Monday, January 19, 2015

Trying to be #1 -- Worst Tourist Destination #Singapore

Proposed law will ban alcohol retail sales in Singapore from 10:30pm

As there is a large number of low pay foreign workers, living in terrible conditions, and some people may call it "modern day slavery". With limited places to go and extremely high cost of everything including public transportation, these foreign workers tend to congregate in 2 main areas, Geylang and Little India.

When you have a small area with a lot of people, especially on weekends and holidays, you cannot avoid conflict, and with alcohol fueling the conflict, things sometimes get worse, and we have seen the first riots in decades.

The employers that refuse to automate and use 21st century technology, still like to employ low skilled workers. In many first world countries who are concerned about human rights, such a solution will never happen, but for Singapore, with the lax immigration laws, there are hundreds of thousands of these low skilled labors many third world countries would love to export -- here.

Many of the employment terms are borderline with human trafficking. Workers from Bangladesh will have to pay an agent thousands of dollars to work in Singapore, and some of the larger construction companies in Singapore will bid projects at a very low price, as long as they can bring in a lot of these low skilled workers. As a result, the workers are often exploited and works hard to repay the loan they got.

The strange thing is, some of the workers manage to survive by earning $2.25 an hour. (Foreign Workers Paid Only $2.25 an Hour!) They live in poor conditions and many of them threatened with premature repatriation. Employers also impose many fees and rules to pay their workers less.

The working conditions are less than ideal, and in many cases, these foreign workers suffer much discrimination in public by Singaporeans, Police and other foreigners as well. There is a lot of bottled up stress which is waiting to be released. In a country with the highest paid government minsters, why should anyone be paid $2.25 an hour and be treated like animals?


After the riots, the government decided that instead of addressing the issue of low wages and poor working conditions, they would ban alcohol.

They have done so in Geylang and Little India, but as these workers have legs and can walk out of the areas, they just banned public drinking of alcohol from 10.30pm - 7am  countrywide today (19 Jan 2015)


Of course, losing rights is something Singaporeans are used to. I could now say to my nephew, during my time, when we do BBQs at the beach, we could bring our own beer and drink at a public BBQ pit. But now...

"You will need a liquor consumption permit, on top of the NParks permit for the BBQ pit if you intend to consume liquor at your BBQ gathering beyond 10:30pm"

Boring Tourist Trap

Singapore is one of the most boring tourist destination with lots of Tourist Traps. At Sim Lim Square, many locals know not to shop on the ground floor and not a lot of locals go to Newton Hawker center for food. There are well known tourist traps and you get gouged big time going to places that feed on the ill informed.

There is little to do in Singapore but to shop and eat. Sentosa is very tacky and expensive, and although there is a Universal Studio, it is often "under maintenance" and they took down one of their best rides -- "Battlestar Galetica Ride".

Even for food, there are no street hawkers, and the hawker centers are often over crowded. Much of the smaller stalls suffer as there is constant renovations happening and these hawker cannot survive on 6 months or 1 year without work. So many of the stores employ foreign workers again, and the quality of food goes way down in order to make profits.

The malls in Singapore are all the same. Uniqlo, Charles and Keith, McDonalds, Starbucks, Daiso, Theater... That sounds like most of the malls in Singapore.


Singapore is very expensive. Compared to Malaysia, just across the border, everything costs much more because -- RENTs.

Censorship and Controlled media

Everything here is sanitized. No chewing of gum here. Liberal arts is much banned. Many local made movies are not even allowed in the country.

So along with no drinking of alcohol after 10.30pm, will we be a less attractive tourist destination?

Please note that Chow Yun Fatt will not welcome you to Singapore, because he is not a Singaporean.

-- Robin Low

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Test Drive: Audi R8 - V10, Porsche GT3, BMW i3

I have some friends who bought some new cars end of last year and I got to try them all today in the below zero temperatures.

Firstly, I was surprised that internally, nothing much has changed in terms of the console. Since I've been in a 2008, 2011, the 2015 R8 is not much different. I must say, I like the looks of this car. When you listen to the sound this baby put out, its simply intoxicating.

I would say, driving this car seems very fun. The 4WD and V10 engine feels very powerful. The acceleration is pretty fast. I really like the 7 speed dual clutch transmission which offers precise shifts.

The second car I've driven is a Porsche GT3. Strangely, I was with my friend when he bought his Prius in 2010, and when the gas prices fell, he called me at the dealership when he collected this GT3.

It seems like every time they have a new GT3, it seems to be lower and wider than the previous models. The car seems to sit low and when you look inside the car, it is not like any 911. The interior and exterior does scream out "sports car!"

However, when I tried the car, I was shocked... Shocked that this car is an automatic! Setting it to drive, this 6 cylinder does feel very punchy... 

With the Audi R8 with over 500hp, this GT3 is no push over too. The GT3 is naturally aspirated with 475hp and it reveals it easily with a push of the throttle. After driving the V10, this GT3 did not feel slower when it has only 6 cylinders. I've been a a GT3 back in 2008, and this certainly feels much faster.

The grip on this car is also fantastic, probably its the 20" rims and 305 rear tires. The brakes and suspension are improved, giving you comfort on the bumpy Boston roads while enough stiffness when you take corners on the curvy roads. 

I was told that there is a new clutch thing with the new shift pedals, however, when I tried driving this car hard, this car just springs to life! The grip and feedback you get from when you turn or accelerate is incredible. When the corner was tight, this car also has amazing braking power to stop on a dime.

I really enjoyed driving the GT3 more than the R8.


Lastly, I looked at the BMW i3. Its cute and the door opens up really wide. Sure, I'll give it a spin.

This is a full electric car, and it felt very zippy with full of torque. It felt fun, however when I started pushing hard on the car, it easily oversteers and the brakes are weak. There is also heavy bodyroll and I did feel that I was about to flip the car or crash into something when I take corners hard.

I don't think I am ready for a BMW i3, I really like the Porsche GT3, but I think the Audi R8 is the fastest car of the 3.

-- Robin Low

Monday, January 05, 2015

First Night Boston 2015 Review

First Night Boston was pretty fun this year. The First Night buttons was $10, Ice Sculptures were in Copley, Boston Common and around Faenuil Hall, Puppet Shows at Hynes convention center, free trains in the evening...

I would say, everything was as expected. large crowds, cold weather, interesting parade... Although I have been there every year, I still enjoyed it a lot.

Here are some tips to enjoy the first night.

1) Have a big lunch and bring water for the day.

2) Know the locations of the toilets. They can be found in most malls. At downtown crossing, the large Walgreen, Corner Mall have great clean toilets.

3) Eat dinner before 6pm. The parade starts at 6pm and fireworks happen at 7pm, then the restaurants will be very packed with a 2 hour waiting list.

4) Dress warm with many layers.  For a few years in a row, temperatures fall below freezing when sun goes down.

5) Don't Drive. Take the T into Boston, then take the free T out at night. If you come from out of town, you can park on Beacon Street (In Brookline) or Commonwealth Ave (In Allston)

 Here are some photos of First Night Boston 2015