Singapore is a city-state located in Southeast Asia. It is a former British colony, which is known for a variety of Malay, Indian, Chinese and British influences. Being located 1.5 degrees north of the equator; Singapore experiences a hot and humid climate. Even during my stay in late November (monsoon season) the temperatures were constantly in the 90’s during the day.
When many westerners think of Singapore, they think of the incident that took place in 1994 involving American Michael Fay. He was convicted of vandalism and sentenced to six strokes of the cane. This incident brought to the forefront Singapore’s strict stance on crime.
If you are a woman don’t worry, caning is only reserved for male criminals aged under 50. The Criminal Procedure Code allows caning for thirty different violations. Chewing gum is also technically illegal. This makes the streets and sidewalks look noticeably better than anywhere I have traveled. I was looking for a piece of gum stuck on the sidewalk or litter anywhere I could. It basically turned into a personal scavenger hunt. Results: In five days, one bottle of water spotted.
The death penalty is also strictly enforced in Singapore. Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence. Those convicted and sentenced to death by hanging are usually hanged within seven days of the conviction.
The island itself is very small. A backpacker can rent a bike and ride across the island in half a day. Most of the action though, takes place in the central business district. Here companies from around the globe are trying to get a piece of Singapore’s booming economy. The adjacent harbor is the busiest in the world. A constant line up of cargo ships in the ocean is an impressive sight from shore.
Overall Singapore is similar to the U.S. in terms of diversity. Most of the population is of Chinese descent but the secular society prides itself on a variety of religions and customs. Singapore has four official languages, and several official religions including: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Taoism, Islam, and Confucianism. The people are very friendly on the island as well. Singapore has definitely found the right mix of eastern and western culture.