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A new cultural centre has sprung from

In Singapore, drivers still follow the British practice of keeping to the left side of the road. British influence began in the early nineteenth century when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded the first branch office of the British East India Company here in 1819. Raffles is a difficult man to forget in Singapore, where statues, streets and the Raffles Hotel all bear his name.

Before Raffles arrived, the island had been a desolate place, occupied by only a few fishermen and the occasional Malaysian custom umbrella manufacturers pirates. Singapore was a British crown colony as well as a commercial port belonging to the East India Company from 1867 to 1963. During those years, the city developed into one of largest commercial ports in South East Asia.

Since independence in 1964 Singapore has grown into a modern metropolis. More than just business. Though Singapore enjoys a worldwide reputation as a hyper successful economic powerhouse, Lion City is not usually listed among anyones favourite tourist destinations. Many travelers only make a brief stop here en route to somewhere else. This is not really far to Singapore, a city that has a great deal to offer.

Its Chinatown Quarter, Arab Street and Little India have been tidied up and polished until they shine. Even the modern areas of city centre have numerous places worth visiting. The cultural life of the city is diverse, and one runs into it at every turn. Singapore has never been more colourful or inviting.

A new cultural centre has sprung from the banks of the river delta in Singapores Esplanade Park. Along with the Merlion, this facility is emblematic of Singapore, possibly in part because the complex is shaped like an enormous durian melon. This is a fruit with a famously awful smell, as many travelers to South East Asia have learned from personal experience, but stink fruit is very popular with the locals.

Drivers license by auction.

Owning a private car in Singapore is a rather costly proposition. Once all the expenses are tallied up, owning a car can cost more than twice as much in Singapore as it does in Europe. Among the additional costs is the purchase of a license at auction. This license is valid for ten years, and is linked to the specific vehicle with which it is registered. If the owner purchases a new car, the whole process has to be started all over again. This method has so far proven very successful in keeping Singapore from being overrun with traffic jams and smog, the fate of so many other big cities.

Singapore has a rich array of historical buildings. A walk through Singapore should begin in the city centre with Chinatown. The colourfully decorated stores, restaurants and cafes invite a short stopover. Wandering to the other side of Cross Street brings one to the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. A short detour to the river promenade, where the Merlion statue can be seen in action, is also recommended. Along the promenade, visitors can relax under an umbrella and get away from the bustle of the city. Later, the nightlife at nearby Boat Quay may prove more tempting.

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