Singapore is an island on the southern point of the Malay Peninsula, ensconced between Malaysia and Indonesia and surrounded by the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and various smaller islands. Like other countries in southeast Asia, Singapore is hot and humid throughout the year, with the temperature never falling below 20ºC and usually rising to 33º or more at noon. If you are visiting Singapore and plan on doing some sightseeing, November and December may not be your best bets, since these are peak rain months. July and August are the least rainy months. Humidity generally stands at above 70 per cent.
Singapore is known for its awe-inspiring architecture, evident in buildings such as the three-towered Marina Bay Sands, which cost no less than $8 billion to build and which boasts a 340 metre long SkyPark on its roof, set atop a vertiginous cantilevered platform. Equally stunning is the Singapore-ArtScience Museum, shaped like a lotus flower yet reminiscent in many ways of robotic designs. Singapore is also known for its fantastic cuisine, which bears a host of international influences, including the Malay and Chinese gastronomic traditions. The country is also a big fan of cutting edge technology – take their stunning ‘man-made trees’ which pierce the sky at between 25 and 50 metres, and which contain stunning vertical gardens, lit with solar-powered lights.
Before the 19th century, Singapore was used as a trading post with a small population. In 1811, Sir Stamford Raffles took up a post as Lieutenant Governor of Java. Eventually, he accepted the post of governor of Bencoolen, Sumatra. He was interested in developing a British base on the Straits of Melaka and in 1819, he first landed on the island of Singapore. Despite the lack of development, he saw potential in Singapore as a future port. When the Sultan of Johor (which controlled Singapore) passed away, his two sons vied for succession. Raffles backed the older brother, who was recognised as Sultan and who eventually handed Singapore to The British East India Company in return for money. By the 1820s Singapore grew to become an important port and in 1867, it was declared a Crown Colony and was directly governed by the British rather than The British East India Company. In 1942, Singapore surrendered to the Japanese; the latter surrendered the country to the British again in 1945. Singapore slowly progressed towards independence, which it achieved in 1965.
Before it became a developed nation, Singapore was covered by a tropical forest with mangroves and swamps. Today, the amount of forest has been greatly reduced, yet an array of flora can still be found in areas like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Centra Catchment Nature Reserve. Mangrove forests grow along the norther coastline in Kranji, Sungei Tampines and Sungei Loyang – they are inhabited by mangrove ferns, cedars and sea putat. Singapore is also home to over 3,000 orchid species, including its national flower: the fuchsia hued vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ flower. Forest streams, meanwhile, are home to pitcher plants, rattan palms and the Griffiths cryptocoryne, an aquatic plant. Singapore boasts around 80 mammal, 300 bird and 110 reptile species, and over 600 types of freshwater fish. Freshwater crabs and mud lobsters creep along the coast, while beautiful butterflies, geckos and pythons inhabit Bukit Timah. Other interesting animals include the fairy bluebird, long-tailed macaques, and Malayan anteater.
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