Singapore Swing

Interesting article from Smithsonian Magazine with a journalist’s view of how much Singapore has changed in the 37 years since he had first come here.

“It was 3 a.m. and I was fresh off a Singapore Airlines flight from Newark—at 18 hours, the longest regularly scheduled, nonstop commercial flight in the world. Jet lag was playing havoc with my system. So I left the hotel and headed over to Boat Quay, not expecting to find much except fresh air and solitude. This, after all, was Singapore, long ridiculed as a prissy, soulless place, with no DNA for fun, culture or the arts. Singapore? Isn’t that where chewing gum is illegal and Cosmopolitan magazine is banned as too racy? Where bars close before anyone starts having a good time, and everyone is so obsessed with work that the government launched a smile campaign to get people to lighten up?… 

… Whoooa! Could this be the stuffy, somber Singapore I had been warned about? This tiny nation—whose ascendancy from malaria-infested colonial backwater to gleaming global hub of trade, finance and transportation is one of Asia’s great success stories—is reinventing itself, this time as a party town and regional center for culture and the arts. “Prosperity is not our only goal, nor is economic growth an end in itself,” says Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong. Translation: let the good times roll. Suddenly people are describing the city with a word that, until recently, wasn’t even in the local vocabulary: trendy.”

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