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In 2015 Singapore will be celebrating 50 years of independence, years that have not wilted the splendour of the Lady of Asia.

The small island of Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsula owes its fortune, in part, to its strategic position on maritime routes. Colonised for the British in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, it was chosen as the base from which to countermand the aggressive policy of the Dutch who controlled practically all the ports of the archipelago, imposing heavy duties on shipping plying the trade route to the Indian colonies and especially on the highly profitable opium trade with China. The island offered a protected deepwater inlet, a perfect harbour for a large naval fleet. Still today, Keppel Harbour is one of the world’s major trading nodes. At the beginning of the 19  century, Singapore was a small settlement on the south coast around the mouth of the Singapore River, the area known today as Downtown Core. The colony grew rapidly, however, in just a few years and was given a formal urban layout: the Jackson Plan. The original street grid and division into zones still exists today. The municipal district still lies along the north bank of the river while the business district - today’s CBD (Central Business District) - lies on the opposite side. The old residential quarters allocated to the different ethnic groups - Chinese, Indians and Malaysians, who flocked to the island in search of work - are now only tiny enclaves whose ethnic character is largely designed for the tourist trade. Today Chinatown, Little India and Kampala Glam have an artificial folksy patina aimed to please the many tourists. The genuine traditions, superstitions and less ostentatious but more spontaneous religious rites that are still part of everyday life in Singapore are to be found in outlying areas and little-known temples.
After the fall of the British colony during WWII, Singapore had to face Japanese occupation and subsequently, a...

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