Also known as: The Lion City; one of The Four Asian Tigers (the free and developed economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan).
Population: 5.3 million in 2013 and steadily climbing.
Government: Singapore is a parliamentary republic (a single legislative chamber representing many constituencies). Singapore’s constitution established a representative democracy (or three branch government – like that of the USA), but The Economist classifies Singapore as a “hybrid regime,” which is the third best rank out of four in the Democracy Index, or only “partly free.” The current reigning party, The People’s Action Party, has won every election since Singapore declared independence in 1959.
Median household income: Census in 2013 was roughly $93,000 a year, or $7,800 monthly. Shocking, right? We thought so too. We’ve had some interesting conversations that suggest that the Singaporean government might be fudging these numbers a bit, and not taking a census on the lower classes (it is rare to even see where these lower classes live; they exist on the outskirts of the city). It could also be a result of the fact that adult children tend to live with their parents into their 30s.
Weather: Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate. Because it is so close to the equator there are no discernable seasons. There is high humidity, abundant rainfall, and temperature sits from 72-95 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Yup, we were really sweaty.
Our favorite places:
-Arab St. Located off the Bugis metro, this area of town is predominantly Muslim. Unlike the rest of the city (which tends to look and feel pretty sterile) this street is bustling with vibrant clothing shops and tailors, cult cinemas, and Turkish restaurants.
-Books Actually, a quirky independent bookshop specializing in Singaporean authors from all genres. Filled with interesting coffee table books, new plays and some world classics. They even fund their own small printing press called Math Paper Press that publishes new poets, playwrights and essayists.
-Woods in the Books, a children’s bookstore next to Books Actually that has every child classic you can think of from Shel Silverstein to Peter Pan, usually published with beautiful and whimsical illustrations.
-The Spiffy Dapper, a tucked away craftsman cocktail lounge in Chinatown frequented by our hosts. Here you just tell the bartender what liquor and flavor profile you’d like and they whip you up something new and unique.
-The symbol of Singapore is the Merlion. Yes, a half-lion, half-fish. This symbol has no linkage to traditional myth or folklore and was originally thought up by the tourism board (and we thought hallucinogens were illegal in Singapore).
-Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, was interred our second day in the city. Everyone was in mourning and businesses were shut down for two whole days. Ele went to see family friend’s band, Pink Martini, perform at The Esplanade three days after and the band was told to “not look too happy or rebellious” while onstage, as the country was still grieving.
-Singapore is almost completely made up of malls, there is even a place on Orchard St. (like Fifth Avenue) where you can see three Hermes stores from one corner.