William Gibson, in an article for Wired Magazine, famously called Singapore Disneyland with a Death Penalty. That was almost twenty years ago, written in Feb 1993, but Singapore’s reputation as an Orwellian city state and the oasis of order and prosperity is still very true. Singapore is relentlessly micro-managed to the point that gum is illegal [to import for sale] and it has one of the highest capital punishment rates in the world. Nearly 1,000 people have been hung in Singapore since the 1950s and with a current population of 5 million the stats are not in your favor. Drug related offenses are among the most common reasons. Just know you can get fined for just about every offensive imaginable – don’t even think about littering.
Shopping is one of Singapore’s primal passions. Catering to one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the world, Singapore can feel like it’s made up of 80% retail space. What Starbucks is to Manhattan, Louis V is to Singapore. Actually I can see three Louis V’s from where I am sitting at this very moment. A more fitting title may have been Rodeo Drive with a Death Penalty.
Not too long ago Eduardo Saverin, of Facebook, ditched his U.S. passport for citizenship in Singapore. He says it is simply because he likes it here, although this move was more than likely for tax purposes. Not that he needs a job but the unemployment rate is near an astonishingly low 2%. He’s a bit of a minor celebrity here on the night scene so I can understand that he’s probably enjoying the boost in celebrity status by being in a smaller pond. There are even supposed blogs dedicated to advice on how to run into Mr. Saverin in the club scene. Jim Rogers, famous investor and economist, also lives here because he found it to be the cleanest of the financial hubs in Asia where his kids could grow up speaking Mandarin. Clean doesn’t do it justice. Singapore is spotless, I’d even eat off its subway floors.
The Marina Bay Sands is a massive architectural marvel and the crown jewel of Singapore’s harbor. The ship in the sky links the three towers together with the worlds largest infinity pool. Las Vegas Sands built this compound for $8 Billion in 2010 as the pinnacle of opulence in the most expensive city of Southeast Asia. They have one of the largest casinos in the east – Singaporeans are charged $100 to enter whereas for foreigners it is free.
“Rainy Season” doesn’t begin to cover it. In Singapore the Monsoon Season is December to March. December and January in particular are known as the wet phase. Yes, the wet phase of the monsoon season. It’s January here right now. It’s sunny at the moment but in less than 20 minutes I could be sitting in the middle of a torrential downpour. Here’s a video we took from the Marina Bay Sands swimming pool when a flash lighting storm paid us a visit.
Lastly, Singapore has spectacular food from all sorts of five star restaurants to the food courts at Raffles Market (personal favorite). Food stands are a perfect way to get a delicious and inexpensive meal and due to the Singaporean standards of perfection there is absolutely no need to question the hygiene standards at any of these places. Start with Dim Sum at $3 a plate with a cold Tiger beer.
And do your best not to make egregious gum chewing mistakes. Remember, in Singapore, Big Brother is always watching…