The Island City State

If I say “island city state”, I can only be talking about Singapore. The other two city states in the world are the Vatican and Monaco, neither of which are islands. Singapore was established in 1819 by Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British East India Company. The city still follows much of his original concept. After the collapse of the company, Singapore became a British crown colony. In 1963 it gained independence and joined with several other former British colonies to form Malaysia. It separated from Malaysia two years later over philosophical differences and became an independent city state.

Singapore is a clean, modern, beautiful and safe city. Much of this is achieved through a very high level of regulation. Chewing gum is prohibited. Any form of littering results in a heavy fine. Spitting in public will also get you fined. If you rob someone with a knife, you will get many years in jail and some number of lashes with a cane. If you shoot someone (I am not clear if you have to hit them with the bullet or not, but you definitely don’t have to kill them), it is an automatic death penalty. Possession of illegal drugs is also an automatic capital offense. As a result of the heavy penalties and rigorous enforcement, Singapore people are rule followers.The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is one of the iconic structures in Singapore. It is the same “Sands” as Las Vegas. Hotel rooms go for $400 per night and it averages 90% occupancy. The cantilevered top contains the hotels infinity pool and an observation deck open to the public. The unusual building to the left is a museum and there is a small Luis Vuitton shop in the small building over the water in the center of the picture.The other icon of Singapore is the Merlion, a fountain with the body of a mermaid and the head of a lion.The Singapore financial district has many modern high rise buildings. All parts of the city are laced with green areas.Adjacent to the financial district are the old colonial buildings.

We visited two gardens. One was the Botanical Gardens. The climate in Singapore (tropical, hot, and humid) is perfect for growing orchids.The orchids came in all sizes and colors. The bottom picture is the Golden Arches of Singapore, where the arches are covered with yellow orchids.They also have a collection of VIP orchids. When a dignitary visits Singapore, they find out their favorite color and ask them to pick their favorite unnamed orchid in that color. That orchid is then named after them. The above orchid is named after the Obamas.

The second park was the Garden by the Bay where plants that would not normally grow in Singapore are artistically presented in two modern, climate controlled greenhouses.You can see the two greenhouses behind the futuristic tree towers.The flower garden greenhouse was filled with flowers, trees, and greenery from all over the world. I don’t know if we were just lucky that the cherry trees were blooming or they do something so that the cherry trees are always blooming.The Gardens featured everything from unusual cactus to baobab trees, to miniature scenes from Japanese Gardens, to wood sculptures. I believe the eagle head sculpture is a tree stump with its natural roots and the stump carved into an eagle head. There were other similar sculptures.This gives you another view of the tree towers. There are plants growing up the trunks and I believe they will eventually fill in the canopy. There are not enough superlatives to describe these gardens and the pictures only hint at the beauty. Some sea day, I may try to put something more comprehensive together.

We also took a tour which explored the Peranakan culture of Singapore. When wealthy Chinese traders visited Singapore, a shift in the prevailing winds would often strand them there for up to six months. They would often marry Malay women and their descendants were known as Peranakans. We saw an exhibit of their unique handcrafts, sampled their typical foods, and walked the streets to see their architecture.They mostly lived in colorful shop houses with a shop on the ground floor and living quarters on the top floor.Singapore is about 75% Chinese, 13% Malaysian, and 9% Indian. This means respectively Buddhist temples, mosques, and Hindu temples can be found in the city. Prayer services were just ending at this Hindu temple. Hindus treat their gods just as people would like to be treated. At the end of the service, the priests are taking away the food that was given to the god that morning and pulling the curtain so the god can rest for the afternoon.Singapore has both a Chinatown and an Indiatown. These houses in Chinatown are reminiscent of those in the Peranakan area. About eighty percent of the residents live in public housing. By law the residents of any public housing must match the ethnic population of the city, thus they have legislated integration. If you live in a Chinese designated apartment, you can only sell it to a Chinese person. Our guide said that the different cultures are accepting and tolerant of the other diverse cultures in the city.

We would love to spend a week or two in Singapore. English is their first language, but they must also learn another language in school. This would make it easy to explore Singapore on our own. Our next stop is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

5 thoughts on “The Island City State”

  1. Bruce, thanks for such an informative post about Singapore. I didn’t know much about it and learned a lot. Loved the garden pictures!

  2. What a great and informative post on Singapore. I didn’t know much about it and learned a lot. Great pictures of the garden as well!

    (Sorry if this is a duplicate comment… having trouble posting.)

  3. After reading your fascinating post I can understand why you are intrigued with Singapore. I look forward to your future visit!

  4. We also enjoyed Singapore on our visit about a decade ago. I remember those gardens being pretty special too. Good informative blog! Looks like you’re covering a lot of territory. Cruises are good for getting the feel of a place bit one day in port often isn’t enough. You see a place you like and want to return to explore in more depth. Looks like you’ll be back to Singapore. Thanks for the blog!

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