The Far East is known for its staggering volcanoes, the long traditions of even longer rice fields, beaches with baby blue waves, coral reefs and vast, vibrant rainforests. Southeast Asia is one of the most ancient lands inhabited by peoples and cultures that have a deep history with the very first beginning of humankind. It’s one of the most stimulating and open regions which is incredibly accessible by sea, and it’s no wonder that cruise ship holidays are thick and fast in between the many scattered islands. Nations of the Far East were once influenced by their northern neighbor Russia, but have gradually become more and more capitalist over the decades. There lay still, the remains of past civilization that may have disappeared but live on through the eroded sculptures and statues. The bamboo trees litter and engulf the forest, and stand stoically in the mist with a dull lime green hue. The pandas, tigers, and orangutans are inhabited the same dense forests, and beautiful insects and birds or prey and display fly over the rainforests as the rain of the monsoon season saturates the ground. And yet, just a short drive away, are bustling cities that compete directly with the Western economy and in some cases are pulling substantially ahead.
Photo credit – Toby Oxborrow
Hong Kong is an autonomous territory that has a pledged allegiance with China but operates entirely independently. Just 15 kilometers across, the island is undoubtedly the business center of the continent of Asia. This powerhouse has some of the most expensive real estates anywhere in the world. Exteriorly it offers administrative services to other economies who wish to tap into its market or get their foot in the door regarding the consumer trends of the middle and upper-class. Development is concentrated along the north shore, and a 6-kilometer strip of the territory is solely dedicated to financial services. Playing a lesser role is the commercial and entertainment districts that overlook the Victoria Harbour; a name which is leftover from British rule which ended in 1997 when it was handed over to the Chinese. At the core, an astonishing assortment of high-rise towers looms over the territory, purely dedicated to the state of the art technology firms. Many billionaires around the globe invest in the autonomous territory every year, as the lucrative deals in the financing, banking, and real estate are consistent in providing dividends. Hong Kong is a hive of activity, and it’s a truly remarkable achievement, for such a small piece of land, to generate too much wealth and provide the global economy with a stable market.
Credit – Simon Smith
The glamorous culture
The city seems so far away when the steep pathways that lead up to The Peak are so superbly green and majestic. It’s a well-earned escape from street level, with unparalleled views over the jam-packed city. Back toward the harbor and moving rapidly east through the Causeway and Wan Chia bays, the moods shifts from the high-pressure atmosphere of financing, to dining and shopping. Hong Kong is not without its casinos and other gambling activities such as horse racing. World-renowned fashion brands like Dolce And Gabbana, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Nike, and Hugo Boss to name a few, couldn’t feel more at home even if they tried. Hong Kong is full of wealthy consumers who have traveled from all over the world to be there. After watching the galloping stallions at the Happy Valley, the harbor plays home to many yachts and cruise ships that drink and dance the night away like no tomorrow; it’s a real party atmosphere.
Photo – Someformofhuman
A vibrant city-state
Singapore has a chequered past with colonialism but has since moved onto being a land of prosperity, Western modernity, and a sublime merging of traditional and modern culture. Originally it was claimed as the trading post in 1819 of the East India Trading Company, which eventually went under the rule of the British Empire. It still plays a key role in the being the gateway into the East for Western economies, and though this sovereign city-state may be small, it’s an economic heavyweight in its own right. The technology sector above all else puts many other Western economies to shame, with the abundance of funding, research, and practical uses in the home with the newest hardware and software. The state still has a deep connection with Great Britain and has modeled itself around the super-efficient infrastructure London has achieved. However as it also has a very clear and distinct connection with China as the majority of the populace do, the people have been reluctant to abide by the government’s heavy-handedness when it comes to controlling certain aspects of the economy such as real estate. Singapore can hold it’s head high as it has taken hundreds of thousands if not millions of people and families out of poverty with the great expansion of the economy, providing the country with new and affordable homes for the majority of the population. Since it’s independence whole swathes of people, have resettled from the downtown region which is home to the slums, and ‘kampongs’ or villages into broad residential towns, cities, and modernized villages. With so many options of property, Singapore is building apartments to rent, condos to buy, and new projects that build upward instead of outward. Singapore is picturesque because the first thing that comes into people’s minds when you mention Singapore is the high-rise towers that have so many middle-class working families and bachelor professionals residing so close to the financial stronghold of the inner-city of the capital.
Image by – Chuljae Lee
The people and history
Yet, like all other Asian nations, Singaporeans love their countryside as much as the urban jungle. It has more than enough mesmerizing places to visit. From the elegant Buddhist temples to the aromatic medicinal shops in former colonial buildings. Singapore is a multicultural population with a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Taiwanese, and Thai to name a few ethnic backgrounds. It may not possess large open fields because the city-state is so prosperous, it sees no need to grow large quantities of food to feed the population. However, do not be fooled, it has some of the most authentic, untampered, Far East cuisines you can find anywhere in the surrounding geographical region. From mouthwatering braised pork belly to roasted Teochew Duck, Singapore may be a mixed bag at times, but the traditional cuisine is highly respected by natives, and it’s one thing the locals do not want Westernized. The city cherishes its history and displays the previous generations’ artwork, literature, and music in historical museums that offer a much-needed lesson to foreigners who are fascinated yet confused by the sovereign state. A sign of a modern, civilized people, is the vigor and passion in which politics is conducted. There are groups that want China to seize control over Singapore and countering them are student groups that wish for Britain's rule to return as the government is seen as too meddling and controlled by elements of the Chinese media and foreign embassy. Singapore is part of the British Commonwealth and takes pride in being part of such a close-knit family, only separated by the ocean. Singaporean athletes take part in the Commonwealth Games, and the whole nation gripes when one of their own is standing on the podium. A night race in Singapore is featured on the Formula 1 season calendar, and every year draws millions of captivated onlookers, cheering on their favorite driver and teams. All the while, traffic is not stopped or slowed, and while the roar of the engines may be quite the spectacle around the racetrack, life carries on; showcasing the adaptability of the nation. Princess Katherine and Prince William were welcomed with open arms to the roar of children waving the British flag when they made a state visit in 2012. Singapore is a complex urban-oriented city-state, that is a hive of economic strength and modernity, well worth studying and visiting.