This is a utopia of sorts, with Wired Magazine calling it "Disneyland with the Death Penalty." I love how S.K. Lo poked fun at this country's unique style with her crosswalk stickers.... There are many times over the last few years where I've realized I'm really lucky that I grew up in America.
In many ways, it's a giant shopping mall. Shopping is a past time here, and you pretty much eat, shop, watch a movie, or sleep. The foreigners love exploring everything the city has to offer (like hiking, in a bug-infested forest) while the locals love hopping from one air-conditioned building to the next. Sometimes they suffer for good food in the local hawker centers, sitting on a plastic lawn chair, dying for the oscillating fan to point their way.
This place has changed a lot since I was little, and even more since my parents were younger. My dad was a British subject for a brief period of his life, and my grandparents suffered through WWII there. My ancestors have had interesting careers, like being rubber plantation workers to undertakers to refurbished car parts salesmen (all different sides of the family). The street my father used to live on no longer exists, and many of the colonial buildings have been torn out, replaced by skyscrapers. Though interestingly enough, some still exist at the ex-military base on the western side of the island (as I discovered on my scenic drive with a family friend in his convertible).
It's an expensive place to be, with cars that would cost normally <$20,000 being sold for >$100,000 with the government tax included. I don't have to worry about lodging since I have relatives who like having me stay with them (thanks mah-mah and all the uncles and aunties!), and food is cheap. (And good. I wish we had food like this in LA or Boston.) And truthfully, I miss a lot of the fruits. Jumbu, rambutan, lychee, longan, custard apple, papaya... they're all delicious.
So this time round, when I head back this summer (2015), the goal is to do some genealogy research, spend time with my extended family, and be an actual tourist. We'll see how that goes.
Written June 4, 2015