Posted by: rbbadger | January 1, 2009

Singapore

Well, I must say that I have been enjoying my time here in the tiny Republic of Singapore.  It is happily even easier to navigate than Hong Kong is, given that it is smaller than Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is 1,092 square kilometres (421 square miles) in size.  Tiny Singapore is only 692 square kilometres (about 267 square miles).  It is one of the last remaining city-states in the world along with Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino.

Back in the 19th century, the British East India Company set up shop here.  Sir Stamford Raffles, founding father of Singapore, obtained Singapore from the Malays and set up a soon-to-be thriving trading colony.  Free trade has been the core of Singapore’s success.  Indeed, this is one of the few places where you don’t have to pay taxes on any money you bring in.  You just have to declare it if it is over S$30,000 (about US$20,000). 

While the Malays were here at the beginning, soon other ethnic groups began to arrive.  The Chinese came here, as did Indians.  Thus, you have four official languages, but to all intents and purposes, English is the main language in use.  Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959 and Yushof bin Ishak became its first president.  (He’s on all of the money here.)  Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister.  In 1963, Singapore declared independence from Britain and entered the Malaysian Federation, only to be thrown out two years later.

The prospect of independence was terrifying for many people, owing to the fact that Singapore lacks its own fresh water supplies (until desalination became a possibility, water had to come from Malaysia) and has virtually no raw materials.  Dr. Albert Winsemius, a Dutch economist was brought to serve as economic advisor.  The government listened carefully to him and within a few years, Singapore’s standard of living dramatically increased.  This tiny little country is only second to Japan in terms of standard of living. 

Yesterday, I saw quite a bit.  In addition to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, I saw St. Andrew’s Anglican (Episcopal) Cathedral, Sir Stamford Raffles’ Landing Site, the (in)famous Merlion, the Asian Civilisations Museum, and quite a bit more.  Everything is close together that it is easy to see quite a lot, really. 

For today’s plan, I hope to visit the Singapore Philatelic Museum, the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial, and hopefully go to the evening Mass at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church (the Novena Church).  I will be back in Korea tomorrow.  I have some lesson plans that I have to get together by Monday for two different classes and I’m afraid that is going to take a while.

I asked some people here if it is always this hot.  They responded that this is pretty much what Singapore is like all year round.  I am not complaing too much, though.  Given that I will soon be back in the land of ice and snow, a little sun (actually a lot of sun) is welcome.

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