Many Southeast Asian countries have been constantly plagued by recurring smoke haze episodes as a result of traditional slash-and-burn practices in agricultural areas to clear crop lands or uncontrolled forest fires. However, our current knowledge on the physiochemical and optical properties of ambient aerosols associated with regional haze phenomenon is still fairly limited. Therefore a comprehensive field study was carried out in Singapore from March 2001 to March 2002 under varying weather conditions to gain a better understanding of the characteristics. The physical (size distribution of mass and number concentrations), chemical (mass concentrations of chemical components: 14 ions, 24 metals, elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC)), and optical (light absorption (bap) and scattering (bsp) by particles) characteristics of ambient aerosol particles were investigated. The results are reported separately for clear and hazy days by categorizing the days as clear or hazy on the basis of visibility data. It was observed that the average concentrations of PM2.5 and most chemical components increased approximately by a factor of 2 on hazy days. Backward air trajectories together with the hot spot distributions in the region indicated that the degradation in Singapore's air quality on hazy days was attributable to large-scale forest fires in Sumatra. This visibility degradation was quantitatively measured on the basis of the light absorption and scattering by particles. As expected, scattering rather than absorption controlled atmospheric visibility, and PM2.5 particles present on hazy days were more efficient at scattering light than those found on clear days.