A melting pot of people and cultures from all over the world, Singapore has become one of the most dynamic travel and lifestyle destinations in the world and a natural gravitation point. In 2013, the island state was visited by almost 15.5 million people, or more than three times the number of people living in the country; every year, thousands more relocate to the Lion City in order to start new careers and pursue new challenges.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Singapore is the way in which the city state has managed to constantly renew itself and progress with the times while staying true to its unique history. A trading hub in its region for centuries before the arrival of the British in 1819, Singapore enjoys a strategically beneficial location at the entrance of the Malacca Straits right on the trade routes between China, India, Europe and Australia. Still to this day, the Port of Singapore remains the second busiest port in the world in terms of total shipping tonnage and one-fifth of the world's containers come through this port.
All this commercial activity has seen the development of a political and economic powerhouse and the Singapore government has invested heavily in infrastructure, human development and, especially in recent years, tourism. The redevelopment of Sentosa Island was a key part in rebranding the city as 'fun and entertaining' and depart from the somewhat stiff image of the Singapore of the 80s and 90s. Branded Asia's Favourite Playground, Sentosa Island comprises a plethora of amusement parks, gardens, a casino, fine dining venues and an aquarium to name just a few.
Similarly, the area around Marina Bay has also undergone an impressive transformation, spearheaded by Marina Bay Sands, the mega integrated resort and casino developed by Las Vegas Sands. Attractions include Gardens by the Bay, a tropical breathing space right in the middle of the Marina Financial District, and a host of shopping, dining and exhibition options.
As a contrast to its striking mega structures and integrated resorts, Singapore's many ethnic neighbourhoods are also well worth a visit. The area around Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street are excellent examples of how eclectic the city is and the importance local authorities place on cultural heritage and conservation. Many of the old shophouses in these area have original facades that date back to the beginning of the 20th century and are protected for their cultural and historic significance.
Singapore has a number of modern marinas of the highest standard and given the city's location in the middle of some of Asia's most exciting cruising grounds, it is no wonder that yachts from all over the world come here every season to explore the many tropical destinations in the region.
ONE°15 Marina Club, located within Sentosa Cove, is an marine lifestyle complex and the largest marina in Singapore with 270 wet berths, inclusive of 13 megayacht berths. A number of quayside restaurants, on-site accommodation, events space, and wellness facilities complete the integrated offerings. Situated on a private island along Singapore's southern coast, the Marina at Keppel Bay is home to 168 berths which can accommodate yachts of up to 280 feet, a sailing academy, as well as waterfront dining and wining options. Located along the western shores of Singapore, Raffles Marina is a 5 Gold Anchor Marina nestled within a country club with comprehensive berthing and services for yachts of up to 300 feet (100 metres). There is a well stocked chandlery on-site, as well as a repair yard complete with a 70-tonne travel lift.
Located just south of Singapore lies a cluster of islands known as the Riau Islands belonging to Indonesia. The islands are made up of a handful of islands, two of them, Bintan and Batam, which are both popular destinations for visiting yachts as well as locals from Singapore who use the islands as a weekend getaway. On Bintan, the Bintan Resorts, an area on the northern coast of the island is usually the centre of attention with its high end resorts and recreational facilities, yet visitors should not miss the opportunity to explore Tanjung Pinang, the dynamic capital of the Riau Province and the largest city on the islands. The city used to be a haven for gamblers and prostitution rings but today the city has cleaned up its act and visitors come for the vibrant market, shopping and eating. Don't miss the Buddhist Temple and its sculpture park and learn about local history at the Raja Haji Fisabillah Monument, or what's left of it, raised in memory of one of the Indonesia's national heroes who died during the battle of Malacca against the Dutch in 1784.
West of Bintan is Batam. Not quite as glamorous as Bintan, Batam also has its share of resorts and golf courses, yet the island is mainly known for its industry with large electronics factories, ship repair industry and oil service sector. The island enjoys a special economic status and most of the facilities here cater to the many expats and professionals who come here to work.
Surrounding Bintan and Batam are several smaller, less developed islands, such as Karimun, Kundur, Singkep-Lingga, Anambas, Natuna and Moro. There isn't much to see on these islands in terms of historical monuments or pretty architecture but they are nevertheless a good window into local life and many of them have beautiful beaches and fresh seafood. In recent years, they have also become popular bicycling destinations with cycle enthusiasts from Singapore and Malaysia.