Singapore: Boat Quay
The world's busiest port, the modern nation of the Republic of Singapore, was founded as a British trading post on the Strait of Malacca in 1819. Singapore's location on the major sea route between India and China, its excellent harbor, and the free trade status conferred on it by its visionary founder, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, made the port an overnight success.
History
At one time, Singapore River was the very lifeblood of the colony, the trade artery, the centre of commercial activity, the heart of entrepot trade and the place which was frequented by the secret societies, the swaylos (Cantonese for coolies who worked on a boat) and the coolies who worked for the philanthropistTan Tock Seng at Ellenborough Market and the towkay (Hokkien for business owner) Tan Kim Seng who was busy filling his godown with the riches of the East.

Singapore River is where the colourful and romantic history of the river and the myths and legends can still conjure up memories of the lighters, bumboats, tongkangs with their painted eyes to see the danger ahead and sampans of yesteryear. This is where the Malayanprinces once sailed and this is where the bullockcarts plodded their way up and down each bank as the river found its way to the former rocky river mouth. This is also where an early civilisation was conquered by the JavaneseMajapahit Empire, in the year 1376.

It was here too that the Chinese lived, on the south bank, the Malays in kampongs further upstream, and the Indians used to reside until the Chinese forced them out to Rochor, Kallang and Geylang.

Some of the temples, shrines and other places of worship still stand in the vicinity of the river. So too are the godowns, the bridges such as Anderson Bridge, Elgin Bridge and Cavenagh Bridge, the Merlion, the shophouses, and the large trees such as Banyan and Madras Thorn. Some parts of this area include quays such as Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, which generated trade and extensive demand for services with the boats that landed at the quays. Boat Quay itself was handling three quarters of the shipping service in the 1860s. Shophouses and warehouses flourished around the quays due to their proximity to trade during the colonial era, but presently house various bars, pubs and restaurants, as well as antique shops.

The river still borders places where seamen and others, for example, near Raffles Landing Place, made offerings and burned their joss sticks. Poles with streamers flying were once used to tie up the barges as the water lapped against the old stonesteps and walls.

Sir Stamford Raffles lost no time after January 1819, when he landed on Singapore River among the orang laut and the human skulls, the victims of river pirates, in bargaining with the Temenggong, the Johor chief who then ruled the place, having settled in 1811. At the very moment of landing, Raffles must have realised the importance of the river for, in the same year of 1819, the north bank was drained for government buildings and, in 1822, the south bank was reclaimed and a retaining wall and steps were built.

With the expansion of trade came congestion and pollution. Through lack of knowledge or foresight, the bridges were constructed too low and the river was too shallow for the demands that were to be made on its use. This historic river, which Raffles had fashioned from salt marshes, sand bars and mangrove swamps, has witnessed the British rule and the Japanese occupation, and has supported years of economic activity by the Chinese, Malays, Indians and others.

Singapore Skyline

Population
By 1990 the multiethnic population attracted to the island had grown from a few thousand to 2.6 million Singaporeans, frequently referred to by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as his nation's greatest resource.Despite efforts to maintain an ethnic balance in housing, however, the stated goal of the nation's leaders is not that Singapore becomes a mini-melting pot, but, rather, a multiethnic society. Of the country's 2.6 million inhabitants, about 76 percent are Chinese, 15 percent Malay, 6.5 percent Indian, and 2.5 percent other. There are, however, mixtures within this mixture.
Education
Education, home ownership, and upward mobility are all considered appropriate goals. Although Singaporeans are expected to be modern in their outlook, they also are encouraged to retain a core of traditional Asian values and culture. In a society in which all share a common education system, public housing, recreation facilities, and military training, the government considers it important to highlight the uniqueness of the three official ethnic groups--Chinese, Malays, and Indians-- through the setting aside of national ethnic holidays and the sponsorship of ethnic festivals. Singaporean ethnic differences are usually maintained, however, not so much by these somewhat self-conscious displays of ethnicity but rather by membership in ethnically exclusive associations.
Singapore Culture
Singapore is a cosmopolitan society where people live harmoniously and interaction among different races are commonly seen. The pattern of Singapore stems from the inherent cultural diversity of the island. The immigrants of the past have given the place a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences, all of which have intermingled.
Behind the facade of a modern city, these ethnic races are still evident. The areas for the different races, which were designated to them by Sir Stamford Raffles, still remain although the bulk of Singaporeans do think of themselves as Singaporeans, regardless of race or culture. Each still bears its own unique character.
The old streets of Chinatown can still be seen; the Muslim characteristics are still conspicuous in Arab Street; and Little India along Serangoon Road still has its distinct ambience. Furthermore, there are marks of the British colonial influence in the Neo-Classical buildings all around the city.
Each racial group has its own distinctive religion and there are colorful festivals of special significance all year round. Although the festivals are special to certain races, it is nonetheless enjoyed by all.
In Singapore, food is also readily and widely available. There are lots of cuisines to offer. We have, Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian and Western, Italian, Peranakan, Spanish, French, Thai and even Fusion. It is very common to savour other culture's food and some of the food can be very intriguing. Indian food are relatively spicier, whereas Chinese food is less spicier and the Chinese enjoy seafood. Malay cooking uses coconut milk as their main ingredient, that makes their food very tasty.
You can refer to our Eating in Singapore section for a list of recommended food outlets in Singapore.
Religion in Singapore
Most Singaporeans celebrate the major festivals associated with their respective religions. The variety of religions is a direct reflection of the diversity of races living there. The Chinese are predominantly followers of Buddhism, Taoism, Shenism, Christians, Catholics and some considered as 'free-thinkers' (Those who do not belong to any religion). Malays have the Muslims and Indians are Hindus. There is a sizeable number of Muslims and Sikhs in the Indian population.
Religious tolerance is essential in Singapore. In fact, religions often cross racial boundaries and some even merge in unusual ways in this modern country. Younger Singaporeans tend to combine a little of the mysteries of the older generation with the realistic world that they know of today.
Religion is still an integral part of the cosmopolitan Singapore. Many of its most interesting buildings are religious, be it old temples, modern churches, or exotic mosques. An understanding of these buildings do play a part in contributing to the appreciation of their art.
Language in Singapore
The four official languages of Singapore are Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. English is the most common language used and is the language which unites the different ethnic groups. Children are taught in English at school but also learn their mother tongue to make sure they don't lose contact with their traditions.
Expatriates and foreigners may encounter language problems in the beginning of their stay in Singapore as many Singaporeans use Singlish to communicate. Singlish is a mix of English with other languages mixed into the English, sometimes phrases can end with funny terms like 'lah', 'leh', mah'. Chinese commonly use their own dialects to communicate, and sometimes, inter-dialect groups don't understand one another's language, as the language is vastly different. Except for Hokkien and Teochew, which have a closer link. The Malays use the language among their fellow races and the Indians speak Tamil. But whatever the race or religion, the country's community unite as one nation, where most religious or racial gaps are being bridged.
Singlish
Singapore English usually come from other languages spoken in Singapore, especially Malay and Hokkien. Speakers of Singlish are not necessarily aware of which language they are from however.