Don't listen to what they say. Go see!
Singapore was always a little mystical to me. Reading rankings and informations of different countries online (1, 2, 3,...) made the Lion City sound like a little heaven on earth. That made me excited to finally travel to the city-state called Singapore.
Arriving at the Singapore Changi Airport, I noticed some differences right away: the air inside the airport building is infused with perfume smelling like milk tea of some sort, the floor is mostly covered by soft carpet and the restrooms are very clean.
I learned from Jim Rogers to look for the amount of paperwork needed to enter a country and the time it takes to get through customs. Used to having a very quick and painless process in Hong Kong e.g. no visa stamps in our passports, Singapore's custom felt inefficient even so it was not busy.
Our Uber Taxi from the Airport to City Center cost about 10 SGD in the evening which is shockingly cheap compared to other cities like Amsterdam with more than 80 Euro taxi fare.
"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustauve Flaubert
Walking outside - even in the evening - in Singapore is difficult for two reasons: 1) It is warm (28C to 33C) paired with very high humidity (80% to 95% humidity) in April. 2) This city is definitely less walkable than I expected at first. We realized later that many of the walkways are underground connected through subway stations and malls. I assume that many people don't want to walk outside in Singapore because of the weather.
In the city core, Singapore looks very modern with impressive architectural designed buildings. Marina Bay Sand, Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and the number of Skyscrapers in Downtown with interesting looking shapes are a few examples. Outside of the very modern city core there are interesting concepts like Hawker centre which provide a good (and relatively cheap) source of different kind of food.
Looking beyond the facade it becomes clearer, that Singapore is different than most (liberal) countries I have visited before. There is a significant amount of CCTV (cameras) everywhere. I counted on one Metro Station entrance over 30 cameras. That paired with a significant number of police forces equipped with heavy machine guns patrolling in malls, subways and airport creates a different feeling. I'm not sure if I would describe this feeling as more secure.
In this city, everything seems to be fusion - culture fusion (four official languages), food fusion (e.g. mexican-vietnamese), architectural fusion (modern, western, eastern and asian) and even one of their landmarks is a fusion (Merlion). Singapore is a city-state with a high population density (3rd in the world) but somehow the setup of the residential buildings don't feel as crowded as other high-density cities.
After departing from Singapore, I feel mixed about this city. It is a beautiful city from the outside - no doubt - but there is something missing. In my understanding Singapore misses a deeper soul and own culture to feel unique. It feels a bit like visiting a theme park, fun at first but than not really memorable. There is clearly no right or wrong, just taste. For me, Singapore is like a pretty women with missing substance. It is nice at first but gets boring very quickly.