Capital | Singapore
Population | 4,740,737 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 693 SQ KM
Official Language | Chinese, Malay, Tamil, English
Holidays | National Day, 9 August (1965)
Currency | Dollar (SGD)
Time Zone | UTC +8
Best Time to Visit | February to October, during the dry season
Connecting with the Culture | Discovering the region’s arts and culture at the Asian Civilization Museum. Exploring Little India—on Sunday evening it’s like the set of a Bollywood musical. Tucking into a bowl of noodles or melting over a bowl of curry at a hawker-style food centre. Watching the fabulously glitzy drag diva cabaret shows at the Boom Boom Room. Taking in the sky-high views on the cable-car ride to the granddaddy of amusement parks, Sentosa Island. Eyeballing beasties at Singapore’s excellent zoo, or after dark on the Night Safari.
Read | Foreign Bodies and Mammon Inc by Hwee Hwee Tan- two modern morality tales about Singaporean youth. Suchen Christine Lim’s Fistful of Colours captures the tension between modern and traditional Singapore.
Listen | to Chinese opera, or local bands the Boredphucks and Force Vomit.
Watch | Eric Phoo’s Mee Pok Man, internationally acclaimed as a truly Singaporean film, and Tay Teck Lock’s Money No Enough, which was a huge local box office hit.
Eat | Hainanese chicken-rice (Singapore’s signature dish) or kaya toast (toast with egg and coconut topping).
Drink | Tiger beer or a healing herbal tea in Chinatown.
In a Word | Kiasu (‘Afraid to lose’- Singaporeans are very competitive)
Characteristics | Orchard Road Shop; Changi airport; hawker-stall food; litter-free streets; Singpore Slings at Raffles Hotel; efficient public transport; Lee Kuan Yew; rogue traders; Changi Prison; Hello Kitty.
Surprises | It’s not all concrete—gardens and greenery are everywhere; despite their modern manners, many Singaporeans are deeply religious and superstitious.