By Justin Lui
I learned so much about Singapore in such a short span of time so in my last blog post I wanted to highlight the second day of our trip where I got to experience Singaporean government, housing, business, and food all in just one day. Most days of the trip were just like this — a rich variety of learning experiences every second of the way.
We started the day off with a traditional Singaporean breakfast known as kaya toast and soft-boiled egg. Kaya is a coconut jam spread on two pieces of toast. It is served with a bowl of soft-boiled egg that you stir up and dip your toast into. I really liked the sweet, but subtle taste of the coconut in the kaya but the watery consistency of the egg was strange to someone used to their eggs sunny side up!
With our stomachs full of kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, we headed to our first organizational visit of the trip, the Singaporean Parliament. From our guide we received an overview of the parliamentary system, which is modeled after the Westminster system. We ultimately ended up at the Stranger’s Gallery, a seating gallery behind a glass panel where we could see actual Parliament where elected officials make laws. I was surprised to learn that there are seats reserved for the best losers from the elections to ensure that opposition voices are heard. Furthermore, there are seats reserved for members appointed by the President who are not affiliated with any party and have specialization in a variety of different fields such as business, sciences, and so forth. This was a perfect example of the many unique, but practical policies that Singapore utilizes to run its country.
Our next stop was the Housing Development Board, which provides public housing to over eighty percent of the Singaporean population. After getting to tour some model apartment flats, we received an informative guided tour of Singapore’s housing history where we learned that Singapore used public housing to combat the housing shortages and large number of slums they faced at the time of their independence in the 1960s. According to our guide, the private sector could only build about 2,500 flats per year, but through the HDB they were able to build over 10,000! It highlighted to me the efficiency and power of the Singaporean government. Furthermore, I was amazed at the Ethnic Integration policy that requires the racial make-up of housing areas to reflect the national ethnic distribution. It showed me Singapore’s commitment to creating a peaceful society based on pluralism in order to avoid racial tensions. It made it clear why Singapore is such a safe and peaceful society.
After the HDP, we had a delicious lunch at an Indian restaurant (Indians make up 10% of the Singaporean population) before heading to the manufacturing plant of International Flavors and Fragrances, a major producer of flavors and fragrances for companies like Unilever and Coke to learn about business in Singapore. The director of operations made it clear that Singapore’s convenient location makes it accessible to many of the countries in the region and one of the main reasons for setting up the plant here. He also highlighted that due to Singapore’s openness to foreign direct investment and the expertise of its people through their excellent education system was another asset in building the plant in Singapore. We received a tour of the plant, which was full of millions of feet of tubing and other fascinating technologies… and some weird smells too.
Our last visit of the day was a delicious one. We went to a restaurant known as the Food Playground where we were able to learn how to cook our very own Singaporean meal. We broke up into teams and each made a traditional dish known as Laksa as well as a sweet dessert known as Satay. Our team, the Iron Chefs, won the competition based on the taste of our dish and its presentation! It was clear that Singapore has a multifaceted food culture, a product of its ethnic diversity. The food according the owner is influence by Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, India, Peranakan, and Western traditions and most food ingredients are imported easily because of Singapore’s position as a trading hub.
I hope you enjoyed reading my posts and I also hope you are now inspired to take on your own global adventure.