Do you love modern architecture, enjoy eating food, and don’t mind 80˚ heat with 80% humidity? Welcome to Singapore!
Humid, modern, and immaculately clean, Singapore is all this and more. A maze of bike paths extending along the bays and coastlines also make it an amazing city for running. And did I mention the food? Singaporean cuisine is world famous. Eating is a national pastime and food a national obsession, likely because there is little else to do but hide in an air-conditioned mall and stuff your face. The food courts are reason enough to pay a visit. We had Chinese bak chang, Japanese saba, Korean clay pot, and Indian roti prata at food stalls not 20 meters apart and it was all super cheap and super delicious.
That said, food and public transportation are just about the only cheap things in Singapore. The cost of living is very high. For those that count themselves as residents, owning a car can be particularly expensive. One must first obtain a license to own a car, which can run for $60k and lasts only 10 years. On top of that, import duties on vehicles are set at 100%. So a VW Golf that might cost $20k in the States will easily go for more than $100k in Singapore. And yet, Singapore has the highest per-capita Ferrari ownership rate in the world, which shows just how much money there is in this tiny city-state at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula.
A quick history lesson: Singapore was founded in 1819 as a trading post for the British East India Company. It later came under the control of the British Raj, then the Japanese during WWII, and finally gained independence as part of Malaysia in 1963 but split off just two years later. Under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state moved from Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. Unlike other rags-to-riches stories, Singapore didn’t do it with gold or oil or diamonds. It accomplished this feat using little more than pro-business policies, an exceptional education system, and zero tolerance for corruption and crime. Enacting these laws has required certain trade-offs with respect to freedom of speech. The media is tightly controlled and the current president, Halimah Yacob, won the election when no other candidates were considered eligible. A functioning democracy it is not, but neither can its success be denied especially considering the relative poverty of neighboring states.
Singapore awakens the taste buds, taxes the sweat glands, and challenges the American notion of what a successful country should look like.