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Photo Credits: Mark

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Imagine a city-state with virtually no unemployment, an extremely well-educated population, its own stock exchange, spotless streets, the best in public transit, great affordable food, friendly people, and low taxes. It is set in a tropical climate and its sky line is filled with some of the world's most unique urban architecture with parks high above the ground and beautiful swimming pools sprinkled throughout the landscape like persistent puddles in the imperfections of a rock's surface a day after it rains. Remember when you spent an afternoon in middle school building a future city out of recyclables. Singapore is that city.

Now imagine a state confined to an island 42km long with little room for anything but monolithic housing blocks and office buildings. The state owns most all the land and decides at what rates to lease it to its population. People spend most of their time in one of two boxes, one for living, the other for working. Twice a day, everyone is given a short amount of time to transition boxes. Big brother can monitor you via CCTV or RFID from the street corner outside "your" apartment, in your car, or on the subway. Want wifi at the airport? Scan your passport. Only the government is allowed to have weapons and people found with drugs are severely punished.

These are not two ends of a spectrum. Singapore is both simultaneously. It is both the personification of logic and the defiantly illogical. It is an economic power house, but a military weakling. If you stand on the beach on Singapore's Eastern coast you can watch a parade of barges importing sand. Prostitution is legal (so I hear) but pornography is not. The streets are spotless and walkable, but few people spend time walking them – I was there during the haze.

All this being said, I love Singapore. It is a nation whose bill of rights is slightly more limited than the U.S.'s, but whose people understand that by trading in slightly more freedoms they gain economic well-being and freedom from most crime. The government mostly minds its own business unlike neighbors such as Thailand and Cambodia, and it provides exceptional services. Trade in the right to travel in your car without being tracked and you'll never have to worry about having cash for the parking meter again - every parking garage is part of the same automated system.

I spent five weeks in Singapore for work. I started exploring the city from the center outwards. There is a lot of shopping near the areas I was staying, but I really enjoyed the Singapore botanical gardens, running along the Singapore river, and the Asian animals on the Night Safari. I also visited Sentosa island and regular ate at many of the hawker centers. By far I had the most fun in Singapore on my second-to-last night there. I made friends with the Singapore office folks, Sanjay, and Mo. By the time I was leaving, the haze from Indonesia had mostly past.