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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Singapore, the gateway to Asia, calls with shopping, sights and fantastic festivals by Andrew Regan

Perched on the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore's small size belies the huge number and variety of bazaars, markets and malls which make it a shopper's paradise. Located at one of the major intersections of the world, Singapore's strategic position has allowed it to grow into a major centre for trade, communication and tourism - and has earned it the nickname "gateway to Asia".

Singapore's success as a shopping haven can be partly attributed to its long history as a major port. During the 14th century, Singapore was part of the Sumatran Empire, and as a natural meeting point of major sea routes, the port saw many traders from China, Arabia, India and Europe. After a brief period of control by the Portuguese and subsequently the Dutch, the British saw the potential of Singapore as a strategic base for their expanding empire. They claimed it as a British Crown colony and established a centre of free trade, which attracted even more merchants from all over the world and led to a huge growth in population and economy.

With its long history in trading, it's no surprise that Singapore has grown into the exotic shopping mecca it is today. The city can be divided into several main shopping areas, each offering a different experience. In Chinatown, merchants display wares such as fine silk, gold jewellery, exotic snakeskin medicines and pungent spices. For some Arabian flare, try the bazaar style shopping area that houses Singapore's Muslim community; here you'll find traders renowned for textiles, baskets and woven leaf goods. Little India, as the name suggests, is full of flavour from the sub continent, offering an array of silverware, saris and delicious Indian cuisine. And if you're hungry for more excitement, head to Orchard Road - a premier shopping belt housing some of the largest and most popular shopping centres such as Centrepoint. This is truly a shopper's paradise, offering everything from casual clothing and electronics to Oriental rugs, fine arts, Asian antiques and books.

But aside from year-round attractions and shopping splendours, Singapore boasts a number of seasonal attractions. The Dragon Boat Festival for example - the commemoration of a Chinese patriot who protested against government corruption - is celebrated each summer with boat races across Marina Bay. Autumn sees events like the Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and the Hari Raya Puasa, while winter invites the Chinese New Year celebration - so no matter what time of year you visit, you'll be able to experience Singapore's unique offerings.

As a major tourist hub and popular stop over destination, there are plenty of frequent flights to Singapore direct from London. And you'll have a massive choice for accommodation, ranging from youth hostels to luxurious hotels - so you're sure to find something to suit your budget. With so many attractions and shopping opportunities to choose from, it's impossible to see everything; but Singapore's safe streets and long opening hours mean that you can cram a lot in. And with some shopping areas opening 24 hours a day, you really can shop until you drop!



About the Author
Andrew Regan is a freelance online journalist who travels extensively.

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