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June 27, 2011

We’ve been to unique places in our travels, and Singapore rates high on this list.

A group of islands perched between Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore is roughly 10 miles wide by 20 miles long.  It takes all of 20 minutes to get to the airport from the city center.  Singapore is the embodiment of the city as a nation; this compact island is home to over 5 million people – and in the words of one resident – Singapore works.

What makes it unique, you ask?  Hmmm….

The City Center is ultra-modern and home to some of the largest banking institutions in the world.  Singapore is the financial center for emerging markets in Asia outside of China – countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand…you get the idea.  This is likely what New York was like a century ago when Fords, Flaglers and Rockefellers ruled the industrialized world.

The optimism is seen in building architecture.  The Marina Bay Sands , a casino resort, was completed last year at a cost of $6 billion.  It’s architecture is so alien as to be incomprehensible – as if a spaceship landed atop skyscrapers.  The cost to get to the upper deck for a view is $20.  A building as this can only be built in a place which looks up.

It’s not all new, though.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore was an outpost of the British Empire.  There are remnants of this earlier age woven into the fabric of the city/nation/culture – English is the preferred language, street signs are all in English, most streets have English names (Bugis, Purvis, Nicholl and Orchard for example) and Singaporeans crave order and cleanliness.

This period of their history is revered to the point of religious fervor, so any and all artifacts are conserved, preserved and shown off with pride.

Singapore was built with the labour of Chinese and Indian immigrants.   The city has districts where each culture continues to thrive – and it’s a pleasure to be able to traverse cultures on a $5 cab fare.

Exotic?  Absolutely – but in a way where one may absorb culture safely and in a language one understands.

Singapore has become the shopping nexus for the nouveaux riche Asian population – and the center of conspicuous consumption is Orchard Road.

There are no less than 30 major malls featuring couture, fashion and stuff that’s just flat-out expensive!.

This does not dissuade people from shopping in swarms.

This really wasn’t our speed.

The working neighborhoods along the Singapore river were interesting.  Asian culture revolved around the concept of the shophouse – a building with a business enterprise on the first floor, and two floors of living quarters  above.  There are several such neighborhoods in the city – and these were what we found most engaging.


Singapore works as it is managed by the city elders.

There’s never any traffic, for example, as the number of vehicles on the street are limited.  The solution is an elegant one – residents bid for a Certificate of Entitlement, or COE.  The COE is a ten year license to operate a specific vehicle on the streets.  At the time of this writing, the COE bid price was around $50,000.00.  The Government did not set the price – the people did.

The balance of the money?  Mass transit for those who can’t afford a car.

The streets are clean, quiet and relaxed as a result.  As we explored the city, all we wanted to say at times was a relaxing, ‘Ahhh…’

Yes, the Pheebs liked this very much.

We’ve broken the photos down into about two weeks of posting on Singapore; we trust you’ll like it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2011 11:38 am

    Fascinating, Chuck.
    I designed some banners for a US textbook company, featuring the skyline/landmarks of Singapore, last year. Apparently, their way of teaching math is exceptional, and is catching on in the USofA.
    Jennifer and I feel that “Ah” every time we get to Key West, but for different reasons.

    Greg P. In WV, hoping to “Ah” again, soon…

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      June 27, 2011 9:06 pm

      Singapore does a lot of things right, including education and healthcare.

      Civilization is about food, shelter and access to social networks. Human nature is about the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. To do so effectively, one must adhere to a set of universally-accepted societal standards. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Canada and Germany have figured this out, but they’re too damned cold. It’s neat to see a place like Singapore – and to know that it is possible to live well in a tropical locale.

  2. June 29, 2011 9:53 pm

    so next time i get to come too right???

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      June 29, 2011 11:31 pm

      Umm…only if it’s to interview for a job.

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