Lee became prime minister, a position he was to hold for the next 31 years. In 1963, Singapore formed a union with Malaya (now Malaysia) but by 1965, the nascent federation was in tatters. Singapore became independent soon after and was once again the economic success story of the region.

Culture

Social courtesies are often fairly formal. Each of the diverse racial groups in Singapore has retained its own cultural and religious identity while developing as an integral part of the Singapore community.

Language

The four official languages of Singapore includes Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil. Although Singapore is a country of immigrants, its people possess a distinct and proud identity. The government has worked assiduously since independence to foster a national identity. One step was to establish four national languages -Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, and English, the preferred medium for business and politics.

Administration

The parliament is unicameral, executive power nominally rests with the president, but effectively lies with the prime minister and the Cabinet. The presidency is a largely ceremonial post who is elected by parliament to serve a 4-year term.

Religion

Singapore's main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Buddhists represent about 54 percent of the population. Islam, the national faith of Malaysia and Indonesia, also has a significant presence, as do Hinduism and Christianity. Without an official religion, the government's stated philosophy is based on the social and moral codes of Confucianism.

Singapore River

The Singapore River was the lifeline of Singapore where the first immigrants eked out a merger living and saw Singapore transform from an obscure little fishing village to a great seaport. And into a modern metropolis famous for its skyscrapers, the Merlion and "gastro-mania". Highlights on the banks of the Singapore River include Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, landmarks and memorials such as Merlion Park and Parliament House, museums such as the Asian Civilizations Museum as well as temples and mosques such as the Tan Si Chong Su Temple and Omar Kampong Melaka Mosque.

Merlion Park

Located across form Fullerton Square, the Merlion (half lion, half fish) is the ubiquitous tourism symbol of Singapore. This wondrous stucture stands on a 23 metre high hillock overlooking Sentosa. At 12 storeys high, this is the tallest free form structure in Singapore offering a 360o view of Sentosa as well as a panoramic view of Singapore's southern shores.

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles

The statue of Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, stands in front of Victoria Theatre while its replica stands at North Boat Quay on the spot where Raffles is believed to have first stepped ashore in 1819. This area is known colloquially as Raffles' Landing Site.

Sir Stamford Raffles

Colonial adminstrator, born at sea, off Port Morant, Jamaica. He had limited formal schooling, became a clerk in the East India Company, and after studying by himself gained a position as assistant secretary in Penang. He quickly rose to become Lieutenant-Governor of Java (1811-16), where he completely reformed the administration. In 1816 ill health brought him home to England, where he was knighted. As Lieutenant-Governor of Bengkulu (1818-23), he established a settlement at Singapore, and was thus largely responsible for the development of the British empire in the Far East.

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