The first thing I saw after picking up my backpack at baggage claim was Kristof’s goofy face:

After a month of traveling alone I had finally united with my permanent travel partner! He had only been waiting for me at the airport for nine hours, which apparently he spent wandering through the bowels of the airport and sleeping in a concrete corner. My day hadn’t been much better, eight hours of flight time plus a three hour layover in Darwin, Australia during which nothing happened except that the candy machine ate my money and my laptop ran out of battery. Needless to say, it was good to be together and we set off for our host’s apartment in high spirits.

I’ll write more about our fantastic host Ben and his awesome apartment later. This post is about the daytime hours in which Kristof and I walked all over downtown Singapore and the Marina and noted the Western aspects of the city.

Singapore, a city-state of close to 5 million people, is called the “Gateway to Asia” because the culture is originally Asian but with a great deal of Western influence due to the fact that several different Western countries have either colonized or invested in the country. The ethnic breakdown is approximately 67% Chinese, 13% Malays, 10% Tamil and 10% Westerners and other foreigners. When you walk through Little India or eat at a hawker stall you see very few white faces, but when you get closer to the central business district you can see just how much of the overall culture has been affected by Western influences. Finance and advertisement are big industries here. Singapore is the third most visited city in the world (after Paris and London) and is the economic and financial center of most of Asia. Many of the visitors come for business reasons but there is a thriving tourism industry here as well. Like most large Asian cities, within the last twenty years the skyline has changed drastically and there is dramatic annual growth, around 14%. Here’s your basic skyline view to see what I’m talking about. This is about 35% of the full thing.

Inside a museum we found a neat model of the city through 2013:

The coolest building in Singapore is the Sands Resort. Within the last 15 years in an effort to promote tourism the Singapore government decided to allow two large, high end casino resorts to be built downtown, one of which is owned by the Las Vegas Sands. Entrance to the casino floor is free for foreigners if you bring your passport and costs $100 Singapore dollars per day to enter if you are a Singapore national. The government doesn’t want lower class citizens to have a chance of wasting all their income on gambling. The resort consists of three skyscrapers connected by a boat-shaped bridge on top, covered with a huge pool, bars, palm trees and observation decks. The first basement is an extensive upscale shopping mall and the second basement is about the ritziest casino floor I’ve ever seen. So here’s what the building looks like:

As I said there is a ton of growth and there is construction everywhere for new buildings, tourist attractions, subway lines and general improvement. This building is being constructed along the wharf inside the Marina.

We went to the top of the Sands for a better view of everything. The best part of the bridge is the pool.

Inside the Marina along the waterfront is a soccerfield and a beautiful performance and lecture hall.

Something we found interesting about Singapore is that it is arguably the busiest port in the world due to its centralized location in Southeast Asia and because all the surrounding islands protect it very well from storms. Shipping lanes extend for miles out to sea and the port itself seemed very active.

Nearby is the Fullteron hotel which used to be the post office of the port. When ships called at the port they were required to visit the post office to report their inventory. It is now an upscale hotel. Singapore puts huge taxes on cars, so much that cars are about twice as expensive. That doesn’t stop millionaires from forking out $500k for a Ferrari or a Lambo, of which we saw dozens.

If you will excuse me now, there are children in trouble who need my help.