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Singapore

Singapore is a remarkable city state. The 700 square kilometer island gained independence from Malaysia in 1965 and is today rated as the world's most business friendly economy. With 4.5 million people living on the island, it's also the world's most densely populated country in the world. Amazingly, Singapore's size was just 580 square kilometers in the 1960ies, but the ongoing land reclamation project constantly creates new land with earth from Singapore's hills and the neighboring countries to keep pace with the growing demand.

Singapore.jpg
(it is inherently difficult to make nice skyline pics - this one's from Wiki.)

But enough dry facts! We arrived here with the cliché in mind that Singapore must be sterile beyond reason, because littering is heavily fined. Like every cliché, this turned out to be wrong. It is indeed a very clean city, but coming from a place like Zurich, there is nothing special about it. What you wouldn't find in Zurich, however, are 1000 S$ fines for riding a bike through an underpass (about 700 USD or 800 CHF).

noriding.jpg

This being the most densely populated country and a booming economy, prices for sleeping are quite high. We were therefore especially lucky to be able to sleep at a friend's place (Flo Faes) who works here as a translator. He lives very close to the center, where apartments cost about 6000-10000 USD (a month, that is). Apparently, thousands of foreign companies don't wanna miss out on this booming economy and happily pay the prices. So once again, we were extremely lucky.

Singapore is a multicultural city, a fact that is conveniently reflected in the food offerings. Chinese, Indian and Malay are the "local" dishes, reflecting the major ethnic groups here (but of course, nothing keeps you from going to one of the gazillion shopping malls to buy Swiss chocolate and a good bottle of Spanish wine ;-) The best experience so far was eating at a hawker centre where dozens and dozens of small, authentic stalls cook whatever youn a couple of minutes, for about 4 dollars.

We also took the chance to go see the Singapore Zoo, which is promoted to be the nicest zoo in the world. We are still a bit traumatized by Australian tourism "promotion" (where a cosmopolitan city is defined as one that has at least one chinese restaurant), but it is true, the Singapore Zoo is the most amazing zoo we've ever been to. The entire area is covered by lush, authentic rainforest, and most habitats are as natural as you can have it in a zoo. They also have the largest primate exhibit in the world, and as our guide book so aptly puts it, "you can watch 50 shameless red-bummed baboons doing things that Singaporeans still get arrested for". Indeed, the animals looked very happy.

The most entertaining animal, like so often, is Homo sapiens. Here is a typical snapshot of three individuals, posing with a visiting Kangaroo from Australia in the hope for food (for aesthetic reasons, we cut off the kangaroo on the right hand side who was taking the picture). The expression on the kangroo's face is priceless. Imagine what it must be thinking!

homozoo.jpg

We are now getting ready to cross the border to Malaysia tomorrow. We will take the train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital city, where we plan to stay three days before heading to the east cost. The world's oldest jungle awaits us.

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Comments (807)

ork:

is a little late but I had a question about Darwin. Is there any real reason why that place is called Darwin? Is everybody an evolutionary biologist or what?
BTW, keep blogging as it is highly enjoyable to read this stuff.

ork.

Sala:

Sure. There's a huge gate around Darwin, and if you want to enter the city, you have to answer a tricky question about evolutionary biology (ours was: What is Zahavi's handicap principle, and does it work if males are not polygamous).

On the serious side of things, Darwin is called Darwin because the first british guy to sight Darwin was sailing on the HMS Beagle, the same boat that Darwin had been sailing on earlier on his trip around the world, and he named the place in honour of Darwin.

Nic:

Maybe this Kangaroo is also from Darwin and is doing fieldwork for his evolutionary biology paper...

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