Well, it's neither. It's actually beautiful, clean, modern, uncrowded and amazingly diverse. The airport itself is a marvel of modern design, complete with clear, easy-to-read signs in English, and I got my first glimpse of the new Airbus 380 double-decker jumbo jet pictured here. For the first time I had not pre-booked a hotel, but they have a desk for that at the airport that does it for you. And they have a system of "shared-cabs" which is just that: you join other travelers into the city and share the expense-- which is nowhere near as steep as Japan was, by the way.
So I went right to sleep the first night, and the next morning, rested up, I walked around "Little India" which the hotel was in, and picked up a new power cord for my laptop which I had stupidly lost somewhere on the way from Tokyo. I got it at the "Sim-Lim" building, a 5-story shopping center with nothing but electronics stores. Amazing. Most of the pictures I took here were from the Little India sector, which is older than most of modern Singapore. The pics are not representative of the rest of the city.
Then I went to the Haas's beautiful home in the suburbs and met their two terrific kids, Eli and Taylor. I don't think I've ever met two more polite, sweet children. Taylor's a gymnast and we all had a bounce on their trampoline. Then we went out to dinner on the riverfront and took a short cruise afterwards, seeing the historic old British buildings compete for attention with the giant Ferris Wheel that seems to be the new thing for cities these days. Then it was home for a wonderful sleep in their guest room, complete with its own bath.
The next day I was kindly shown how to use the bus & train system by Ema, their housekeeper and au pair extraordinaire, (as the Haas's were all at the American School where both parents teach), and I left the island and went across the channel into Johor, Malaysia. I had arranged to meet Raymond Wee, the founder of Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary. Raymond is to Malaysia what Lek was to Thailand: a leading force for modern, humane solutions to their countries' animal problems. Raymond has taken on the huge task of changing the way the people (especially the government) deal with stray dogs, cats and other animals. The traditional method is periodic "culling" (a polite way of saying "killing"), with no thought to build shelters, educate people, or initiate any kind of spay/neuter program. Raymond aims to change all that, chiefly by leading by example. A self-taught veterinarian, he has single-handedly founded spay and neuter programs in several parts of the country and travels back and forth doing the procedures mostly by himself. The local vets, according to him, are mainly interested in making money, and rarely help in the mundane population control surgeries. One gives him discounts, and he can send the more complicated cases to some others, but he does a lot himself!
He first took me to his main Noah's Ark sanctuary, not far from Singapore, where he houses, along with some rescued horses, about 750 dogs and 500 cats. It sounds incredible that anyone could humanely accomplish this, but somehow Raymond does with the help of a staff of trained assistants who work tirelessly to clean the place and keep all the animals fed and cared for. He showed me isolation kennels for newcomers, a huge cat house (due to be moved & expanded soon), a clinic, stables, and a nice treehouse-like habitat where guests can stay along with him and a few of the luckier cats.
I made a lot of new friends myself... a few special dogs in particular, including a three-legged mix who stayed by my side when the others of a particular "pack" held back as I moved between different group's territories. A behavioral scientist could write a Ph.D. on the way the packs interacted and defended certain areas and somehow all got along in spite of their great numbers. Raymond also rescues horses, most from the hard life of racing, which have been discarded when they become damaged from bad management practices. (The horses give all they have when racing, then when they develop tendonitis, laminitis or other ailments, the rich owners sell them for horsemeat. It's an ugly industry and I hope nobody reading this supports it or goes to horse races.)
Later, wading through dozens of dogs to get to the shower took me quite a while, because they all vied for attention and I had to pet each one. My clean shorts I put on the next morning were dirty within minutes from all the eager paws on them!