Singapore: what an interesting and very entertaining country. It was a surprisingly good way to ease into Asian culture, considering I had never traveled to the Far East before. One thing I should have done before leaving the US of A though is read a little more about Singapore’s history, because then the British colony feel would have been much less of a shock. Although I’m really not complaining; it was a welcome surprise and a really nice way to enjoy a part of the world I thought I would feel very alienated in.
Although Singapore did feel a little like it was part of George Orwell’s “1984” at times with the almost constant security surveillance and reminders of fines for doing silly things, it is a really cool place to visit. Everyone was very friendly (and most spoke much better English than I do) and polite, always willing to offer advice and help. I’ve also never visited a place that was so incredibly clean and safe feeling. I’m sure the insane fines and punishments for littering, spitting, starting a fight, and carrying a durian (a big stinky fruit resembling a spiked watermelon) on a subway train might affect this though.
Speaking of public transit, the Singaporean system is, by far and away, the best system I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Wow, never would have thought I would use the phrases “public transport” and “pleasure to use” in the same sentence, but it really is that good. The system is comprised of a bus system, varying levels of taxi service and a partially underground train system (which reminded me a lot of the DC metro). Everything is well integrated (the buses and trains use the same easy-pass card swiping system), is always on time, and is filthy cheap (likely due to heavy government subsidies).
Apparently I’m doing a pretty good job at setting myself up for segways here, so lets talk about the Sing government. It is, to put it lightly, an interesting but almost ruthlessly efficient system. It is democratic but only has one major party. So at least things get done, and since, from what I can tell, the Singaporean people are relatively happy, safe, and wealthy (Singapore had a very high population of millionaires), the government must be doing a decent job at running the show. So kudos to them. The government and the country as a whole understands the need for tourism, so most of the signs and menus are in multiple languages and there is a huge variety of activities to check out and restaurants, bars and food courts (called hawker courts) to try and enjoy.
Onto food. Holy cow, I don’t think I’ve felt so happily fat in my entire life. Every dish I ate in Singapore was delicious, and I got the chance to try a whole slew of new Asian dishes which I had never seen before in the US. The only downside from this is now, back in the US, all the Asian food I eat just doesn’t taste as good. So that’s a bit disappointing considering how much I enjoy Asian food. Oh well, just another reason to go back, right?
Would I go back? Hell yes, in a heart beat. Really cool country, and a great gateway trip into traveling to Asia. I definitely plan on traveling back to Asia soon, hopefully sightseeing and skiing in Japan (Hokkaido), Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, my list goes on. Time to start diverting some of my money to the “travel the world” fund…