Monday, September 26, 2011

Singapore

Largest mosque in Singapore
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1) Fabrics galore! 2) Temple 3) A gorgeous building in Little India

Singapore was a stop in the middle of our week-long voyage. Several different people that I talked to before I left told me to skip Singapore altogether; that is was "just like America" and "not very interesting...just, eh." Others we met along the way said we could "do Singapore in a day." A day? Well hey! Why not? So the city-state it was... 

Lantern festival in Chinatown
We arrived with the darkness. Five in the morning, to be exact. We figured a night bus would be the way to go. Leave Malaysia late, sleep on the bus, arrive in the morning, avoid having to pay for accommodations that night. It seemed like a solid plan for the 6-hr ride. My REM cycle, however, was done a disservice after two separate stops in customs and immigration. Which, of course, required hauling our sleepy butts as well as our luggage out of the bus and getting yet another stamp in our passports.

Pretty building
I definitely don't regret going to Singapore, though. I found it quite fascinating, even though the currency carries close to the same weight as the US dollar and is, in fact, called the dollar. Scandalous.

The first thing I noticed were the big, beautiful, modern buildings. The streets were also very clean, and it made me think back to Tokyo and how impressed I was with the cleanliness of the busy city, despite the obvious lack of trash bins.

When the buses finally started running, we hopped on a city bus and headed toward Little India...except that the bus actually went the opposite way on the road that we needed to get to. Oops. We finally mapped it out and realized our mistake and hopped on a different bus to Chinatown, because by then, it was much closer than my beloved Indian food... Suddenly we found ourselves crammed in a (very nice) bus stuffed with locals in button-downs and pencil skirts. Everyone seemed to adhere to the same "business casual" dress code, and it got me wondering where they were headed off to; what sort of industries made up this seemingly well-endowed country? (because I frankly knew nothing about Singapore prior to my visit.)

Turns out it's:
  • The world's fourth leading financial center. 
  • The world's second largest casino gambling market.
  • One of the world's top three oil refining centers. 
  • The world's largest oil rig producing nation and a major ship repairing nation.
  • One of the five busiest ports in the world.
  • Home to more US dollar millionaire households per capita than any other country.
  • The easiest place in the world to do business and the world's top logistics hub, according to the World Bank.
  • The world's fourth largest foreign-exchange trading center, after London, New York and Tokyo.
Lanterns decorated by children.
So tucked away into 268 square miles is over 5 million people and all of that. While on my unofficial "city tour," as well as while exploring both Chinatown and Little India, I came to realize that there isn't really a "bad side of town." I mean, I'm sure there is somewhere...But every place that I saw -- and I saw a lot of places on that bus ride -- was extremely nice. There was clearly money behind everything. By far the cleanest Chinatown I've ever visited, too. I mean, it was clean...which is sort of ironic in and of itself. 

For the Dallasites, here you go: Singapore is essentially the larger-scale Plano of Southeast Asia. So if you're into that sort of thing, by all means, move to Singapore. You'll love it.
Chinatown

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