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March 15 - 19, 2004

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Today we left Malaysia and arrived at peninsula's end, a city named by myth: Singapore. Malayan legend says that a Sumatran prince landed here and saw a lion which caused him to found a city and name it Lion City (Singapore). A good omen to meet a lion, indeed, likely it never happened since lions never have lived in this region. The prince probably encountered a tiger and this may be the reason that Singapore's national brew is Tiger beer.

If not for the British, Singapore would have remained an insignificant fishing village. Sir Thomas Raffles foresaw the importance of building Singapore into a fortress port that could protect Britain's line of trade between China and India. Since then Singapore has grown into a mega trading center of Asia. Raffles also is remembered for a hotel where the Singapore Sling was invented - an impressive legacy.

Singapore overwhelms us with glitz. The streets are paved with posters by every major brand name. On Orchard Road, the main shopping thoroughfare, cars press along endless storefronts. Postage stamp parks splash green and remind us that this place was once a jungle where a Sumatran prince thought he saw a lion. The weather steams, over 75% humidity. To avoid the sultry weather, people travel through the malls, some of which are air conditioned complexes that run for up to 10 city blocks underground.

Singapore: a shopping mall that's grown into a city.