About Singapore (aka Sin-no-more)…the city-state of 5.3 million turned 50 last year and boy have things changed. From swampy mosquito-infested British Navy outpost, to amazing cosmopolitan capitalist engine that could. In the global world of business deals, Singapore competes confidently with Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It is one of my favorite city-states. (BTW: Als0 one of the three places with the highest density are Monaco, Macao and Singapore. And notice that not one of them remotely qualifies as a desperate case! Maybe city-states are the way to go?)
But Singapore is a state of mind and only Singapore slings and Singapore noodles are real, because it is more a concept than a country with no great historical narrative or set of national myths—just one man with a vision: Lee Kuan Yew and his dominating PAP party. People don’t realize that Singapore was actually kicked out of its relationship with Malaysia in 1965—hence the 5oth birthday last year!
The Singapore of today is not the bawdy Singapore of 25-30 years ago; and for that, like Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Macau today—you either love them for that or hate them. Jury is out with me, but I am leaning. It is a more mature, confident country. Talk to an older Singaporean, however, and at some point you will hear her wax lyrical about the lost kampongs—the small, intimate villages of Singapore and the dynamic marketplaces that were Chinatown, the Arab Quarter and Little India…today all replaced by highways and high-rises. In heritage versus development—development wins every time; although a few former colonial landmarks still stand.
Chinatown, circa 1989…
So, words and phrases to describe SIN: eclectic cuisine, extraordinarily safe, well-run, efficient transportation systems for all, sleek soaring skyscrapers, consumeristic, multi-cultural yet homogenous, clean, soulless, malls, clean, compact, Draconian-like in its efforts to keep people on the straight and narrow– Bubblegum is illegal. Jaywalking is illegal. Flushing is a must. Drug possession is punishable by death. An American youngster made headlines when he was caned for vandalizing cars—in fact, I think William Gibson said it best in 1993 that Singapore was like, “Disneyland with the Death Penalty.” And hard not to agree. It is very Orange County-ish too.
Colonial Rules…but now new rules.
Yet too many of the emerging economies of the world, Singapore is a model. (aka the Beijing Consensus or even Asian Values). It is politically stable and geopolitically independent; its citizens enjoy a high standard of living and all the consumption-based trappings—but not much more than the trappings they are (be careful what you wish for, right!?)—of democracy. To its politicians and status quo business community defenders, Singapore is an achievement born of self-sacrifice, hard work and commitment to inclusive multiculturalism—caning is optional.
The deal is that under the so-called Beijing Consensus, that evolved out of the 1989 Chinese Tianamen Square Massacre, that the average middle class and working class family can expect their government to deliver the economic goods, move forward effectively and efficiently, provide for positive social well-being benefits and individual prosperity through education (aka Mandarin-style meritocracy) along with assuring constantly rising standards of living… in exchange for, at times, authoritarian top-down imposed rigorously-planned modernization dictates of how it is going to be. No messy democracy here and few inconvenient truths are reported as Singapore restricts civil liberties because constant economic progress has its costs—as well as benefits! Things change here quickly. Permits are issued. Sweetheart deals made. And jobs are created. Who needs democratic input? And many other emerging nations of the world have taken notice too; they see the West mired in finger-pointing, political paralysis, growing inequalities and declining standards of living—not so here.
Enough geopolitical history…we are here and having fun celebrating Earth Day 2016.
Speaking of Earth Day…the heat here in Singapore is just so pervasive; it envelops your body in a sticky fluid that is the omnipresence of 100% humidity. It is indeed the closet thing to swimming on land you can do I imagine.
We saw no teams today as we banded about the place, shopping, eating and seeing sights. At 3:00PM the skies suddenly opened as they are wont due in the part of this tropical world, with a deluge falling on everyone not frequenting the malls.
Happy Birthday to Bop (aka Andrew) of SOCA Warriors…
Everyone was set to return this evening at 10:00PM and receive their next 4-hour notice—I know, we just got here right! From arriving here yesterday (Thursday) until when we arrive at our next, next destination (Saturday), things will be hectic. Over that period of time, teams will have conducted scavenges in three very unique countries (maybe 5 for some!?) as the 2016 edition of the world travel championship begins to heat up after our preliminary starts in Mexico City and Tokyo. The fun has begun here in Singapore with event leaders vying for the top of the leader board with all teams fully knowing the rules of the game, how to pace themselves, and how to just let themselves go and be silly. There is no quit in this 2016 tribe even though some already know they will not be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers. The marathon 23-day around the world adventure is now in full swing!
This competition is a lot like life…you have to do your best and hope for the best, despite knowing that sometimes you will lose a game once in a while; and that it is okay to lose, as long as you get up, dust yourself off and continue to do your best. It does not matter what others say or think, you are doing this for yourself. In real life, everyone does not get participation medals just for showing up–that is only half the battle–there are winners and losers, but it is always important to keep moving forward with honorable intentions and honoring yourself by doing your best…onward all.
New marching orders are coming…and two new secret destinations will be revealed tonight. Stay tuned.
10:00PM Update…we are off to Chennai, India for a brief 6-Hour Layover Challenge…and then? Breakfast in Singapore, lunch in India and dinner ?