Yes, that staid hub of economic activity in the middle of the Asian boom – I’d like to visit again! Interestingly, in a reflection of the general American ignorance about Singapore (and for most things international – I’m guilty too), the first comment I get, when I mention visiting Singapore again, is usually some joke about gum being illegal (mostly true – nicorette-type gum isn’t with prescription) or corporal punishment for crossing the street (not true – the American got that for vandalism). Though you will pay a hefty fine for riding a bike in a pedestrian underpass:
Singapore is HOT – being so close to the equator usually means the climate will be hot – and it is. It also appears to be a bit antiseptic, with everything so clean (I LOOKED DILIGENTLY for trash on the ground – a scrap of paper, a candy wrapper – found nothing!), upscale shopping, and new and visually-pleasing public architecture (bridges, walkways, etc).
The island nation also has thriving commerce (the reason for their wealth). It is a major trading hub, financial center, and HQ to numerous dynamic companies, many of which cater to China’s needs (nice target market). They have also built large casinos which have been raking in the dough according to reports. One thing they will not allow – someone receiving public assistance can not gain admittance to the casino. Compare that the US where we throw lotteries at the poor (makes me think of Keno in MA – I don’t think anyone who works a real job even plays that game).
My trip there brought a few humorous highlights – one of them involving durian – a particularly awful smelling fruit that many Asians like to eat (add that to jackfruit and other nasty fruits that Asians seem to enjoy!). In the hotel, outside of each room, was a “No Smoking” sign which you’d expect and right under it, was a sign that said “No Durian.” Folks, if a particular food is singled out like this, you know it stinks.
Many Singaporeans travel to a small island on the south side of Singapore called Sentosa. Off the coast you can see hundreds of ships confirming that this is a major trading hub. The sand was so so, but the water was warm (I don’t like cold water). There was also a go cart ride that one could do after taking a “ski lift” like ride to the top of the hill:
The ride into Sentosa
Yes, EVERYONE can ride the go carts!
On this trip, I also had the opportunity to take a trip into Malaysia (thanks to my friend!) and this was also a lovely country. We stopped for a bit in Johor Bahru, the first major city once you cross the bridge from Singapore into Malaysia. The economic opportunity here reminded me of New Jersey compared to NYC in that, the real estate and cost of living was much cheaper in JB and it seemed like a good investment opportunity.
Crossing into Malaysia from Singapore
After that, we traveled to Malacca and visited Chinatown there and the ruins of the old city. It was Dutch, then English etc – since the trading route (Straits of Malacca) were an extremely busy ship route, this was coveted land and also coveted water (by pirates too). The old city was interesting – it was the first burial site of St Francis Xavier, before his body was exhumed and moved to India:
Original grave of St Francis Xavier
I also visited a cool Museum in downtown Malacca – our timing was noteworthy as it was the 50th anniversary of Malaysian independence in 2007 (as a fan of American independence history, I ate this stuff up). As an aside, my friend told me that her grandmother still feared the Japanese (Japan took much of this area from British control culminating in the disappointing Battle of Singapore). The history here is amazing – we also visited some cultural sites, including a tourist stop which included sample home styles of people in the 14 different Malaysian Kingdoms (one of the Sultans is chosen to lead all of Malaysia – it rotates).
All in all, I learned much, enjoyed good food, met great people, and saw economies developing. I also visited Thailand on this trip and perhaps will share highlights another time. I would recommend visiting, especially before the value of your dollar makes it impossible to afford going!