Singapore is essentially one big city, with 4 million inhabitants, an efficient metro (MRT), clean streets and bathrooms, and an amazing lack of democracy. We were warned that Singapore is a "fine city" before our arrival - with heavy fines for jaywalking, failing to flush a public toilet, selling gum, and begging. The whole place feels very controlled, regulated, and antiseptic. We noticed construction everywhere and were told that the government replaces "old" buildings after they are 8-10 years old! This is both to make sure that Singapore remains the "cutting edge of New Asia" and to provide employment. Singaporeans are mostly of Chinese, Malay, and Indian descent although one in four is an expatriate. All and all - it is an interesting "experiment" in social engineering.

Since we weren't interested in shopping or clubbing, we sought out the less modern parts of the city - including ethnic neighborhoods and the little bit of nature that remains in this concrete jungle. In ChinaTown we ate dim sum, explored the market, and Patti had a great foot reflexology session.

In Little India, we wandered through the little groceries, ate fabulous Thali food, and admired a Hindu temple (without the cows). In terms of nature, we did a touristy but fun "night safari" - essentially a night drive/hike through the zoo - in the middle of the one remaining patch of rainforest on the island. The highlight was the huge tiger that rushed the glass while we standing there - he was HUGE.

We also ventured out to the island of Pulau Ubin, home to former granite quarries, beautiful birdlife, and a way of life that resembles what it was like in Singapore before all the construction. After a short bumboat (small ferry) ride across, we spent a couple of hours doing some off-road biking on the island. We saw beautiful birds, fisherman's homes, roadside temples, and even a wild pig and her piglets! Even though it was approximately 95 degrees with 110% humidity, it was the highlight of our visit.

We did, of course, spend some time in the city itself. At Raffles, the historic 6-star colonial hotel, Dean took an evening class at the Raffles Culinary Academy. While the instruction was not as impressive as that at L'Academie in Washington, the resulting dim sum was pretty tasty! We also got suckered into having an $8 "singapore sling" at the Raffles Long Bar and gawked at the "Indian Haute Couture" fashion show in the lobby on our way out the door.

We're more than ready to leave Singapore and get on to our upcoming adventures. Next is Vietnam, where we are going to Hanoi and then on a highland trek. In China, we are going independently to the southwest region of Yunnan. In Japan, we will wait to see if we have any money left before making any big plans! It is hard to believe that we will be home in a little over a month!

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