Monday, August 4, 2008

Weekend excursion: Singapore

Coming to Hong Kong, I told many people that I was sick of traveling-- after Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, China, New Zealand, and Mexico, all in the last two years, I thought that my travel lust had been quenched... Now that I'm here though, my biggest regret is not building in more time for traveling. There are so many southeast Asian countries just a plane hop away!

I managed to schedule one trip before the massive work explosion that is the Olympics (I found out yesterday that my hours will be 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. once the Games start!). This past weekend, my roommate and I went to Singapore.

Many call Singapore the other NYC of Asia. I think Hong Kong is safe in claiming rights to the title. Singapore is too clean to be an NYC contender. Little ladies kept appearing out of thin air to sweep up nonexistent trash in the MRT (Singapore's subway, not to be confused with the MTR, Hong Kong's subway).

Singapore was a nice break from HK. It had a cool breeze, less humidity, less pollution, trees, and wide avenues, so you're not constantly bumping into people on the sidewalks. And the food trumps HK's cuisine. It's a mix of Singaporean Chinese, Malay, and Indian food, and it's all super cheap. There are "hawker centers" all over the place, which are basically big food courts. Here's one in the Bedok neighborhood:

Singapore is a really interesting "nanny state." Seventy percent of the housing is government-subsidized. Priority is given to married couples for the subsidized apartments, in part because the government is trying to encourage people to get married and have kiddies. The replacement rate is something like 1.2 children per couple. The population of Singapore is currently just over four million, but the government is aiming for six million in the near future, which is difficult with that 1.2 child per couple rate.

The single friends I hung out with reported on some of the things the government is doing to try to boost the nation's numbers. One way is by sending expatriates "permanent resident invitations." (If you can't get your own to procreate, recruit!) Another way is by organizing events for singles, such as "marriage cruises." Government-sponsored mixers. Very cool. Interestingly, the government tends to organize different events for college grads and non-college grads.

We did lots of sight-seeing, exploring the Arab, Malay, and Indian districts and going on a night safari at the Singapore Zoo. Also stopped by the famous Raffles Hotel that dates back to the British colonial days:

Now, I am back in Hong Kong with just 20 days left. Time is flying. With the Olympics three days away, work is getting crazy. I've been managing much of the content on the IHT Olympics page. At this point, I still have time for non-Olympics stuff, but that will change soon. Here's a slideshow I made about President Bush's reception in South Korea.

1 comment:

Scheherazade said...

I love your descriptive writing, I can see the ladies sweeping the very clean streets and am actually laughing out loud!