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...The moment I emerged from that clamorous trap, and saw as in fantasy the new towers of Singapore shining in the sunshine, then I knew I was seeing something new in the world: the city state, within its island ramparts, brazen and self-assured.
The City State, Jan Morris

National  Day  2000Singapore, or the Lion City, is truly at the crossroads of Asia. With its mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures, spiced with Western influences, this small country celebrates the uniqueness of each. Even today, the districts designated by the former British colonists for the ethnic groups are still in use, with Chinatown and Little India thriving as religious and cultural centers for their communities. And yet, no matter what his ethnic background is, each citizen calls himself a Singaporean, justifiably proud of how far his country has come in such a short time.

Singapore  skyline Each traveler's first and last encounter with Singpore is highly likely to leave a good impression: Changi International Airport. This airport characterizes all that this country has become: clean, efficient, world-class. Within ten minutes of touching down, one can literally be heading down the highway, with its unending rows of trees and housing blocks. After a few minutes, however, one realizes that everything looks, well, new.

In fact, most of it probably is. In recent years, Singapore has gone through a spate of demolition and reconstruction, as old buildings fall and make way for the steel and glass towers that dominate its skyline. And yet, the true character of this city is somehow lost in these massive shopping malls and high rises, world-record setting fountains, and numerous theme parks. Unfortunately, this is the side that most people see: a shopper's paradise, a pleasant business trip, a "safe" destination for first-time visitors to Asia.

In truth, Singapore is at its most remarkable in its little alleyways and colorful shophouses in Chinatown, its incense-filled Buddhist temples, and noisy street operasChinese  opera . Equally fascinating are the lavishly decorated Indian temples and the mosques and textile shops along Arab Street. Finally, the old colonial-style buildings in the heart of town impart a charm that the newer structures just don't have. Each historic district has its own story to impart to travelers, its own magic to weave as one walks along their back streets.

Another way to discover Singapore is to sample its many flavors. The Asian passion for food finds new expression here, with restaurants lining almost every street and commercial area. The influx of foreigners, both tourists and the growing expatriate community, has brought even more international flavors to these shores, with new European, Middle Eastern, and even fusion cuisines being represented. Indeed, it is because Asians value meal times not only as an occasion to enjoy food but also to spend time with friends or family members, that restaurants continue to thrive here.Colonial  era  shophouses

Singaporeans are justifiably proud of their efficient and modern city. But for all its modernity, the soul of Singapore lies in its wonderful tapestry of vibrant cultures, each weaving its own unique pattern into the main design. And therefore, it would be a shame to continue destroying the old to make way for the new, because it would mean the unraveling of the thread, the magic that somehow ties all these different stories together.

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Copyright: © 2000-2004 Mikey and Lou Samson