Singapore is a city of gardens and the heart of South East Asia. Its history began in 1819 with Stamford Raffles, a young official who worked for the British East India Company. Raffles estimated that the natural harbour was perfect for trading ships and so he bought the land from the Sultan of Johor and founded a trading settlement.
As a free port, Singapore attracted trading ships from all over the world and today four million people live here on an area that covers 640 square kilometres.
In June each year there is an exciting boat race in Marina Bay known as the Dragon Boat Race that features magnificently painted dragon boats with hand-carved heads and tails accompanied by the sound of frenetic drumbeats.
Dating back to colonial times, British influence is omnipresent, whether the
Cricket Club or the Parliament, traditional English spirit rules despite Singaporeís Independence.
The World Famous Raffles Hotel is situated in the Colonial District near to the Singapore River. In the hotelís Ashanti Bar it was customary to throw expired peanut shells directly onto the floor and at the same time to reverently sip a Singapore Sling, the national drink.
The Singapore Zoo is one of the finest in the world in which the animals can roam freely, their territory being surrounded by a landscaped ditch. Approximately 2800 animals live in the spacious enclosures and even those from the worldís coldest regions can be observed both below and above water, thanks to cleverly designed viewing areas.
A complete mix of ethnic cultures, thereís Chinatown, Little India and the Arab Street Quarter in which there are mosques, women wear burqas and there is all the hustle and bustle of a bazaar.