In many Asian societies the vision for the city of the future is a towering, clean, and magnificent utopian city. Japan Anime Science Fiction films often reflect this vision through skillfully-drawn and thought-out visions of what the cities of the future will look like. These cities portray immensely tall buildings that are surrounded by perfectly landscaped parks and set under clear blue skies. The residents of these cities are healthy, good looking people that walk around leisurely and worry-free through the uncrowded streets and parks. This all takes places as zero emission flying cars hover overhead and little robot dogs scurry about.
Singapore is the closest place I’ve ever seen to this utopian city of the future. The skyscrapers are all modern, stylishly-designed, and spaced out just right to allow for plenty of parks and green spaces. The public transit system is flawlessly designed so that a pedestrian commuter can get to any part of the quickly and easily. Singaporeans develop daily routines where they ride the trains from their condos to the city center and back. As the trains roll by perfect condo after perfect condo, green park after green park, and then space-age skyscraper after space-age skyscraper these citizens plug about on their electronic devices completely unimpressed by the technological feats and magnificent structures right outside their windows.
After working long days in the office, the citizens meet up at their local district plazas to enjoy their few precious hours off. These plazas offer everything a person could ever possibly need from shopping and banking to dining and entertainment. People go about their days content living in this utopia, but there seems to be something missing…..
Then you find out that the people aren’t really people at all….. they’re androids and they’re all controlled by one supercomputer in the center of the city. And then the computer gets hacked into by an evil corporation and city breaks out in chaos…..
After spending six weeks in the congested and chaotic country of India, it was nice to be in a place with a little bit of order and a little bit of sanity. As I walked through the immaculate Singaporean airport and out onto the street I admired this impressive new environment. There were many flashing lights, the structures were grand, and streets were completely spotless. I didn’t see a single inch of the sidewalk that I’d be afraid to eat off of.
My two friends from my prior company greeted me at the door. I was starving so we went to the local market to eat. I was really happy to have the choice to order something other than super spicy Indian food. I ordered a massive bowl of noodle soup with pork and egg. It was delicious and just spicy enough to activate my taste buds, not nearly as brutal as the Indian food that I had lost over ten pounds eating. I devoured spoonful after spoonful of the delicious concoction and continued until the very last drop was gone. Stuffed for the first time in weeks, I was ready to go to sleep. I was pretty much the happiest dude in the world….
….until about 3 AM.
I woke up with a vicious pain in my stomach and ran to the toilet. I arrived with just moments to spare before hurling out its entire contents. I vomited about seven times, splattering every inch of the toilet. When I finished my stomach felt better, but it was not perfect. I started to walk back to my room, and then I felt another sharp pang. I ran back to toilet and let loose a vicious storm of earth-shaking diarrhea. It blasted out, and like a bunker-busting missile it plowed into the porcelain, leaving a permanent stain. It even spilled over onto the floor of the company-sponsored apartment.
When the storm had finally died down, I went back to my room and passed out. I woke up around 9 AM and could barely move. I had no energy and was half convinced I had contracted Stage-3 terminal cancer overnight.
I felt too terrible to be angry, and so I just lay there in misery contemplating my misfortune. I had just spent six weeks in the world’s most congested country, with the highest chance of anywhere in the world of getting sick. I was fine the whole time with the exception of a few mild tummy aches. And here, in the most pristine and germ-free country in the world, I get food poisoning after eating my first meal.
I felt fine for the rest of time in Singapore, but it was so damn expensive. While I would have enjoyed riding the Ferris Wheel or touring through the Supertrees, I had no desire to spend 30 or 40 USD for each mildly interesting attraction.
I did learn an interesting new concept called wage slavery though. Basically, the cost of living in Singapore is so damn high that average Singaporean works twelve hours a day, six days a week just to break even. Trapped by social obligations, car payments, and an addiction to institutionalized benefits, only a lucky few ever escape the mental prison of this Asian utopia.
Personally, I’ll take the rats and cockroaches. I’ll take the low hanging power lines and power outages. I’ll take my food from a grungy little shop with no health codes. I found out that you can get food poisoning anywhere…. even in a place where you’ll go days without seeing a single piece of litter.