Vaughan and 34 of his graduate students traveled to Southeast Asia as part of their business program at the University of Louisville. Every MBA candidate and every grad student can participate in one of these amazing trips, as part of their tuition. In this article, we highlight the second leg of their journey to the colorful and unique island of Singapore.
Q: Let’s start with some of the most memorable stops you made.
A: We began our visit at the Marina Bay Cruise Center, a cruising company based out of Singapore. They were in the process of disembarking one group of travelers and resupplying the vessel for their next trip. It’s amazing to see all the logistics required to plan that sort of adventure. The ships are huge and can handle up to 6,800 passengers at a time. It was such a fascinating business to learn about and see in action.
Q: I understand there is a national garden and premier horticultural attraction in Singapore that’s very popular with tourists.
A: It’s called Gardens by the Bay. The huge complex, known for the artistry of its gardens, has won many awards. We visited the interior garden areas known as the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. Outside the gardens there were these colorful, tower-like structures that are lit up at night. Another garden we visited was the Singapore Botanical Garden, which is the national orchid garden. The interesting this about that was there were a number of orchids named for U.S. politicians.
Q: Is there much nightlight in Singapore?
A: Yes, it’s quite a lively place. The students particularly liked this karaoke bar that overlooks the Gardens by the Bay. It’s at the top of the Marina Bay Sands resort and has a stunning view of the city. In fact, it’s where the bar scene for the movie Crazy Rich Asians was filmed.
Q: What about the various parts of the city? Were you able to see many of those?
A: We took some fun walking tours of Chinatown, Little India and the local markets. Singapore is much cleaner than most big cities and there was no graffiti. We also visited the Urban Redevelopment Authority and learned about how the city developed and its plans for the future. The people are very forward-thinking, with ideas like reclaiming land from the sea. This will create new land well ahead of when it’s needed, to ensure they’ll be able to grow.
Q: What do you think the students’ favorite part of the visit to Singapore was?
A: To be honest, I think they liked the beach and the karaoke bar the best! They loved hanging out at the bar at night. And one day we took a day trip to a place called Palawan Beach where we visited the southernmost point of Continental Asia.
Q: What surprised you the most?
A: I was most surprised by the quality, uniqueness and beauty of the architecture. There were so many buildings that had greenery growing on their facades. You think about Dubai having amazing architecture, you think of Chicago as also having great buildings, but I would say Singapore’s architecture really rivals, if not surpasses, those cities.
Q: What is something really interesting that you learned?
A: We learned that one of the longest democratically elected prime ministers in the world was Lee Quan Yew, the prime minister of Singapore between 1959-1990. Our tour guide spoke a lot about him. She told us one of the most interesting things he had done was to ensure that government officials are among the highest paid positions in Singapore. His philosophy about that was, “If you feed them peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.”
Q: Singapore is known to have a high standard of living. It’s also the most expensive city in Asia. Did you notice that?
A: One thing that was very apparent was how nice the public housing is. They actually sell the property to citizens for 99 years. You can’t rent, but once you buy, you can transfer it to family members. Also, the average wage is higher than most places in the world. The average worker in Singapore earns $50/hour. Ironically there is no minimum wage.
Q: What was the biggest difference between Vietnam and Singapore?
A: Of course, the two places have very different histories. Singapore started out as a British colony, and Vietnam is still a communist country. While visiting Vietnam, it seemed like the country developed in a stream of consciousness manner. However in Singapore, it was apparent that everything they did was very intentional and incredibly well-planned
One thing before you go. Last month’s newsletter highlighted the Vietnam portion of this trip. Vaughan spoke about an interesting visit to the Hung Phat Tea Company. Turns out the company made a fun video of the students’ tour and sent it to us. You can watch it by going to https://youtu.be/w9gE7ATTX3o. Enjoy!