The natural historian William Hornaday in 1885 described Singapore to be
like a big desk, full of drawers
and pigeonholes, where everything has its place, and anything can always be found in it. He was referring to how organised the city state was, suggesting that it could easily have been built entirely by one man. This succinct appraisal seems apt even now, despite the tiny island's transformation from an endearingly chaotic colonial port, one that embodied the exoticism of the East, into a pristine, futuristic shrine to consumerism. In the process, Singapore acquired a reputation, largely deserved, for soullessness, but these days the place has taken on a more relaxed and intriguing character, one that achieves a healthier balance between Westernized modernity and the city-state's traditional cultures and street life.
The port plays a key role in the economy
to this day, though the island now also thrives on high-tech industry, financial services and tourism, all bolstered by
a super-efficient infrastructure.
(B) Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has seduced travellers for centuries. Marco Polo described it as the finest island of its size in the world, while
successive waves of Indian, Arab and European traders and adventurers flocked to its palm-fringed shores,
attracted by reports of rare spices, precious stones and magnificent elephants. Poised just above the Equator amid the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, the island's legendary reputation for natural beauty has inspired an almost magical regard even in those who have never visited the place. Romantically inclined geographers, poring over maps of the island,
compared its outline to a teardrop falling from the tip of India
or to the shape of a pearl, while even
the name given to the island by early Arab traders - Serendib - gave rise to the English word
(C) South Korea
The Korean peninsula is a tantalizingly unexplored slice of East Asia - a pine-clad land of mountains, misty archipelagos and rice paddies of emerald green, studded with urban pockets of incomparable joie de vivre. While its troubled history has made Korea's very existence nothing short of miraculous, amazingly its traditions and customs have largely survived intact - and for visitors, this highly distinctive culture is an absolute joy to dive into. As for
the Korean people themselves, they are a real delight: fiercely proud, and with a character almost as spicy as their food, they're markedly eager to please foreigners who come to live or holiday in their country. Within hours of arriving, you may well find yourself with new friends in tow,
racing up a mountainside, lunching over a delicious barbequed galbi, throwing back makkeolli until dawn, or singing the night away at a noraebang. Few travellers leave without tales of the kindness of Korean strangers, and
all of them wonder why the country isn't a more popular stop on the international travel circuit.
Few countries have changed so much over such a short time as Vietnam. Less than forty years since the savagery and slaughter of the American War, this resilient nation is buoyant with hope. It is a country on the move: access is now easier than ever, roads are being upgraded, hotels are springing up and Vietnam's raucous entrepreneurial spirit is once again alive and well as the old-style Communist system gives way to a socialist market economy.
As the number of tourists visiting the country soars,
their talk is not of bomb craters and army ordnance but of shimmering paddy fields and sugar-white beaches, full-tilt cities and venerable pagodas; Vietnam is a veritable phoenix arisen from the ashes.
There is an equally marked difference between north and south, a deep psychological divide that was around long before the American War,
and is engrained in Vietnamese culture. Northerners are considered reticent, thrifty, law-abiding and lacking the dynamism and entrepreneurial know-how of their more worldly wise southern compatriots. Not surprisingly, this is mirrored in the broader economy: the south is Vietnam's growth engine, it boasts lower unemployment and higher average wages, and the increasingly glitzy Ho Chi Minh City looks more to Bangkok and Singapore than Hanoi.
1) mentions a long-standing difference with reference to a geographical separation?
2) is compared to a shape often associated with sadness?
3) is underpinned by an extremely effective network?
4) has a good reputation for hospitality?
5) has been likened to a piece of office equipment?
6) made a contribution to the English language with a derivation of its name?
7) is very dependent on trade from the sea?
8) is experiencing a dramatic increase in business from abroad?
9) has been influenced by many diverse cultures?
10) receives relatively few tourists considering its reputation?