4 days later.. and we’re almost true ‘Singaporeans’ (or at least we’d like to think so!)
The past couple of days have been a whirlwind. Between getting over jet lag, putting on suits in 90-degree humid weather, and taking it all in.. it’s definitely been an experience! As we near the half-way mark of our trip, its crazy to think about where we started on this journey 8000 miles away in a classroom to now sitting in the hotel room watching the sunset over the breathtaking skyline of Singapore. Having traveled to parts of Asia before, I was expecting to see similar things - packed streets, honking cars, displays of both extreme poverty and wealth - but Singapore is quite the opposite. From the futuristic style architecture to the immense greenery (more plant species than all of North America!) its truly a cultural, economic, and environmental metropolis.
So far our schedule has been packed between business meetings, eating with locals at the hukkacenters (indoor food markets), and trying to navigate ourselves around this not so big city/country.
After arriving in Singapore at 3:00am Sunday morning, we were up and out only a few hours later! We were taken on a city tour to get our bearings, followed by a scavenger hunt organized by local Trojan alumni. Eager to win the prize, we split up into teams and were off racing around the streets of Chinatown and Raffles Place. It was the perfect way to see more of the city, and while my team may have taken a slight detour, the seafood dinner at the end was well worth it. The restaurant, J Pot, was unlike anything i’d been to before, as you quite literally cook all of your own food at hot plates on your table. We were giving everything ranging from ramen noodles to raw beef to fish paste… definitely an interesting palate.
Despite the jet-lag we were up bright and early Monday morning to start off our business meetings. We first met with the Housing and Development Board of Singapore, which is responsible for providing public housing for 80% of the population. Set up in an effort to tackle Singapore’s limited land resources with the growing population, HDB provides housing to most Singaporeans as part of a 99-year lease program, and their ‘towns’ are spread all over the country. With each town holding upwards of 80,000 units, HDB has major control over the countries real estate assets, which is viewed both positively and negatively by the people. This visit was extremely insightful, as no other country has been able to replicate a model like this, and having revolutionized the countries infrastructure in only 50 years is very impressive. Next, after grabbing a typical lunch of chicken and rice we headed to the Development Bank of Singapore to learn more about the Asian banking markets and how regionalization is integral to Singapore’s economic future. Later that night the group headed to a Night Safari in the northern part of Singapore which was altogether a crazy experience!
Tuesday was another action packed day filled with visits to the Marine Port Museum and Urban Redevelopment Authority. Second to Shanghai, Singapore holds one of the world’s largest ports and has truly become a gate between the east and west. Accounting for 7% of the countries GDP, Singapore’s shipping sector catalyzed the countries economic success and granted them a presence in global markets. Hosting an interactive exhibit, the museum gave fascinating insight into the world of trading and allowed us a better understanding of Singapore overall. Next we headed to Chinatown for some more dim sum and dumplings, followed by a quick dip in a local fish spa. (yes the fish nibble at your feet!) It was definitely one of the stranger things I’ve done, but after the initial 5 minutes it was pretty relaxing… especially after all the walking we’ve done! Lastly we headed to the Urban Redevelopment Authority where we learned more about Singapore’s future redevelopment plans and how they plan to tackle their land and resource constraints.
Today (Wednesday) we headed to DTS, a California-based sound technology company, where we learned more about the vitality of companies having branches in Asia in order to develop and assist their consumer markets. Later on we headed to Yokogama Electric, a Japanese technology company, for a factory tour and then to the American Chamber of Commerce. At ‘AmCham’ we were welcomed by a panel of three American businessmen working in Singapore, and after sharing their own personal stories we were able to ask them questions about their experiences being an expat in Asia. The conversation ranged from talking about the importance of multilingualism in business negotiations to how to ‘live’ in Asia like a true local. I definitely think this forum was one of my favorite parts of the trip thus far, as we were able to get honest answers from the gentlemen and it definitely reconfirmed my desire to travel and engage in ‘international’ business - wherever that may be.
And with that I’m off to ‘Little India’ to finally have some authentic curry and rice!
- Melanie Heyside