One of my favorite pieces of travel gear was also one of the cheapest: a tiny handheld speaker called the X-Mini II.
I’m sure you’re all well aware that I like to party, but prepartying or afterpartying in a silent hotel room is certainly no fun – nor is doing so to music played over a squeaky little cellphone speaker. Enter the X-Mini II; this golfball-sized contraption somehow manages to put out more sound than some speakers I’ve seen at double the size (and triple the cost). It’s provided hours of entertainment in hostels, parks, and even a bicycle trip across Denmark.
…That is, until just a few weeks ago when it mysteriously stopped working.
But how about this for a lucky coincidence: not only was the failure within mere days of its warranty’s expiration, but the company that makes it is based in Singapore! So realizing I’d be there a couple weeks later, I sent them an email. They said they’d be happy to replace it whenever I arrive.
So here I was, on the other side of the planet, walking to the headquarters for a product I randomly ordered on Amazon a full twelve months earlier.
Small world 🙂
And as an added bonus their store happens to be right smack in the middle of the Lonely Planet’s Chinatown walking tour. Two birds with one stone; first day of Singaporean tourism, here I come!
The sights along the day’s walk – all the typical temples, statues, and shrines you might expect – were interesting of course, but far more enjoyable to me was the simple chance to see a completely new type of country on a beautifully sunny day.
At first I felt like Singapore was similar to a big American city – except that it’s not covered in litter and actually provides basic conveniences to its citizens (like mass transit, public trash cans, free ubiquitous wifi, etc).
But the more I thought about it the more I realized: this is nothing like the US. Instead, it’s probably the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Japan – outside of Japan itself!
Many of you have no doubt heard of Singapore’s reputation for pristine cleanliness, but after witnessing it firsthand, I have to say that it really is pretty incredible.
Even in the crowded heart of Chinatown there’s not even a hint of litter or graffiti – making it by far the cleanest most pleasant Chinatown I’ve ever seen, anywhere.
Nearly every step of my day’s walk reminded me of strolling through some Beverly Hills-like neighborhood – only in some cases, a little bit nicer.
Nine out of ten people had iPhones, and half the cars were luxury sedans.
There were no touts, no beggars, no ripoffs. Instead, the streets were clean enough to eat off of, everyone spoke native English, and everything was easily accessible.
Lush green parks broke up the urban jungle every few blocks as interesting buildings would fade in an out of view – everything from metal-and-glass skyscrapers to pastel-colored museums.
Malaysia had surprised me with its trio of unique cultures: Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian. But this was something totally different – a completely international city, a melting pot of all cultures, all coexisting in seemingly perfect harmony.
I can’t wait to see more.
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Monday, February 21st.