“Singapore may look small, and geographically speaking it is, but this tiny island city-state is jam-packed with a myriad of things to do, see, buy, and devour. The sleek and efficient public transport system makes zipping around a breeze, allowing you more time to dip your toes into this melting pot of cultures, religions, food, and architecture.” That’s an excerpt from an article by today’s guest, Ria de Jong, about the Lion City, otherwise known as Singapore, the smallest and southernmost country on mainland Asia, which we’ll talk about on this episode of Talk Travel Asia.

Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands (courtesy of Ria de Jong)

Scott and Trevor banter before giving a quick history lesson.

Scott: according to Wikipedia… the Republic of Singapore, is located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bordering the Straits of Malacca to the west, the Riau Islands of Indonesia to the south, and the South China Sea to the east. The country’s territory is composed of one main island, 63 satellite islands and islets, and one outlying islet, the combined area of which has increased by 25% since the country’s independence as a result of extensive land reclamation projects. It has the second greatest population density in the world. Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. English is the lingua franca. 

Trevor: Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in Southeast Asia were reorganized and Singapore came under the direct British control of Britain. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959 and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia, alongside Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak. Singapore was expelled from the federation two years later and it became an independent country.

Peranakan Terrace Houses – Joo Chiat

Scott: Despite lacking natural resources, independent Singapore quickly developed to become one of the Four Asian Tigers and now has the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. It is a major financial and shipping hub, consistently ranked the most expensive city to live in since 2013. For that, however, Singaporeans have high standards of education, healthcare, quality of life, personal safety, and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 91%. If that weren’t enough, Singaporeans enjoy one of the world’s longest life expectancies.

Trevor: now I know that your wife is Singaporean so you know quite a bit more than that about the country, but let’s go back a bit first: when did you first hear about Singapore and when did you first travel there?

Scott: I’ve been too many times to count. First as a backpacker at 21-years-old, then for travel-related business, and then with my now wife many, many times.

I find it amazing in that it only gained independence from Malaysia on 7 August 1965, making what it is now incredible. You can say it’s not entirely free, but the level of development, wealth, and quality of life is indicative of leaders who were relatively free from corruption, especially compared to any other countries in SE Asia. Amazing!


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Discover Singapore with Lonely Planet Author Ria de Jong

World wanderer and travel writer, particularly of Lonely Planet travel guides, including the Lonely Planet Singapore travel guide as well as its sister Pocket guide, Ria de Jong originally hails from Australia but currently calls Singapore home and Southeast Asia her backyard. She joins us today online from Singapore. 

Listen to the episode to hear Ria answer the following questions:

  1. What’s your background – give us a quick overview of your life before being a travel writer and living in Singapore.
  1. How long have you lived in Singapore and when did you first decide to call the country home?
  1. Did you live in Singapore before you started writing about it? or When did you first start writing about Singapore?
  1. The Lonely Planet Singapore is currently in its 12th edition. Did you write the first edition?
  1. Why don’t we give our listeners an overview here: What’s Singapore like? Is it dense like Hong Kong? An urban sprawl like Bangkok? Could you give us a lay of the land? 
Chili crab (courtesy of Ria de Jong)
  1. What are the biggest tourist attractions in Singapore?
  1. As the country is quite small, what’s a fair amount of time to pretty much see everything that matters, from a tourist perspective?
  1. Considering the costs, what’s a more reasonable timeline? 48 hours? Is that enough time? Would three or four days be ideal? And how much might that cost you, per day? 
  1. If someone wanted to travel there, not necessarily on a shoestring, but on a budget, is it possible?
  1. What are the best things to splash out on? What’s really worth the price?
Art and Architecture entwined at Marina Bay
  1. You must love living in Singapore: what are a few things you would recommend visitors do that is more of a local experience?
  1. Singapore has changed a lot over the years in between the first and 12th editions: what would be most surprising to someone coming to Singapore today with a first edition guidebook to lead them (let’s say they came in late 2019)?
  1.  What’s the best way that people could learn more about Singapore and plan the perfect holiday?
  1.  You’ve lived in some pretty exotic places and written extensively, what do you love about Singapore and keeps you there?
  1.  How can people learn more about Ria and what you’re up to?


Ria in Transit on Instagram

Lonely Planet Pocket Singapore 7 (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet Singapore 12 (Travel Guide)

Talk Travel Asia Episode 100: 100 Things we Love about Asia

Talk Travel Asia Episode 88: Favorite Watering Holes II

Talk Travel Asia Episode 44: Great Day Hikes in Asia

Learn more about Scott and Trevor:

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