Capital: Singapore Government: Republic Population: 5,610,000 (2015) Currency: Singapore Dollar Continent: Asia Official language: English Area: 719.1 km2
Singapore, an island city-state, connected to southern Malaysia via a land causeway, is a global financial centre with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Its colonial core centers on the Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall, with its 18 Corinthian columns. In Singapore's circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, said to house one of Buddha's teeth.
Long dismissed as little more than a sterile stopover, Singapore has reinvented itself as one of the world's hot-list destinations.
The world's aspiring 'City in a Garden' is an unexpected wonderland for fans of all things green and natural. Catch a city bus and end up in ancient rainforests rustling with monkeys and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, muddy wetlands teeming with lobsters and giant lizards, or sleepy farms heaving with bananas, papayas and jackfruit. Alternatively, hop on a bumboat and then cycle your way around a rustic island paradise. Or just stay central and escape to Singapore's soothing Botanic Gardens. Welcome to the wild side, in an oh-so-Singaporean, user-friendly package.
Dirt-cheap prices may be a thing of the past but Singapore remains a retail joyride. Its malls are the stuff of legend – ambitious consumer temples packed with catwalk couture, on-trend street brands and just-released electronics. Beyond the malls is a scene that's deliciously eclectic and increasingly idiosyncratic: hunt down Chinese medicines, dusty antiques or local art in heritage Chinatown shophouses; bag bespoke fragrances to the Islamic call to prayer in Kampong Glam; or pick up local frocks, bling and books in the deco buildings of Tiong Bahru.
Asia's perennial geek has finally found its groove. More than just satay and malls, new-school Singapore is all about sci-fi architecture in billion-dollar gardens, contemporary art in converted colonial barracks, and single-origin coffee in heritage shophouses. There's a deepening self-confidence and it's driving everything, from Singapore's striking new hotels to its modern menus and expertly curated cocktails. Beyond these bold new thrills is a nation with history and depth, recounted in museums as enlightened as they are engaging. Singapore, boring? No.
From chilli-spiked crab, to fragrant laksa, rendang and biryani, Singapore is a mouthwatering feast of flavours. Singaporeans are obsessed with food – good food – and you'll find it steaming, sizzling and simmering almost everywhere you look. Indeed, food is the greatest unifier across ethnic divides and the country's celebrated hawker centres are a heady mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian spices. Centuries of cultural exchange shine through in the region's unique Nonya cuisine, while modern Singapore's global status is reflected in a booming restaurant scene that covers all bases with ever-increasing competence.