Impressions of Singapore
It took a while before one or another European power, reputed for feverish colonial ambition, showed some interest for this swampy and climate-wise rather unwelcoming tip of the Malay Peninsula. The calendar said January 29, 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles landed here and claimed British control. The Dutch had been on nearby Java and Sumatra since the late 16th century, but not at the 'Lion's City', Singa-pura. Raffles saw the gap and he jumped into it. His move of colonisation came at a moment that Latin American countries were already throwing off their colonial yoke. Upon arrival, he encountered a small fishing village, a 'kampong' in the middle of nowhere. It took vision on the side of Raffles to identify this particular spot as a future port city of great potential for the British trade routes with the Far East. His choice was controversial, but it proved to have been well-guided. Vision, … from the viewpoint of those who colonise, not those who get colonised of course. Vision. Just like it has taken vision in much more recent times as well, … from the viewpoint of those who had been colonised: vision to make this city-State, independent since 1965 and with no natural resources of its own, find its way towards what it remarkably is today, a major centre for business, finance and other activity, a crucial link in the chain of South-East Asian prosperity and progress, connected to the Far East, to Europe, and to the entire Pacific Rim, from the US to Australia. First rate economic and societal development in a nation as diverse as it can possibly be, both in terms of ethnicities as in terms of religions.
Hindu temples in Chinatown, Buddhist temples, churches and mosques in Little India: this is the basic summary of what Singapore is, a melting pot of ethnic and religious communities, living together on the limited surface of an island at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. And this is also the most fascinating dimension for a visitor to discover, here, in Singapore.
Before visiting the place of your choice:
Fort Canning Park, centrally located in the city, is also of central importance in the city's history. John Canning was the first British Viceroy of India. But before Canning, Sir Stamford Raffles chose in 1819 the insignificant and swampy island on the edge of the Malay Peninsula as the ideal location for a British transit port on the maritime routes to the Far East. His controversial insight was proven right by history: in no time the fishing kampong of Singapore grew into an important British port settlement. The lighthouse on the hilltop is a replica of one of the 13 lighthouses which were erected in 1903 to guide ships through the Singapore Straits. In 1958 the lighthouses were decommissioned as the growing number of high-rise buildings around them were blocking their visibility from the sea. Raffles House in the park is the single-storey house which Raffles had built in 1822 for himself and for the governors who would succeed him. The initially wooden structure has been replaced in 2003 by a new building. Nearby is the Fort Canning Centre, a large building which served as British Army barracks in colonial times. The hill of Fort Canning Park had been inhabited well before the British arrived in 1819, as the archaeological remains show, probably the foundations of a palace of the 14th century Malay Kingdom. From various spots on the park's hilltop there are great views over the modern city as it has spread out during and especially after the colonial era.