Singapore began as a boat quay at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Its early days bear few written accounts which are made more difficult to interpret due to the many names it has had. Its original name in Malay meant "island at the end" of the peninsula.
In the middle ages there was a settlement here with a trading post and fishing village; today Singapore technically contains sixty-three small islands. Here's a good view of the city from Merlion Park and up close at Raffles Place.
From the fifteenth century onwards Singapore's warring neighbors took turns taking over control of the city. Over the past five centuries this port city has been the property of Siam, the Majapahit Empire of Java, Thailand, Portugal, Britain, Japan and Malaysia. Singapore finally achieved its independence in 1959 and has existed as the Republic of Singapore, a UN member nation.
Singapore is really interesting because it's one of only five sovereign city-states which survived the colonial expansion period of world history. (The others are Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino and Andorra.) Its history as a busy port city has brought traders from all over the world, and their influence is commemorated in some interesting works of art. For example, see the British tea merchants along the Singapore river, and the Asian Civilizations Museum.
In the nineteenth century Singapore was a major port for ships traveling between Europe and East Asia. During WWII the Battle of Singapore ended with the largest British surrender in history -- nearly 130,000 troops.
Next time you have the chance to pass through Singapore, make sure to visit the zoo and see the white tigers, and be glad there's a fence in between. Also note how clean the city is, even under a bridge.
Text by Steve Smith.