The final weeks of my trip are influenced by three big cities: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. If I had to describe each in one word, I'd say Bangkok is diverse, KL muslim and Singapore modern. Of course, every city has more than one trait and it is an extreme simplification; nevertheless, this one characteristic stuck out.
I am a big fan of cities; in particular the metropolis is absolutely fascinating. I grew up in a small German town of 20,000 people, so big cities are not natural to me. However, they started to increasingly attract me by their economic, political and cultural significance. These megacities and urban areas are international hubs, which seem to offer limitless opportunities. Can I imagine to live there for some time? Definitely yes. And permanently? Probably not. I would clearly miss nature. For me, it is also important to walk through quite woods feeling nature's peace and balance. This is something what I love about the San Francisco Bay Area. It offers both.
The Bangkok metropolitan region has a population of over 14 million. It is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. Bangkok is an urban jungle and more ugly than pretty in my opinion. I guess one has to give this city more time, so that it can show its inner beauty. Unfortunately, I didn't have that time and hope to return one day.
Kuala Lumpur (often abbreviated KL) is the capital of Malaysia, and the metropolitan region has a population of almost six million. Islam is the state religion in Malaysia, which has a significant impact on people and lifestyle. For example, many women wear the hijab, a veil that covers head and chest, and most often, it symbolizes modesty, privacy and morality. So far, I had only visited countries with Buddhism as the main religion. Therefore, KL was particularly fascinating, because it allowed me to take a closer look at another world religion.
Huge shopping malls including expensive restaurants can be found in all Asian megacities. It is especially the young and wealthy, who crowd these temples of consumption. However, traditional markets for working class locals are still around, and they have much more charm than modern shopping malls that all look alike.
Singapore is a sovereign city-state with a population of 5.5 million at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. It declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, and since then, Singapore has developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of Four Asian Tigers (the other three are Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan).
It is an absolutely amazing city that, similar to Hong Kong, combines tradition and modernity (although more modern). I have met with Jack, a friend from San Francisco, who was there for a business trip. We spent a day together exploring the city. We enjoyed the famous Singapore Sling cocktail at the Raffles hotel, had lunch in Little India, and visited the gorgeous botanical garden.
The night safari in Singapore is a highlight, but unluckily all my photos of the animals are blurred. It is a nocturnal zoo that occupies 40 hectares (99 acres) of secondary rainforest, and houses 1,040 animals representing 120 species. Due to an open zoo concept, animals are separated from visitors only with natural barriers, and are made visible by lighting that resembles moonlight. This creates a fantastic atmosphere. Must-go if you visit Singapore.