Majulah Singapura!

The first written records of Singapore date back to the 2nd century, where Greco-Roman astronomers identified an island called “Sabana”, then categorised it as a “nominon emporion”, which basically means a trading port. In the 3rd century, there is evidence found within Chinese literature which labels Singapore as “Pu Luo Zhong (蒲羅中)”, which roughly translates to “the Island at the end”.

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In the 11th century, Singapore was invaded and colonised by the Srivijaya Empire and renamed “Singapura”, which in Sanskrit means Lion City. Legend has it that a Prince of the Empire saw a lion on his first visit to Singapore, and thus the name was born. However, lions have never been recorded to have lived in Singapore – so it must have been a tiger!

In the 14th century, as Srivijaya Empire faded, the island was taken by first the Majapahit Empire from Indonesia, and then the Ayutthaya Kingdom from Thailand. Various empires used Singapore for their own ends for the centuries that followed, until in 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles arrived, and modern Singapore was born…

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Sir Stamford Raffles is often described as the “Father of Singapore”. He chose Singapore as a trading post at the foot of the Malay Peninsula as there was no Dutch occupation at the time. Soon, the control of the island was in the hands of the East India Trading Company, and Singapore rapidly became a bustling trading hub – and has remained a powerful country ever since!

The Battle of Singapore during WW2
The Battle of Singapore during WW2

The role of Singapore during World War 2 is very interesting. The Battle of Singapore, in February, 1942, was a key part of the war in this region, and the defeat of allied troops here was labelled by Winston Churchill as the “biggest capitulation in British military history”. The Fall of Singapore, which placed the power of the island into the hands of the Empire of Japan, occurred on 15 February, 1942. Singapore was thus renamed “Syonan-to (昭南島 Shōnan-tō)”, meaning “Light of the South”.

After the war, various local governments and legislative councils took on the job of reuniting the country, especially after the horrors of the Sook Ching Massacre, performed by the Japanese during their 3 year occupation, which was considered by many to be Singapore’s equivalent of the Holocaust.

After 144 years of British rule, and after an ill-advised 2 year merger with Malaysia, Singapore achieved its Independence in 1965 – and has never looked back since!

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Contemporary Singapore is a thriving business and social epicentre. Under current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the country is booming as one of the Asian economic tigers, and boasts some of the region’s best medical, educational, and tourism facilities. The cost of living in Singapore is very high compared to other countries in South East Asia, but you certainly get what you pay for! The one down side, though, is the persistent haze that drifts in from Sumatra, where the rainforest is being burned down. At times, this makes Singapore’s air quality extremely dangerous.

The 10 religions of Singapore
The 10 religions of Singapore

Religion in Singapore is varied and diverse, with religious tolerance being key to a civil society. Christianity to Islam to Buddhism to Taoism – there’s officially 10 major religions in the country, with cathedrals, synagogues, and temples to explore if you want to pray, or learn about one of Singapore’s many religions. For more information, please check out my analysis of Singapore’s religious status.

Singaporeans are very patriotic
Singaporeans are very patriotic

The 2 most important celebrations for any Singaporean and resident of Singapore will be National Day, which is celebrated every year on August 9, and the Chinese New Year festivities, which will be overseen throughout a 3 week period each Springtime. On National Day, there will be parades, floats, and fireworks displays as the locals celebrate their independence from Malaysia, which occurred August 9, 1965. In fact, in 2015, Singapore became 50 years old, so the patriotism across the island has been off the roof ever since!

Some of the entertainment events on offer throughout the year in Singapore are some of the most spectacular in the world. For example, the world famous Singapore Grand Prix Night Race is held here every September, with cars racing past icons such as the Fullerto Hotel and the Esplanade theatres at lightning speed, as well as the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display down at Marina Bay, which draws huge crowds every year.

Part of Singapore Changi Airport's Arrivals at T3
Part of Singapore Changi Airport’s Arrivals at T3
Taxis are all over the place!
Taxis are all over the place!

Part of Singapore’s modern success is down to a fantastic local transport network. It may only be a small island, but nevertheless the MRT system here (mass rapid transport) is known to be one of the finest, cleanest, safest, and most efficient in the world. Taxis, too, are also easy to come by and regulated with meters (unlike other countries nearby). However, perhaps what Singapore is best known for in terms of transportation, is the famous Singapore Airlines brand, which is owned by the Government, and its iconic Singapore Girls onboard! It really is a great way to fly, as Singapore Airlines is known as one of the best airlines in the world. Plus, its hub airport at Singapore Changi Airport is routinely recognised as the best airport around!

Read about my experience with Singapore Airlines and check out my thoughts on Changi Airport.

A typical hawker in Singapore
A typical hawker in Singapore
Chili Crab is the national dish of Singapore
Chili Crab is the national dish of Singapore

One of the national pastimes in Singapore is eating! The locals here love their food! The national dish is the world famous Chilli Crab, but other delicacies like black pepper crab, bbq stingray, fish head curry, laksa, and Hainanese chicken rice are also very popular – you cannot move 100 metres without seeing somebody selling or eating one of these dishes!

Singapore has a culinary heritage that many other countries in the world cannot match, as the food here has been influenced by India, China, Japan, Taiwan, as well as its neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia. Western food is also very popular in Singapore! And you can wash it all down with Singapore’s national beer – Tiger Beer!

Singapore's leisure island!
Singapore’s leisure island!
The famous ION façade on Orchard Road
The famous ION façade on Orchard Road
Two icons of Marina Bay: MBS, and the Merlion.
Two icons of Marina Bay: MBS, and the Merlion.

Tourism is a major industry in Singapore. From designer shopping to extreme sports, and from sunbathing to wildlife walks, Singapore has it all! The famous Orchard Road, for example, has the highest real estate value anywhere in the world, and here you can find boutiques and department stores, as well as flagship stores for hundreds of designer brands, that will keep you occupied for days! Arguably the most famous historic icon of Singapore is the Merlion. There are other Merlion statues in Singapore, but the main one is certainly here at Marina Bay, where the modern icon of the country – Marina Bay Sands hotel – can also be seen in all its glory!

Please take a look at what I consider to be the top 10 attractions in Singapore!

Monkeys are all over Singapore

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For those of you looking for something a little more natural and primitive, then you will be glad to know there is a lot of local nature and wildlife to observe here in Singapore. Apart from the monkeys, there are monitor lizard, snakes, abundant birdlife, porcupines, otters, wild boar, crocodiles, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to see the odd elephant making its way across the Johor Strait from Malaysia! Read about my adventures spotting some of Singapore’s wildlife!

As Singapore is now over 50 years old, I hope I have given you a few reasons to plan a trip to the Little Red Dot in the near future! If you have already been lucky enough to visit, tell me what was your highlight, and were there any things you didn’t like?

Thanks for reading – and Onwards Singapore!

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33 thoughts on “Majulah Singapura!

  1. I can’t believe you know more about my country’s history than me T_T It’s time I start digging out my history books to read and reflect.. Glad that you love this country to bits 😀

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  2. I love Singapore! Great food, interesting places to visit plus it’s clean and safe. The Zoo and Night Safari are amazing. The WW2 history is fascinating. I recommend visiting the Command Centre at Fort Canning Park and Changi Museum if you are interested in WW2. And Changi airport is wonderful.

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  3. I love Singapore too (doesn’t mean that I don’t love my country, I do love my country very much for its beauty :))… But really, I love how the country builds itself. With small resources can be developed into a great country. This history is also new to me. Several times visiting Singapore but i’ve just known it.

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  4. Great informative and historical article, Lee! Only visited once but really liked it, although on my visit i didnt encounter the real Asian feel that is found in surrounding countries, feels very Western, but nonetheless beautiful!
    Greetings from Malaysia,
    Ron

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    1. I know what you mean about SG lacking Asian feel. It does feel somewhat western, and this may have a lot to do with its colonial history, but also to do with the number of expats that work in the CBD these days 😉 But certain parts of Singapore like Chinatown and Kampong Glam feel really different to what you described and much more “Asian”!

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  5. Congratulations Lee! 400 posts in just about a year is mighty impressive! I have only stacked up 368 in nearly three years 🙂
    I have yet to visit Singapore. Your lovely post along with those of James and Bama is making me want to check fares to the city right away. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Madhu! I am glad to be mentioned in such elated company of Bama and James (although I dont deserve it). 😀 But until I visit South America I am slowing down my blogging now. Honest 😛 Anyway, I really hope you can get to Singapore soon, I am sure you will love what the country has to offer! 🙂

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  6. That is an amazing post! Im already in love with Singapore before going there! Very informative text, I had not idea the country had such an interesting story… funny how the name appeared… a lion huh? I guess someone was seeing things 😀
    Thank you for sharing all this amazing details about Singapore, it surely will help me (Im finally going there next year) 😀 I will take a look at your other posts about Singapore 😉

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      1. hahaha yes!!
        Oh yes, I already have a few posts about SG from you saved on my travel list 😀
        Im going at the end of April, so sadly I wont be there for the 50th birthday celebrations 😦 How awesome that you will be there, I wish!!!

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  7. Thanks for this intriguing post about my little nation!
    About Singapore’s history and identity, there are two more dimension that would need to be mentioned to be complete:
    i. Our identity as a multicultural state
    ii. Our history with Malaysia

    There are over 20 main ethnic groups in Singapore. It is often broken down into 4 main races and 4 official languages but that is a simplification. Despite the Chinese being the majority- an even within the Chinese you have many identities (Hokkien, Teochew etc), we pride ourselves on being a mutli-ethnic societies where the different groups are all integrated, without enclaves and in harmony.

    An important dimension of our history is when we attempted joining the Malaysian Federation. It failed and that’s when we saw that we had to fend for ourselves and it changed the course of our development dramatically.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lee, a great summary and informed appreciation of Singapore. one thing though you forgot to mention this year is Singapore’s 50th anniversary, SG50. Many great events are planned and scheduled.

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      1. Lee in today’s Strait Times [Sat March 14] it is announced Aug 7 – 10 has been declared Jubilee weekend. Also with immediate effect, as part of SG50, Sentosa is waiving the S$1 entry fee for walk ins over the bridge and all entry fees after 5pm. Can’t be bad

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        1. That’s great news Chris! I would love to be there over Jubilee Weekend. Promises to be a great experience. And the free admission to Sentosa is pretty neat too. I think more visitors will go there now, instead of ECP or Labrador/Panjang.

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