Sometime in 2010 a scathing review of Singapore written by Cassandra James entitled “Five reasons not to Travel to Singapore“ - a Yahoo Contributor - made its way online and many disgruntled Singaporeans took to the web in defence of their country.
I moved to Singapore about a year ago from Sydney, Australia and while some of what Cassandra said did ring true, the obvious bias was too disturbing for me to leave alone. So now I’m doing something I never thought I would in my lifetime. Defend Singapore.
Singapore’s strict rules around censorship are sometimes a pain in the you-know-what, especially since free speech, satire and ridicule is the bedrock of human emancipation and freedom. But every day this little island utopia is changing and freeing up. In the last decade things have changed dramatically and in another 20 years my bet is that Singapore will have embraced these values and become a more free and open society.
I too have traveled around South East Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia) and even lived in Kuala Lumpur for a few years. Singapore admittedly is more than a little rigid compared to these ‘anything-goes’ Asian cousins, but the benefits of this first-world Asian country are lengthy. It’s a pity Cassandra was in too much of a hurry in her 2-day stay that she didn’t get a taste of them.
1. Singapore isn’t boring - you are.
As we all know “only boring people are bored” and Cassandra’s complaint of Singapore being boring is a fatuous one. The sort of whinging complaint you’d expect to hear from a spoilt child that’s been banned from playing PSP.
I’m hard pressed to think of a single thing you can’t do in Singapore that you can do in the neighbouring countries Cassandra mentioned, bar one thing… drugs. The claim that Singapore is boring is actually a common one among tourists and from what I can tell is a euphemism for “I can’t find any illegal substances”. And rightly so. Any decent amount of banned substance can land you with a jail sentence or even the death penalty. While the public seems to be more relaxed these days with the consumption of marijuana at concerts and events (yes, you can smell it), I think we can all agree that a drug free society is a far safer one. I can’t say that I miss the half-dazed, glary eyed, sniffing colleagues of mine who were barely able to string a sentence together because of an obvious cocaine addiction, or the vomit covered side walk of Sydney that prevents you from walking in a straight line and appropriately begets the term “spew city”.
2. Singapore is expensive - and you get what you pay for.
A simple fact that that may be amiss to the untrained eye - goods in Singapore are authentic. If you want the cheap counterfeits then Bangkok is your knock-off heaven. Yes, things in Singapore are real and when you compare prices of authentic goods (like sunnies, laptops or electronics) you’ll find that they’re cheaper here than they are overseas, and that’s not mentioning the tax-refund at the airport.
Housing is expensive and so is buying a vehicle, but for a tourist looking to stay for a few days the cost of accommodation and traveling about is marginal. Taxi’s are cheap and you never get lost. Buses and trains actually arrive on time, all the time - and cost pittance. That’s far more than can be said for any other country in the area or even in the west.
3. The women are ridiculously hot.
Yes, this is coming from a male (Ang Moh no less), but nobody can deny that the girls in Singapore are sleek, sweet and sophisticated and speak a delightful language known as “Singlish”, a charming mash up of ‘Singaporean’? and English. Not only is Singapore home to the greatest variety of ethnic cultures, but the women here are so nicely presented it’s almost impossible not to get neck strain when walking. Singaporean women were recently rated by an international opinion poll to be the 4th most attractive women in the world.
4. Singapore is strict and has the lowest crime rate in the world.
Sure, drugs are illegal and the penalty is heftier than most other countries, but look at the benefits. No stoned teens making a mess of the streets and one of the lowest crime rates in the world. If you were to leave your wallet on a restaurant table, there’s a very likely chance it will be there when you return - how miraculous is that?
Singapore might be strict and there’s certainly some doubt as to exactly how democratic this autocratic-like nation really is, but Singapore’s zero-tolerance to crime has born a culture who abides by and respects the law. Whether this has a cultural impact on art and creativity is debatable but being able to leave your apartment at 2am for food and feel completely safe is a peace-of-mind simply not available in most other countries. Toilets must be flushed (as I would assume your parents taught you when you were young) and guess what - they’re always clean. The city is absolutely spotless and most would agree that people with the annoying habit of chewing gum probably belong in jail anyway.
5. Singapore is fantastic for business.
If it’s cheap goods or street food (or drugs) that you need for a good time, then Singapore isn’t for you. The truth of the matter is, Singapore isn’t designed and doesn’t care for this. Singapore is where the West meets the East. An Asian, but English speaking hub for business and enterprise - which has recently been rated (for the seventh time) to be the best place to do business in the world.
It’s warm weather entails very small amounts of clothing worn by the female inhabitants. It’s ambitious and business friendly environment make it the perfect place to setup shop and it’s close proximity to the more “gritty” Asian cousins make it the ideal place for cheap travel on weekends.
For all of this I’m ok with a few more “rules & regulations” that are (for any decent, law abiding citizen) by no means hard to follow.