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The main island of Singapore is shaped like a flattened diamond, 42 km (26 miles) east to west and 23 km (14 miles) north to south. Near the northern peak is the causeway leading to West Malaysia—Kuala Lumpur is less than four hours away by car. It is at the southern foot where you will find most of the city-state’s action, with its gleaming office towers, working docks, and futuristic "supertrees," which are solar-powered and serve as vertical gardens. Offshore are Sentosa and over 60 smaller islands, most uninhabited, that serve as bases for oil refining or as playgrounds and beach escapes from the city. To the east is Changi International Airport, connected to the city by metro, bus, and a tree-lined parkway. Of the island's total land area, more than half is built up, with the balance made up of parkland, farmland, plantations, swamp areas, and rain forest. Well-paved roads connect all parts of the island, and Singapore city has an excellent, and constantly expanding, public transportation system. The heart of Singapore's history and its modern wealth are in and around the Central Business District. The area includes the skyscrapers in the Central Business District, the 19th-century Raffles Hotel, the convention centers of Marina Square, on up to the top of Ft. Canning. Although most of old Singapore has been knocked down to make way for the modern city, most colonial landmarks have been preserved in the CBD, including early-19th-century buildings designed by the Irish architect George Coleman.
Bali really is as alluring as everyone says. This island has it all: beaches, volcanoes, terraced rice fields, forests, renowned resorts, surfing, golf, and world-class dive sites. But what sets Bali apart from other nearby tropical destinations is Balinese tradition, and villagers dedicated to celebrating it. The hundreds of temples, dances, rituals, and crafts linked to their ancient Hindu faith aren't a show for tourists, but a living, breathing culture in which visitors are warmly received by the Balinese, who cherish their own identities.
On the approach to Pulau Komodo, a tiny island just 36 km (22 miles) long and 16 km (9 miles) across at its widest point, it's hard to imagine that this is the home of the fearsome dragons described by late-19th-century explorers. The island, in the Indonesian region of Nusa Tenggara, lies between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores at the heart of the Komodo National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of Nature. At first look, steep hillsides of parched, golden grasses slide down into topaz bays covered in glass-clear waters, and white-sand beaches hem quiet shorelines. But then you remember that this innocent-looking island is inhabited by 13-foot-long, 220-pound ora, as Komodo dragons are known locally. Don't be frightened: Although stories of people disappearing run rampant, a trip here is quite safe—as long as you stay with a park guide.
While Komodo dragons are the main attraction, several other large species also reside here. Dark-brown deer and small buffalo nibble the grasses of the high plains, macaques peer through the trees, and wild pigs crash through the underbrush. More than 150 types of birds also inhabit the island, including cockatoos, imperial pigeons, sea eagles, and mound-building megapodes. Offshore in the marine reserve, you might spot dolphins, dugong (a relative of the manatee), sea turtles, manta rays, and even whales, as well as more than 1,000 species of fish.
Lodging on Pulau Komodo was nonexistent until 2012, when a modest, eco-friendly resort and diving club opened, providing a rare opportunity for scuba divers and snorkelers to explore this pristine habitat's extensive coral reefs and extraordinary marine life. Travelers can also find comfortable lodging and a convenient base from which to explore the many natural wonders of the Komodo National Park in Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores (East Nusa Tenggara).
Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns (pronounced Caans). The city makes a good base for exploring the wild top half of Queensland, and tens of thousands of international travelers use it as a jumping-off point for activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling trips to the Barrier Reef, as well as boating, fishing, parasailing, scenic flights, and rain-forest treks.
It's a tough environment, with intense heat and fierce wildlife. Along with wallabies and grey kangaroos in the savannah and tree kangaroos in the rain forest, you'll find stealthy saltwater crocodiles, venomous snakes, and jellyfish so deadly they put the region’s stunning beaches off- limits to swimmers for nearly half the year. Yet despite this formidable setting, Cairns and tropical North Queensland are far from intimidating places. The people are warm and friendly, the sights spectacular, and—at the right time of year—the beachside lounging is world-class.
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