Though physically small, Singapore is an economic giant. It has been Southeast Asia's most modern city for over a century. The city blends Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian and English cultures and religions. Its unique ethnic tapestry affords visitors a wide array of sightseeing and culinary opportunities from which to choose. A full calendar of traditional festivals and holidays celebrated throughout the year adds to its cultural appeal. In addition, Singapore offers luxury hotels, delectable cuisine and great shopping! Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore's tropical climate welcomes both leisure and business travelers year round. The island republic's excellent infrastructure enables visitors to enjoy its many sites and attractions in a safe, clean and green environment. Award winning Changi Airport provides airlinks to major cities around the world. The train and subway systems are clean, fast and efficient. In addition, its state-of-the-art cruise terminal has established Singapore as one of the premier cruising centers of South East Asia and an exciting port of call on any Asian cruise itinerary. In the city, there is no need for a car. Public transportation is excellent and walking is a good way to explore the city . All major attractions are also accessible by tour bus. Since the city is only 60 miles (100k) from the equator, the tropical temperatures do not vary much. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed through the year. No matter when you choose to visit, warm weather will be abundantly available. The visitor is struck immediately by Singapore's abundance of parks, nature reserves, and lush, tropical greenery. Singapore's progress over the past three decades has been remarkable, yet the island has not been overwhelmed by development. Visitors will discover a wealth of historical treasures from the past, in the beauty of older buildings, values and traditions that have survived in the face of profound social and geographical change. Lacking any noteworthy natural resources, Singapore's early prosperity was based on a vigorous free trade policy, put in place in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles first established it as a British trading post. Later, mass industrialization bolstered the economy, and today the state boasts the world's second busiest port after Rotterdam, minimal unemployment, and a super efficient infrastructure. Almost the entire population lives in upscale new apartments, and the average per capita income is over US$12,000. Singapore is a clean, safe place to visit, its amenities are second to none and its public places are smoke-free and hygienic. Forming the core of downtown Singapore is the Colonial District. Each surrounding enclave has its own distinct flavor, from the aromatic spice stores of Little India, to the tumbledown backstreets of Chinatown, where it is still possible to find calligraphers and fortune tellers, or the Arab Quarter, whose cluttered stores sell fine cloths and silks. North of the city, are two nature preserves, Bukit Timah and the Central Catchment Area, along with the splendid Singapore Zoological Gardens. The east coast features good seafood restaurants set on long stretches of sandy beach. In addition there are over fifty islands and islets within Singaporean waters, all of which can be reached with varying degrees of ease. Day trips are popular to Sentosa, the island amusement arcade which is linked to the south coast by a short causeway and cable car. Music, theater, nightlife: all are abundant in this remarkable city. Singapore used to be considered a «stop over» on the way to larger Asian cities. This is no longer true! Visitors seek out Singapore for business and finance and also for a fascinating and satisfying vacation for the whole family. Strategically located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula sixty miles from the equator, Singapore has for centuries been a crossroads between East and West. Chinese traders en route to India had navigated its waters from at least the 5th century. In the 14th century it was part of the powerful Vijayan Empire and was known as Tenmasek or Sea Town. Legend has it that it was renamed Singa Pura or Lion City after a visiting Sumatran prince saw an animal he mistook for a lion, an animal considered a good omen. Modern Singapore came into being in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles claimed what was then a small fishing village as a regional base for the East India Company. The island's natural harbor and location made it an ideal site for a trading post serving British trade interests between China, the Malay world and India. Singapore flourished as its free trade policy attracted merchants and residents from all over the world. Raffles initiated a town plan which included leveling one hill to form a new commercial district (now Raffles Place) and constructing government buildings around another hill (now called Fort Canning Hill). The British plan also involved separating the population according to ethnic categories with Europeans, Indians, Chinese and Malays each living and working in their own distinct quarters of the city. Revenues soared in ensuing years from the production of opium and rubber. Millionaires were made overnight. Immigration rose steadily. The island became Britain's strategic defense base in the Far East but fell to the Japanese in 1942. After the world war ended in 1945, Singapore became a crown colony. It gained self governing status in 1959 and independence in 1965 when it became part of the new state of Malaysia which united Malaya with Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak. The alliance did not last. Singapore was used to being on its own, and within two years the island set up its own stable government and became known as the Republic of Singapore. Under Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's leadership, Singapore continued to strengthen its infrastructure and its industrial base. Housing and urban renovation kept pace with population growth. The areas of health and education are strong. Singapore's leaders have also brought order and progress through strict regulation of social behavior. Smoking in public was banned, as was gum chewing. High economic growth rates have supported political stability. Singapore is the world's second busiest seaport, has an airport served by over 50 major airlines. It has state of the art communication and mass transit systems. It is Asia's premier center for finance and business and the world's third largest oil refining center. Over 7 million visit the tiny island every year.