Hong Kong, who has for many years stood as our favourite big city in Asia, has just been usurped by the underdog city-state of Singapore. I refer to Singapore as the underdog because I really wasn’t expecting much from it and in fact didn’t really want to go (sorry Singaporeans!) but felt obligated to agree, as Marc was interested in seeing the city’s world-renowned green infrastructure. I am after all a supportive spouse. Plus it was an easy stop on our way to Borneo. Well Singapore surprised us. Instead of a chaotic busy metropolis it was a beautiful, clean, and well-planned city. Everything about Singapore is thoroughly organized. If there is ever a perfect city for Type A personalities like mine, it’s Singapore. It felt more like a midsize city rather than the city-state that it is. At a population of 5.5 million, it’s not small and with an incredible mix of people from around the world, it’s one of the most multicultural countries I know. It also has an incredible food and shopping scene that rivals Hong Kong’s (and likely a happening nightlife but we didn’t really get to experience that travelling with two young children). Sadly I did not get to indulge in the shopping either as we are travelling four more countries with overweight luggage.
Singapore is also architecturally impressive. It might even give Barcelona, the reigning champ for best architectural city in our travels, a run for its title. Many of the city’s architectural jewels are a result of the city’s dedication to green infrastructure. The crown jewel is of course Gardens by the Bay.
Before we arrived and experienced Singapore for ourselves, we heard how expensive the city was and how many strict rules it has. Yes, the hotels (especially for families) are quite expensive but we found the food and other costs to be relatively affordable and dare I say quite cheap compared to Hong Kong. As for Singapore’s reputation as being strict; this is something Singaporeans are well aware of and even make fun of on tourist t-shirts. Perhaps it’s because we have been living in tightly controlled China for the past nine months but we didn’t find Singapore’s rules confining. It’s all relative I guess. Perhaps the rules in Singapore actually make sense (where so many in China do not) i.e. many of the residential apartments are government housing (to keep cost of housing affordable) and there’s a rule about the ethnic make up of the apartment to make sure there’s a even mix of people throughout the city and that one apartment is not all Malay or all Chinese. I think this is a good solution to ghettoization. Or the new city policy that any new roads constructed must have an even amount of green space i.e. however wide the road is the green space must be the same width. Just imagine that. Imagine if Toronto adopted that policy. Is having strict rules wrong if it promotes a different kind of city, a better city? Then again, I don’t live in Singapore and my opinion is really only that of a visitor.
Here are some highlights from our short visit to Singapore: