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Singapore delights in its contrasts. This island country harmoniously pulls together so many influences and experiences, from old-world charms to dazzling skyscrapers, beaches and green parks to bustling markets and malls. It’s well-established as one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations.
Downtown Singapore is along the southern coast of this small island, on two sides of the Singapore River. It includes the colonial neighbourhood of Riverside, filled with old-world relics and a sense of history, plus the rising malls of Orchard Road, the country’s major shopping destination. The skyscrapers of financial district Shenton are unmissable, as are the shimmering resorts and buildings of Marina Bay. Singapore seamlessly blends cultures and this is reflected in the neighbourhoods close to Downtown Singapore. They include a large Chinatown with a rich heritage, the historic Malay districts of Bugis and Kampong Glam, plus the colourful lanes of Little India. Burmese settlements and temples are found in Balestier. Contrasting the skyscrapers and street markets are landscapes that most people don’t expect to find in Singapore. Most of the island is lush and green, dominated by woodlands and parks that spill onto empty beaches. A bridge and cableway cross the water to Sentosa Island, home to Botanical Gardens and Universal Studios Singapore, along with a large number of beaches and resorts.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of Asia’s major aerial hubs and it’s a short journey by taxi or MRT train into the central city. Anyone with a Singapore layover of five hours or more has time to depart the airport and get a glimpse of the city. Two land crossings link Singapore with Malaysia and are used by both buses and trains. An excellent MRT and bus network stretches out across Singapore Island and is a very affordable way to get around. Much of the central city rises high rather than wide and it’s relatively easy to travel by foot to different districts.
Singapore’s rich history is reflected in its language. Malay is the official language but most locals speak English, along with Mandarin, Tamil, Hokkien, or Punjabi. This mix has created a distinctive dialect that incorporates words and symbols from half-a-dozen languages.
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