A Small, Multicultural City-State An Orderly Country of Rules and Beauty That Works – News-Herald

Perched atop three 57-story towers and much like a surfboard, Marina Bay Sands Resort features a casino, restaurants, a museum, and an infinity-edge pool above Singapore. (Janet Podolak – for The News Herald)

Measuring only 17 miles wide and 30 miles long, the independent island-state at the tip of the Malay Peninsula is smaller than Rhode Island but densely populated, home to more than 5 million Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians.

Southeast Asia’s smallest country, it’s a clean, urban, English-speaking, largely law-abiding nation of rules and stunning beauty.

Before my arrival in February as a cruise ship passenger I knew it was safe and orderly and also that chewing gum was prohibited and littering and roadside walks were punishable by heavy fines. Caning and death await those who bring drugs, even marijuana.

Officials attribute its rules and enforcement to the country’s indisputable safety and success.

Just 85 miles north of the equator, sultry Singapore is hot and steamy year-round, but there are plenty of air-conditioned spaces.

We knew that cheap, efficient public transportation was less than a half mile from where Nautica docked in Oceania, but my daughter and I wanted context for our one-day visit. We chose the Iconic tour out of dozens offered by the cruise line because it included a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel.

The historic Raffles Hotel’s colonial exterior is an icon of Singapore that pays homage to Sir Stamford Raffles, who in 1819 recognized the small fishing village for its strategic location as an East India Company trading post. (Courtesy of the Raffles Hotel)

Contrasts are a constant in Singapore, largely due to its diverse population with temples, mosques, shrines, and churches set against a backdrop of stunning, ultra-contemporary skyscrapers. Multiculturalism is supported by government policies, including those that require its citizens to speak English along with another Chinese, Malay or Indian language.

Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by the English Sir Stamford Raffles, who recognized the small fishing village for its strategic location as a trading post for the East India Company. The island’s ports and many miles of coastline provided good sea access between China and India, making it one of the leading ports in the world today.

Singapore’s ruins feature the ornate Thien Hock Keng Buddhist Temple, which was built entirely without nails. This temple started along the waterfront on the edge of Chinatown but today is far from land due to a land reclamation project that has extended to the coast of Singapore and created more land for development. Since becoming an independent nation five decades ago, Singapore has grown by 20 percent – from 224 to 277 square miles due to land reclamation.

Today’s multicultural society in Singapore means finding a Chinese Buddhist temple in the shadow of a modern building next to a shrine dedicated to Muslims from India. (Janet Podolak – for The News Herald)

As can be seen from the Beach Road address, the historic Raffles Hotel was also originally along the waterfront but is now inland. Built in 1887 in honor of Sir Stamford Raffles, it has been fully restored after a two-year closure that ended in 2019. Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth II and Rudyard Kipling have all slept in this lovely colonial hotel, which features in the novels of W.B. Somerset Maugham et al.

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