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Singapore is central, technologically driven, environmentally conscious, fashionable, and efficient. With asymmetrical buildings standing tall behind pristine relics of old towns, Singapore is like if the Modern Museum of Art became a country. From above, a hundred skyscrapers resemble people hovering over each other in a crammed train. The cars on the immaculate streets are drool worthy, even for someone (like me) who has no affinity towards luxury automakers. Chinatown and Little India exist like metaphors for the Asian melting pot that makes up the diversity of this country. Most people are bilingual and every age group knows how to use smartphones.
Singapore is the ideal segue into the rest of the Asia (and also the perfect segue for us out of Asia and back to the reverse culture shock that will be America).
We met up with a cousin who works between Singapore and Malaysia. He gave us a tour of the city and afterwards we crossed borders into Malaysia to visit family. It helps to meet people that live in the country because you learn about the country from an angle never shared on the news.
The country is slightly bigger than Austin with an even greater food haven. Hawker streets have been christened by Bourdain and one of them even has a Michelin star. But like all other “cool” cities “I’d consider moving to”, this city thrives on polarity.
Singapore is governed like a corporation and the stakeholder is their global image. They are neurotic about cleanliness and fees/fines are rampant to maintain order. Everyone is connected and we can expect that this is the world's next technological hub. There is zero tolerance (death penalty) for drugs. We walked down Arab Street to a hookah place we found on google maps to only find out they recently banned shisha in the country. So you can’t get shisha on “Hajj Lane” but you can get alcohol. With limited self expression - you won’t see street artists or food carts here.
When a city-state is this small and new, it’s easier to run it exactly however you want. Within 50 years of sovereignty, it became one of the wealthiest, advanced, and expensive countries in the world. What the government hasn’t figured out: how to relax.
Tariq and I didn’t know how to end our trip but we’re glad it eneded here. We knew we were flying out of Hong Kong and beginning our long journey back to America on March 31. The last few days, we’re in Hong Kong e a t i n g and counting the hours before we get to shower in our own bathroom again.
This is the tenth and last week we are in Asia so the “Travel Series” is over, for now. We haven’t been home or driven a car in 74 days. After 13 flights, 2 ferry's, a couple of bullet trains, a cruise, and countless tuk tuks, we will be back in Austin this weekend. There are no words for how excited we are to see friends and family again.
Next week, I’ll post a Travel Hacks download with all the wisdom and tips I’ve gathered the last few months. To everyone in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, thank you for having us, sharing your stories, and making sure we had a great time. We are so grateful.
PICTURES: Singapore (Masjid Sultan, Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands, Little India, China Town, Arab Street) / Hong Kong (Mong Kok area)
FOOD: Pictures of simple meals that stayed memorable. I'm starting to look like a dumpling after all the dim sum in Hong Kong.
FLOWERS: Cloud Forest was closed but Flower Dome was pretty cool too in Singapore. If you're into flowers, this is the motherload.