With Vid off adventuring in India, I was left all by myself to explore Singapore. This is undoubtedly evident by the substandard quality of the pictures and perhaps more notably by the absence of people in all pictures!
I have tried not to form strong opinions about places before visiting them, but I admit that I had some expectations travelling to Singapore from Hong Kong. I (quite ignorantly) was expecting the two cities to be similar, not exactly the same, but similar. They were both former British colonies that people commonly describe as “Asia 101”, eastern-hemisphere cities where westerners can easily adapt and comfortably live. I have heard Hong Kong described several times as “Asia for Dummies”. If this is in fact the case, then Singapore should attract the title “Asia for Complete Idiots”.
While English is certainly present in Hong Kong, the strong influence from mainland China ensures that Cantonese (and now Mandarin) are also equally prevalent. Singapore, lacking the Chinese neighbours, is much more English than Hong Kong. While there is an influence of Mandarin and Malay, English dominates.
I was also surprised at how spread out and relaxed the city was. There were several green spaces and parks and tasteful new developments. I realize that with Hong Kong as a reference point, I will probably be inclined to make this comment about all cities, but Singapore was still a surprise, even with my tilted frame of reference. It’s like Britain realized that they really went overboard on HK and decided to dial things back a couple of notches in Singapore!
Once of my friends in Hong Kong knew a Canadian girl who worked at TD in Singapore. She was extremely nice and showed me several sites and restaurants (hawker markets) in the city. We had authentic satay and roti prata. I even had the opportunity to join up with the Canadian-expat dragon boat team, paddling around the waters of Singapore and gaining some amazing views of the city.
Perhaps the coolest building in Singapore was the Marine Bay Sands hotel (pictured below). The three tower hotel hosts a restaurant, night club and infinity pool on the boat-like structure that connects the pillars on the top. The second picture (below) is taken from the nightclub on the roof of the hotel!
On my last day in the city, I ventured over to Sentosa Island. I’m pretty sure this is what Rob Ford has in mind when he crazily rambles about transforming the Toronto Islands into a world-class tourist attraction. There are several man-made (but nevertheless, amazing) beaches, golf courses, theme parks, casinos and (perhaps most importantly to Mr. Ford’s vision) a monorail!
Overall, I think Singapore would have a slight edge on Hong Kong for livability. However, the relentless heat and monsoon rains (witnessed first-hand after dragon boating) that come with being 1 degree from the equator certainly tip the scales more into balance. Also, while property is slightly cheaper than HK, everything else is definitely not. Costs add up quite quickly when you are paying at least $20 CAD for a meal and a minimum of $10 CAD for a drink at the bar!
Check out the rest of the (admittedly sub-par) pictures on Facebook: