Modern Singapore was founded when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a British statesman, landed in the area in 1819 and negotiated a treaty with a previously banished sultan to establish Singapore as a trading station for the British.  Singapore became a major port for East-West trade, growing from a small fishing port to a major world commercial center.

Historical Population of Singapore:

  • 1819: 150
  • 1860: 80,000
  • 1942: 800,000
  • 1970: 2 million
  • Today: 5 million


There were two major defining historical events for Singapore in the 20th century. The first was the Fall of Singapore. Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, Japan invaded Singapore from the north (through what is now Malaysia) rather than from the sea as the British expected. Singapore was occupied by the Japanese from February of 1942 until the end of WWII.

The second was the independence of Singapore, which actually happened over a couple of steps. First was self-government and election of Lee Kuan Yew as the first prime minister in 1959. Then a short-lived merger between Malaya and Singapore (hence, Malaysia). Then, when this merger proved unsuccessful, Singapore left Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign nation in 1965.

You’ll be happy to know we did not walk around naked, do drugs, or spit our gum out while in Singapore… all are against the law and can be quite severely punishable. Possession of heroin in the weight of a small coin is punishable by death… quite an effective deterrent it seems.

We found Singapore pretty expensive, with a couple of exceptions. Taxis are cheap and hawker food pretty normally priced for street cafes (though we didn’t find it all that interesting).  But drinks and nice restaurants were outrageously expensive.

For residents, both housing and vehicles are very expensive. For the right to have a vehicle, you must have a Certificate of Entitlement, which is good for ten years only. According to our guide and our taxi driver, this is obtained by bidding process and can easily cost $60,000-$90,000. Then, you still have to buy your car. Import and other taxes mean a vehicle can cost up to five times as much in Singapore as it would in the US.

The vast majority of the residential housing developments in Singapore are publicly governed and developed – about 85% of Singaporeans, or 17 in 20 of the resident population live in such houses.   The vast majority of these are flats in high rise buildings – 10 to 30 stories tall located in self-contained satellite towns with schools, supermarkets, clinics, hawker centers (food courts) and sports and recreational facilities.  These units were built primarily to provide affordable housing for the masses.

Public housing in Singapore is generally not considered as a sign of poverty or lower standards, as compared to public housing in other countries. Although usually cheaper than privately built homes in Singapore, they are also built in a variety of quality and finishes to cater to middle and upper middle income groups.   In fact, property prices for the smallest public housing can sometimes be higher than privately owned and developed standalone properties in other developed countries after currency conversion.   Even though the majority of residents live in public housing, very few are below the poverty line.

We crammed our two days full of sight-seeing: China Town, Little India, Orchard Row (miles of shopping), World War II battle sites and prison museum, hawker centers, touristy quay areas, a riverboat ride, a trip to the top of the Marina Bay Sands and of course, a revolution on the Singapore Flyer.

We stayed at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, a colonial-style hotel built in 1887.   It was a bit of a splurge, but we wanted to experience Singapore as it used to be as well as today's version.

We stayed at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, a colonial-style hotel built in 1887. It was fun to experience Singapore as it used to be as well as today’s version.



We felt the history as soon as we entered the lobby.

We felt the history as soon as we entered the lobby.



We could almost hear spirits of old in the Raffles courtyards and gardens.

We could almost hear spirits of old in the Raffles courtyards and gardens.



Raffles was refurbished 20 or so years ago.  They tried to stay true to form.

Raffles was refurbished 20 or so years ago. They tried to stay true to historical form.



...except for adding plugs to the desk.

…except for adding plugs to the desk.



Our guide Walter was extremely helpful in educating us about Singapore and its history.

Our guide,Walter, was extremely helpful in educating us about Singapore and its history.



Singapore's mascot - the Merlion - is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.

Singapore’s mascot – the Merlion – is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Singapore was once named Singapura, from the Sanskrit words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city).



A look at some of Singapore's high rise office buildings.

A look at some of Singapore’s high rise office buildings.



Some more......

…some more……



....and more.

….and more.



The Marina Bay Sands was, at the time of its completion in 2010, the world's most expensive building at just under $6 Billion.

The Marina Bay Sands was, at the time of its completion in 2010, the world’s most expensive building at just under $6 Billion.



It is a breathtaking building.

It is a breathtaking building.



Singapore's symphony center - its contemporary design fits Singapore.

Singapore’s symphony center – its contemporary design fits Singapore.



Singapore is full of beautiful green gardens  which are incorporated into much of the high rise residences.

Singapore is full of beautiful green gardens which are incorporated in between many of the high rise residences.



With minor excpetions, Singapore's public housing is  beautiful.

With minor exceptions, Singapore’s public housing is beautiful.



A most civilized Chinese market.....not surprising.

The most civilized (sterile?) Chinatown we have ever seen….not surprising.



Regarded by many people in southeast Asia as the "king of fruits", the durian is distinctive for its large size, strong odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk.

Regarded by many people in southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, strong odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk.



Strong odor, smelly taste, etc.  King sming, we'll leave it to the Singaporeans.

Strong odor, smelly taste, – any where else this wood be known as rotten mango flesh. We decided that we’ll leave durian to the Singaporeans.



A Chinese Checkers player in the throes of concentration.

A Chinese Checkers player in the throes of concentration.



"Do I smell someone eating Dorian?"

“Don’t rush me.”



Chili crab before.....

Chili crab before we started on it…..



....and after.

….and after we finished.



The Port of Singapore (the  collective facilities and terminals that conduct maritime trade handling functions in Singapore's harbors) is currently the world's second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage.  It tranships a fifth of the world's shipping containers, half of the world's annual supply of crude oil, and is the world's busiest transshipment port.  Thousands of ships drop anchor in the harbor, connecting the port to over 600 other ports in over 100 countries and spread over six continents - these are a few of them.

The Port of Singapore (the collective facilities and terminals that conduct maritime trade handling functions in Singapore’s harbors) is currently the world’s second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage. It transships a fifth of the world’s shipping containers, half of the world’s annual supply of crude oil, and is the world’s busiest transshipment port. Thousands of ships drop anchor in the harbor, connecting the port to over 600 other ports in over 100 countries and spread over six continents – these are a few of them.



A dusk shot of some of the ships in one of the harbors.

A dusk shot of some of the ships in one of the harbors.



We had never heard of a fish massage.

We had never heard of a fish massage.



 
The sun setting on the skyline was really special.

We took a ride in the Singapore Flyer. The Flyer was the world’s highest ferris wheel at 541 feet until the new High Roller opened in Vegas in March. The sun setting on the skyline was really special.



Singapore's skyline in the setting sun.

Singapore’s skyline in the setting sun from the Singapore Flyer.



Singapore's skyline at night.

Singapore’s skyline at night from the Singapore Flyer. The flower-petal building is the Artscience Museum.



150 meter-long infinity pool on the 58th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Singapore.

150 meter-long infinity pool on the 58th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Singapore.