Modern Singapore was founded in the 19th century, thanks to politics, trade and a man known as Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. He was then the Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen in Sumatra, landed in Singapore on 29 January 1819. Recognizing the immense potential of the swamp-covered island, he helped negotiate a treaty with the local rulers and established Singapore as a trading station. The city quickly grew as an entrepot trade hub, attracting immigrants from China, India, the Malay Archipelago and beyond.
In 1822, Raffles implemented the Raffles Town Plan, also known as the Jackson Plan, to address the issue of growing disorderliness in the colony. Ethnic residential areas were segregated into four areas. The European Town had residents made up of European traders, Eurasians and rich Asians, while the ethnic Chinese were located in present-day Chinatown. Ethnic Indians resided at Chulia Kampong north of Chinatown, and Kampong Glam consisted of Muslims, ethnic Malays and Arabs who had migrated to Singapore.
In 1959, the growth of nationalism led to self-government, and the country’s first general election. The People’s Action Party (PAP) won a majority of 43 seats and Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of Singapore. In 1963, Malaysia was formed, comprising of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. The move was meant to foster closer ties. However, Singapore’s merger proved unsuccessful, and less than two years later on 9 August 1965, it left Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign democratic nation.
Today, many slices of Singapore’s multi-cultural, colonial past are preserved in and around the city. You can visit monuments, museums or take a walk along the heritage trail. The dramatic contrast of charming well-preserved buildings of a bygone era, standing beside towering Skyscrapers on tree-lined boulevards. Explore a little deeper, you discover a melting pot of enthralling Asian cultures, influences, lifestyles and cuisine.