Posted by: danguard | July 18, 2009

40 Days & 40 Nights – Final Thoughts

Well, in a few hours I’ll be on a plane back to Blighty. It’s been a hell of a ride. I’ve accomplished so much more than I was expecting; have come away with heaps of research material including 7 invaluable interviews; met some incredible people and have been overwhelmed by their warmth and generosity; made some good friends; and have lived, worked and breathed two incredible cities for 6 weeks, and feel I’ve really seen sides of both KL and Singapore that the average tourist wouldn’t. I’ve enjoyed both cities, KL is an exhilarating place to visit, but it’s Singapore that I come away from having fallen in love with.

It’s certainly not perfect. Perhaps it tries to be a little too western (American) at times, at least superficially. One advert selling a skin whitener I find particularly unsettling (didn’t Michael Jackson teach us anything?!). If you really look around though beneath the shiny surface, eat at the hawker stalls, walk around Little India on a Sunday night when all the Bangladeshi workers come out, walk off-track, go to local theatre productions and art, you’ll see the city’s multiculturalism shining through. Some people before this trip told me that Singapore was bland, lacking in character, too clean and sterile. To be fair, most people only experience Singapore for a day or two as a stopover to other destinations. They go to the obvious tourist spots during that short window, and that’s the impression they take away with them. It’s a very vibrant city, a city which appreciates the value of culture, and all around you you will find public art exhibitions and free daily musical performances in addition to the larger productions. One of the things I saw which really stuck with me, was in one of the underpasses, groups of youths were crowded, not causing trouble nor congregating in an intimidating way, instead they were practicing breakdancing and skating. In restaurants and coffee shops here, you will regularly see teenagers studying. In fact in some places, they have to put signs up saying ‘No Studying’ as otherwise they’d be no room for other customers to sit. When news headlines back in the UK are constantly professing about ‘the broken society’, ‘hoodies’ and knife crime, it was a refreshing contrast. At no time here have I had to worry about my personal safety or my possessions. It’s comfortable, safe, and (relatively) harmonious.

It is not quite utopia. I say only ‘relatively’ harmonious, because like Malaysia there are some ethnic inequalities, only here it is institutional and structural favouritism towards the Chinese populace. The country also has a long way to go when it comes to gay rights, and abandoning the death penalty. National service is another dodgy issue, though in reality it is difficult to see how a country of this size could maintain an effective military otherwise.

Having said all that, the pros certainly outweigh the cons, and I can honestly see myself living here, which I can’t KL. I’ve always had my eye on perhaps doing a post-doc for a couple of years away in one of the countries I’ve studied, and it might just end up being here. In the meantime though, bring on Trinidad/Cayman Islands in 2010! (Hopefully).

Cheers for following, and I look forward to seeing you all soon.




  1. Helo Dan

    Well a whole year has passed since I last sent a response to the Blog.
    Hope you have arrived in Trinadad safely.
    This is sort of a bit of a test message

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