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Singapore

In its own way, Singapore is an oasis in Southeast Asia. It's got one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and its infrastructure -- from road and mass-transit systems to a state-of-the-art airport at Changi -- is outstandingly sophisticated. The city itself is clean -- so much so that the sale of chewing gum is forbidden, and eating or drinking on the subway can result in a heavy fine! Singapore's modern, dynamic vibe could be a pro or con, depending on individual sensibilities: it's more sterile than any city in the world.

The city-state of Singapore, connected with manmade bridges to Malaysia, is actually an island -- and not just one. It includes a main island and more than 60 surrounding islets. The mainland is 26 miles east to west and 14 miles north to south. In the north, it shares a border with Malaysia; in the south, islands belonging to Indonesia can be visited via a short ferry ride. Singapore is located just north of the equator and is sultry, tropical and humid year-round.

Singapore is one of the world's biggest banking and transportation hubs, and a popular stopover for folks traveling between Europe and Australia. With five million people, it's the second most densely populated country in the world. There are a lot of people in the streets and shopping areas and on public transportation, but it normally does not feel as crowded as large city centers in the United States. As a matter of fact, the modern design of the city has helped to eliminate any feeling of congestion.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a city with great cultural diversity, well-developed infrastructure and a very cosmopolitan feeling. It's easily navigable for visitors, with most tourist attractions concentrated in three areas: Orchard Road, the colonial district and Sentosa.

--written by Teijo Niemela

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