Trip Coach: April 12, 2005
Writer Lim Li Min answered your travel questions on Singapore
Singapore and North Korea have two things in common. They both like to get to know their citizens extremely well, and they both attract the kind of tourist that likes to gawk at a strangely exotic place while all the while knowing they could never live there. But that's about where the similarities end. While North Koreans barely have enough money to keep warm at nights, Singapore is one of Asia's richest countries, with some of the tastiest food, hippest nightclubs and funkiest stores anywhere east of Rome. True, Singapore does try to micro-manage everything from its citizens' creative output to making sure you flush after going to the bathroom, but for the tourist making his or her first foray into Asia, that can actually be kinda comforting.
Writer Lim Li Min answered your travel questions on Singapore on Tuesday, April 12, at 12pm EST.
Read "This Article Has Not Been Authorized" from the April issue of Budget Travel magazine.
To fund her travels around west Africa, Asia and Latin America, Lim Li Min sold really bad paintings to Hong Kong pedestrians and taught English in Italy. But as she likes putting down roots occasionally, she became a journalist, living in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. During her years as a student in Singapore, she got to know Orchard Road's shops really well, but is thankful that the city now offers far more than just air-conditioned malls. She is presently learning Thai to help her watch local films -- a great way of getting to know a new place well -- and lives in Bangkok with her journalist husband. Writing mainly on travel, culture and the arts, her work has appeared in Time magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Asian Wall Street Journal and other regional publications.
Lim Li Min: Ni Hao (that's hello) and Selamat Datang or welcome to this live chat session. Feel free to ask anything you want on Singapore...
Torrance, CA: What are the best seasons to go weather-wise?
Lim Li Min: Hi Torrance. Simple answer is that it's great almost any time of year in most parts of Southeast Asia, including Singapore. In the words of Adrian Kronaur in Good Morning Vietnam, "The weather today is HOT". Some people say that the monsoons are to be avoided, but I disagree. The rains tend to leave the whole place cooler, heightening the fragrances of Singapore's lush plantlife. Unlike the eastern seaboard of the U.S., or the monsoons in places such as India, the rains here tend to come in heavy bursts, at times lasting a few hours, So even during the monsoons, you can still be out and about. And if you do get caught in a downpour, you're probably not going to be too far from a noodle or tea shop.
There are some variations through the year, though. November through January are the coolest and wettest months, with July typically being the driest. But pack a small umbrella whatever time of year you come. Hope that helps. Best of luck.
Redwood City, CA: I lived in Singapore from 1990 to 1998 and loved it. I think it has the best governement of any counntry that I have known and I have lived in 8 and visited 65.
It is easy to criticize, but I think the fact that very few Singaporeans ever leave or stay away from Singapore speaks for itself. What other country has such a high rate of home ownership?
It's the best place that I know.
Lim Li Min: Hey Bob. Well, I would say it's all down to personal tastes really. I do agree that Singapore is great value for money; especially for someone coming from the States or Europe. The weather's great, the people are friendly and the food is something else.
And I think you've echoed the sentiment of my story. Singapore represents a pretty unique experiment -- it provides a great deal of commercial freedom, but it has decided that much of the country's social and political aspects will be controlled centrally. To a very great extent, that works on a practical level, especially from a tourist's point of view. It's totally safe, the infrastructure works perfectly, there's no corruption. (Contrast that with many other parts of Asia).
But I know a lot of Singaporeans who have emigrated to Malaysia and Perth, Australia. Infact the latter is known as "Little Singapore". A lot of Singaporeans who leave for New York or London are of a creative bent, and feel that the government's rather overbearing approach stifles their freedom of expression. I'm glad you had a great time in Singapore, and I do have many expat friends who also love it, but it isn't for everyone in the long term.