Impressions of Singapore

I spent a bunch of time in Singapore this summer. What a wonderful city state. And a remarkable achievement by its founders to build such a thriving metropolis over the 58 years it has been independent.

Here are some assorted impressions. I incorporate a few quotes from Jeevan Vasagar, author of the excellent Lion City: Singapore and the Invention of Modern Asia.

Most of the stereotypes are true. It’s spotless — just impeccably clean. There are lots of laws and people follow the laws. Everything works, from baggage claim at the airport to trash pickup to public transit. The food is incredible. It’s insanely humid all the time. And so on. Stereotype accuracy strikes again.

Startups set up HQ here and then serve the region. They do so to take advantage of the rule of law and investor-friendly atmosphere of Singapore. But one challenge with this approach is that, for regional companies, their labor costs, office space, etc. are absorbed in Singapore (expensive!) even as their revenue comes from much poorer markets like Indonesia. Grab, for example, pays thousands of people in Singapore who help support a business that generates a lot of revenue in neighboring, poorer markets. (Overall, the startup ecosystem is thriving in Singapore, with several very good VCs who are actively investing.)

Food. One of the best food cities in the world, obviously. Peranakan cuisine is tasty (beef rendang FTW!) and I wasn’t as familiar with it before. The malls have great restaurants and locals eat there all the time, though good luck trying to navigate through the gazillion escalators and elevators connecting literally 50-100+ distinct restaurants in some of the larger buildings. Hawker centers, while famous and cool, are not quite as awesome as advertised IMO. They’re not air conditioned and that, combined with all the on-site cooking, means it’s a sweat fest. It’s also hard to eat healthy at hawkers. That said, it’s tasty and cheap (because the government subsidies them). Singaporeans don’t cook much so the eating out culture is best in class.

If you’re talented, you work for the government, and government works stunningly well. If you graduate at the top of your class out of university, you land a job in the Singapore government apparatus. The public sector is exceptionally well staffed with the best and brightest in the country. In fact, a private sector VC who’s Singaporean told me that some of his classmates who now work in government look down upon him as not having “made it” — because he works in the private sector! To resist corruption, government workers in Singapore are among the highest paid in the world; the head of state earns a $2.2 million USD salary, the highest paid of any president.

The immigration/visa office in Singapore is one example of the how all this talent makes government work well. When you walk into the office, you’re greeted by a wall of “customer testimonials” — legit quotes from residents attesting to their positive experience working with the immigration office. They’ve also posted their KPIs and goals for timeliness and an update on how well they’ve met their goals. The contrast with a DMV in America couldn’t be starker.

Moral nudges are ubiquitous. The signage around the city is quite amusing, constantly extolling proper moral behavior. Give up your seat on the metro. Don’t play your music so loud. Pick up your trash. Etc. In Singapore, the nudges are explicit and enforced and threatened with the force of law (caning, death, etc). Another example of the government thinking about morality: it’s okay for foreigners to go into casinos but more expensive and harder for locals to do so. They’ll gladly take tourists’ money but they want their own people free of those vices. Also, alcohol is taxed heavily. Vasagar: “Like an overprotective parent, Singapore’s rulers have constantly fussed over their people, alternately cajoling or threatening in order to tip them in the desired direction.”

A/C infrastructure is legit. The planet is warming. But Singapore has been warm forever and is warm year-round. This means its air conditioning infrastructure is legit. You’re never a few steps away from A/C. Yes, Singapore becoming even hotter will present challenges in the decades ahead. But as compared to parts of the world newly dealing with warmness (see the heat waves in Europe this summer), I’d say Singapore is well positioned to offer a comfortable quality of life. By the way, you can get used to the humidity. It still sucks but you grow accustomed to it and adapt accordingly.

Trees and greenery everywhere. Trees here, trees there, trees everywhere in Singapore. Lots of hotels and office buildings buildings sport cool greenery/bushes/shrubbery built into their architecture. And the law is that if you remove a tree somewhere, you have to place one in its place. (I think.) The greenery of Singapore is underappreciated!

Singaporeans love deals, upsells, and unique discount structures. Almost every gym/fitness club (of which there are many — fitness culture is big in Singapore) offers some sort of “starter package” of discounted pricing. Many restaurants offer set menus and different deal combinations. When stores or restaurants offer pop up deals — often advertised via Instagram — queues form immediately from locals looking for a deal. Relatedly, many beauty shops will try to upsell you on whatever you’re buying in real time. “Pay $10 and get XYZ!” While I wouldn’t say Singapore buzzes with hustler energy in general (relative to a place like Ho Chi Minh), there is a persistent quest for deals.

Lee Kuan Yew is legendary yet invisible in the physical world. There are no statues of the man anywhere. Only one public policy school is named after him. By design, there are no homages to the man on the streets of Singapore.

Democracy slowly coming? I read the local newspaper in English every day. It was more critical of the government than I expected. “Its democracy may be hemmed in, but it does hold meaningful elections. And in recent years, a substantial political opposition has emerged. The PAP has won every election in Singapore since 1959. In 2020, it took eighty-three of the ninety-three seats in parliament. But the Workers’ Party, which criticises the PAP from the left, won ten seats in that year’s election, the biggest gain ever made by an opposition party.”

Does it deserve its high economic freedom rankings? There are low taxes in Singapore. It’s business friendly. And open to trade. So Singapore frequently ranks as one of the most economically free in the world. At the same time, ~80% of people live in government owned housing. And this: “Singaporeans are forced to contribute a fifth of their salaries to pay for retirement, as well as healthcare and housing purchases. The savings, along with contributions from their employer, go into a personal fund, known as the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Unlike other defined contribution pensions worldwide, which are typically invested in the stock market and a range of other assets including bonds and commercial property, the funds are invested in government bonds which have been specially issued for that purpose.”

No-shame Instagram culture. In workout classes, many of the younger folks would whip out their phones at the end of class and take sweaty selfies. Sometimes teachers encouraged it! “Time to take your photo for Instagram!” Plenty of attractions throughout the city would have signage to indicate a particular place was Instagrammable.

Hong Kong’s decline is Singapore’s gain. So many have re-located from Hong Kong to Singapore the past couple years. The prices of apartments have surged as a result. Singapore is the new capital of English-speaking, capitalistic Asia.

Tourist attractions/advice: Botanic gardens, Marina Bay Sands, and Gardens by the Bay are lovely. The zoo is overrated, I’d say, and this is coming from someone who’s probably visited 15 zoos around the world. Wandering through the malls of Orchard is worth a spin. Cultivate awe at how clean everything is and how everything just works. Make each meal special.

Raising kids in Singapore is attractive thanks to live-in help and cultural norms. The ability to secure relatively inexpensive nanny help is a game changer for the parents I met in Singapore. It’s not just the cost compared to America, though that’s a big part of it. It’s also the cultural norms around getting help — in America, “outsourcing” parenting tasks is more greatly stigmatized. In Singapore (and much of Asia and Latin American ad perhaps beyond, to be sure) it’s very much the norm. No one judges you for having a nanny work long hours every day, including weekends. In Singapore specifically, beyond nanny culture, parents love knowing that their kids can run around and it’s totally safe and clean and they can lick the ground in the subway station.

The airport is the best in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to fly through most of the larger airline hubs in the world, for most on multiple occasions: Frankfurt, Doha, Dubai, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Hong Kong, Toronto, Dallas, Seoul, Atlanta, Amsterdam, Paris, Los Angeles, New York, London, Istanbul, and others. (Haven’t been to Abu Dhabi.) Singapore’s airport is the best. The immigration procedures/lines are exceptional. Baggage claim, wayfinding, food opportunities, the way the gates are organized, water dispensers and bathrooms, etc. are peerless.

Smaller observations

  • There are rarely knives served at meals — just forks and spoons. Singapore also doesn’t usually serve “normal” thick napkins at restaurants. Bring your own napkins or make do with tissues. (As a funny little analogous example — in Tokyo, they only bring one menu to the table, even if you’re a party of two.)
  • Cars are taxed at very high rates so most people don’t have cars and those who do flaunt it as a status symbol.
  • Tap water is offered inconsistently at restaurants. Some restaurants offer it. Some claim they can only offer bottled water.
  • Locals support capital punishment for drug offenses. The issue that’s made Singapore the source of much global criticism remains popular among their own people.
  • Many coffee shops don’t open before 9am. Given the climate, it’s more of a nighttime city.
  • My favorite Singaporean expression: “Can!” Example: “Are you able to come back to fix my internet router later?” “Can”
  • Durian season is special — the local go nuts over it!
  • The Japanese occupation is loathed in history books and museum. Yet they worship Japanese design, “made in Japan”, Japanese quality etc. — it’s all over the local advertising.
  • Many expats I spoke to were nervous about their kids absorbing severe risk aversion attitudes in local schools.
  • Badminton is the national sport. Amusing.
  • Telegram is big in Singapore. Group chats occur on Telegram.
  • I loved seeing new local businesses receive bouquets of congratulatory flowers after they opened. Local businesses and construction firms would send “Congratulations!” gifts and they’d pile up outside the newly opened business. Is this a Chinese norm?

Other highlights from Lion City are below.

To understand modern Singapore, it is necessary to go back to the year it all began: 1965. Forget the Singapore of mirrored office towers, the city of elevators and air conditioning. Conjure a low-rise city with walls stained grey by cooking fires, bustling with street traders hawking their wares in a babble of Asian languages – a trading settlement with a cluster of colonial buildings surrounded by merchants’ shophouses and then a sprawl of shanty towns.

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The island lacked natural resources, and was reliant on the neighbouring Malay peninsula even for its water. Its ethnic mix, a Chinese majority with Malay and Indian minorities, made it unique and conspicuous in a region with a history of anti-Chinese xenophobia.

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The whole system bears the deep imprint of one man’s personality. There are no statues of Lee in the city he built, and only one institution named after him – a school of public policy – but anyone who wants to see his monument has only to look around them. Lee held power as prime minister from 1959, when Singapore was granted internal self-government under British rule, to 1990, when he stepped down. After quitting as premier, he remained in cabinet, first as senior minister then with the title of minister mentor, until 2011.

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The Japanese occupied Singapore from February 1942 to September 1945, when the British officially resumed control a month after Japan’s surrender.

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While both countries are made up of the same ethnic mix – Malay, Chinese and Tamil – their politics is very different. Malaya was dominated by Malays, the traditional inhabitants of an archipelago stretching across Southeast Asia, and in 1963 the country was predominantly rural. Singapore had a Chinese majority, many of them recently arrived in the region, and was largely urban. Under colonial rule, Malaya’s occupations had been roughly divided on ethnic lines; Indian immigrants and their descendants worked on rubber plantations and in government offices, the Malays worked the land. The Chinese worked in tin mines and factories, while some prospered in commerce.

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The state would be vigilant about maintaining racial harmony. Its National Pledge, written in 1966, declares that Singaporeans are ‘one united people, regardless of race, language or religion’. It is recited in school assemblies, with a fist clenched above the heart. Singapore championed the ideal of meritocracy, in contrast with Malaysia’s approach to levelling up through affirmative action.

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Singapore’s elite wanted to create a new kind of society which would absorb technical knowledge and skills from the West while remaining culturally Eastern. But many of the leaders were themselves products of English-language schools and elite overseas universities, and were most comfortable speaking in English. They could prophesy about a promised land that combined East and West, but could never be part of it themselves.

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There’s a shorthand for this kind of aspiration – the 5Cs: career, car, credit card, condominium and country club. It’s not entirely clear where the expression 5Cs came from, but every Singaporean knows it. Each of the Cs represents a successive level of aspiration.

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The creation of new land from the sea has been extraordinary; between 1965 and 2019, Singapore grew from 581.5 square kilometres to 728 square kilometres. Lacking its own supply of sand for this construction work, Singapore has become the world’s biggest sand importer. Marina Bay Sands, the landmark hotel shaped like a wicket, is built on reclaimed land, but so is much else in modern Singapore.

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Admonishing the public not to drop litter was backed up with the threat of fines and public shaming. The names of adult litterbugs were published in the press, while errant children were reported to their schools. People caught dropping litter could be made to clean the streets under ‘Corrective Work Orders’, a punishment which remains in force. Offenders can be seen sweeping up while wearing luminous pink and yellow vests as a badge of their shame.

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The policy of integrating races in each neighbourhood and public housing block ensures that Singapore does not have racial ghettos, but it also curtails individual choice of where to live.

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But climate control has reshaped the city’s architecture, making it a less human place. Instead of arranging rooms around the natural ventilation of a courtyard, air conditioning has encouraged tightly stacked flats and offices. By blasting heated air out of buildings, it intensifies the heat on the streets, driving people to seek shelter indoors.

Fintech Preferences from the Unbanked of Cambodia

This is the yard of the tour guide who showed us around Angkor Wat yesterday:

He has 10 siblings. He’s the only one who graduated from high school and he makes by far the most money in his family. He sends money to his family members — most of whom are tuk tuk taxi drivers — when he can. As an English speaking tour guide in Siem Reap, our guide is likely among the top earners in the area. And yet, he still lives in tin roof shack surrounded by rubbish.

Point being: He’s better off than where he started in life but he’s still very poor.

I asked the guide which tour booking platform he prefers for leads — TripAdvisor, Viator, Airbnb Experiences, etc. He said he prefers Airbnb because they are willing to hold his earnings for up to $1,000 USD before transferring the money to him. Other platforms distribute funds to him after each tour, which is a problem because he pays a hefty Western Union fee each transaction. He’d prefer for the booking platform to hold the money as long as possible and transfer it in one lump sum.

Presumably, our guide doesn’t have an interest bearing bank account of his own nor an easy, low fee way of receiving funds electronically. So he’s effectively using Airbnb as a bank account to safely keep his earnings.

Of course, this all goes against the normal logic in fintech, where companies want to keep your money as long as possible and consumers want the money transferred to them as quickly as possible — each side sensitive to the interest-earning time value of money. “Playing the float” is the phrase that explains this dynamic.

Except, in poor areas with a vast unbanked population like in Cambodia, the consumer and company (Airbnb) are aligned. It’s a bit sad but it makes sense once you think about it.

It was a reminder of the lesson that it’s hard to understand certain on-the-ground consumer behaviors from afar. I highly doubt the product managers at Airbnb Experiences ever seriously contemplated that slow money transfer would be seen as a perk for some of their guides.

Arriving in a New Place: Bolivia

Much of my travel these days takes me back to places I’ve already been. The past couple years I’ve made repeat visits to UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Singapore, Saudi, Germany, Austria, Chile, Mexico. There’s a certain confidence that springs from familiarity: you cross the immigration checkpoint and walk the foreign streets with a comforting foreknowledge.

The past couple years I’ve also had the singular experience of arriving in several countries for the first time: Uganda, Kenya, Seychelles, New Zealand, Finland, Bolivia. A country moves onto the “places I’ve visited” list only once, of course, and the physical act that allows for this designation is a small but memorable sequence — the final set of doors opening from the airport, stepping onto the curbside outside the international arrivals terminal, and ahhh…. breathing in fresh outdoor air after hours of indoor air only.

There’s actually quite a bit you learn about a country in the first 10 minutes. You notice the ethnicities of the local staff waiting in the jetway to wheelchair out of the plane those needing extra assistance: that ethnic group is usually the ethnic group that runs the hourly wage part of the economy. You notice the norms around how locals exit off an aircraft and queue in immigration lines — the orderliness or lack thereof, which predicts for rule-following norms writ large. You notice the degree to which local taxi drivers try to hustle and scam you, respecting tout laws or not. You notice how nice the airport bathrooms are — your first glimpse at the wealth of the country.

Recently, I arrived in Bolivia for the first time. It was actually an overland crossing, which is rare for me. When we drove from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile into Bolivia, the first person to greet us — before even having arrived at the immigration checkpoint — was a tour guide woman who was waiting for someone else. Nonetheless, she flashed a big smile and exclaimed: “Welcome to Bolivia!!!” It was such a personality contrast from the Chileans who guided us until that point. Chile is a country I adore and lived in for close to a year but no one would characterize Chileans as jovial. Bolivians, in direct contrast, bubble with energy and friendliness. (At least it’s true of those who work in the hospitality industry in Bolivia.)

The immigration crossing itself into Bolivia also provided instant insight. Our guide escorted us to the immigration checkpoint which was stationed in a tent which was stationed on a dusty unpaved road at 14,000 feet elevation. He then “suggested” we offer the border patrol officer an extra $20 USD, personally, as a thank you for processing our visa-on-arrival so quickly. We did so, with gratitude. Yay for old fashioned hospitality and generosity!

Bolivia is a uniquely beautiful place. To be sure, we didn’t see La Paz or anywhere outside of the area immediately across from northern Chile and the Uyuni salt flats. But the desert wilderness near the salt flats, and the salt flat itself, is truly spectacular. I’ve seen many incredible mountain ranges, beaches, churches, mosques, rivers, skyscrapers, waterfalls, deserts, open savannahs, etc. The truth is many of those can blur together in your mind — they are remarkable but not totally distinct from other remarkable insatiations of that same thing somewhere else in the world. But, I’ve never seen anything like the Uyuni salt flat.

Finally, who knew Bolivia is one of the world’s largest exporters of quinoa, arguably the second best grain after farro? Quinoa fields as far as the eye can see.

I could see Bolivia breaking out and becoming a top tourist destination in the coming decade. More luxury hotels will proliferate, and the salt flat — in all its Instagrammable glory — provides the ultimate draw.

 

The Interdependence of Animals and the Human Kingdom

Lawrence Wright, a writer I’ll read no matter the topic, has new piece in the New Yorker “The Elephant in the Courtroom” that explores whether an elephant in the Bronx zoo should be granted personhood legal rights. It’s a fascinating deep dive into the state of animal rights more generally. And it includes sentences like the following which will tug at the heart of anyone who has one:

Orcas have no natural predators, other than humans, and yet one population in the Pacific Northwest is critically endangered—at last count, it had only seventy-three residents. They are threatened by overfishing, pollution, and noise disturbance from boats that interferes with echolocation, which they use to forage. A new calf was born in 2018—thought to be the first in three years—but lived for less than a day. The grieving mother, surrounded by other females in her pod, carried the calf’s body with her for seventeen days, across a thousand miles of ocean. It would be going too far to say that the mother knew her loss was a step toward the extinction of her community, but it might also be going too far to say that she didn’t.

I’ve become a lot more interested in these topics over the years. As Wright points out, as pet ownership has boomed in America, our natural affinity towards animals has risen in turn. Having a dog myself (his name is Oreo and he is very good, as you can tell from the photo below) has certainly made me more attuned to the potential richness of the inner life of animals, more sympathetic to animal rights causes, more interested in learning more about endangered species around the world.

Social media has also magnified scenes of animals at their best and perhaps caused a greater attention to animal welfare. We can’t get enough of cute animal pics and videos which go viral on the regular on TikTok and Instagram and the like — especially if it’s two different species of animals who have become “friends”. I find myself frequently binging on Instagram reels of dogs.

But the most likely transformative event in one’s journey toward love of animals is visiting them in the wild. Recently, I was lucky to visit many endangered animals in the wild in some unforgettable places:

  • Arabian oryx in the deserts of UAE, which have an interesting conservation story. (By the way, the Al Maha hotel is pretty spectacular and an easy 60 minute Uber ride from downtown Dubai.)
  • Mountain gorillas in Uganda. Two days of trekking to visit with two different families of our closest cousins. Worth doing if you’re under ~50 years old — strenuous hikes, but unforgettable. And there are only 1000 mountain gorillas left in Uganda/Rwanda/Congo.
  • Various epic wildlife in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, including black rhinos. (If you haven’t already read Sam Anderson’s amazing piece about the last Northern White Rhino, you should.)
  • Dizzying array of fish and coral in the Seychelles islands

So many beautiful scenes. And also so many tragic stories of poaching and human-caused destruction of natural habitat. I hope to learn more in the years ahead and learn how to make a positive difference.

Sauna Culture in Europe Over the Holidays

I’ve become quite taken with saunas recently — primarily dry, wood paneled saunas, but I’m not unhappy with steam rooms. I find myself more relaxed after a deep sweat; I also think it helps me sleep better. Taking a cold plunges after a hot sauna is especially effective at lifting my energy level in the hours following. Cold showers can serve a similar purpose. A friend once advised to “breathe” in the cold plunge if you feel like the cold is overwhelming. When the cold starts to feel too much, just keep breathing.

(For my interest in sauna, I must credit, in part, Bob Wright, for his encouragement here and for spreading the good gospel of sauna as spiritual practice over at BloggingHeads.TV.)

Over Christmas and New Year’s this year, I traveled through Munich, Zurich, Istanbul, and Ankara with friends and family. By some good luck, we ended up sampling a range of saunas that were just the thing for cold winter days in Europe.

In Germany, we went to the Therme Erding sauna complex just outside Munich, the second largest sauna complex in all of Europe. 4,000 visitors per day. 35 different saunas and steam baths. And dozens of different pools. It’s truly massive. You pull your car into a multi-level above ground parking garage that’s situated next to what appears to be an enormous mall and dome structure.

The adults-only sauna facility is in its own area within the compound. Unlike the kids waterslide area, teeming with children sprawling and splashing about, the sauna area is more quiet, more refined, and… completely nude. And co-ed. People wear towels and robes while walking around; inside each sauna or steam room, they sit on their towels. No bathing suits allowed. I saw more naked humans in a couple hours than at probably any other time in my life. Within a few minutes, the weirdness wears off, and truth be told it was kind of relaxing to be free of constraint or squeeze. The downstairs area, with its low ceilings and narrow, cave-like walls meant people were slinking past each other in the nude to get to their preferred destination. Through it all though, a remarkably wholesome atmosphere. No funny business in sight.

There was excellent variety across the 35+ different offerings. The traditional dry saunas varied in temperature, humidity, scent, and setup: some were in dungeon like underground caves, others were in huge glass paneled amphitheaters. The steam rooms offered the opportunity to scrub yourself in salts before entering. The outdoor thermal pools allowed you to float along with your head exposed in outdoor frigid winter air. An assortment of different jacuzzi-style jets were placed along the pool walls along with some built in “chairs” that you could lounge in with special jets propulsion. Nearby to all this was an outdoor cold plunge. Going from hot water to cold always revs the engines; especially so when the temperature in the air upon getting out of the cold plunge is also freezing.

In Zurich, we went to the Thermalbad. This is a chain of spa facilities throughout Switzerland; supposedly the Zurich location is the finest. It’s a beautiful, modern facility designed like Roman cisterns built inside of an old Zurich brewery building. As opposed to choose-your-own-adventure, this places encourages a sequential process whereby you start in Station 1 and end in Station 12, with signs suggesting the amount of time to spend in each station. It starts with a lightly warm steam, followed by a sequence of differently heated pools, then some hotter steam rooms and scrubs. My favorite pool was the “classic Roman pool” where the depth and temperature made it feel like I could almost float effortlessly, as in a sensory deprivation pod. Very relaxing. One station had me lie on my back on slightly warm stone floor, which I’ve never done before.

A TripAdvisor review of Thermalbad notes, “It’s a lot of money to spend to watch couples basically all but have sex.” That seems off. I didn’t witness anything X-rated, and this place, unlike the one in Germany, was all clothed. Even the locker room had curtained “changing areas” for changing into bathing suits. The Swiss: as buttoned up as ever.

Elsewhere in Zurich, we went to a neighborhood gym/community center that offered a large indoor pool for swimming, plus a medium size thermal pool that offered a range of jets and suggested a rhythm to the water massage. Every minute or so a light would flash (like one of those rotating lights on the top of a cop car but adhered to the side wall) to indicate it was time to move to the next set of jets. With each move in jet, the pressure moved up the body, from hitting your legs at first and ending with your upper shoulders. The propulsion of the jets — the forcefulness with which the water hit you — was intense. I’ve never felt jets pulse water so hard. Nor have I seen such precise instructions offered about when it’s time to switch to the next jacuzzi jet. The Swiss: as punctual as ever.

In Istanbul, we went to the Cagaloglu hamam — a 300 year old facility. Not quite as tourist-famous as the hamam next to the Blue Mosque where we went 5 years ago but just as ornate on the inside. The male and female experiences differ here. As I reported five years ago during my first trip to Istanbul, men receive quite a beating. Your therapist slaps you around, pulls your arms in every which way, attempts light weight chiropractiory, and with no warning, dumps buckets of hot water over your head. It’s fun and worth it but anyone with tender shoulders or backs should beware. I told my therapist at one point to be more careful of my back, and he replied, “Relax.” It turned out that that was the only word in English he spoke. Women, reportedly, experience a much gentler set of scrubs. Unlike the hamam in Morocco, the Cagaloglu hamam in Istanbul does less loofa scrubbing. There’s not the stunning pile of dead skin at the end of it. But you’re still relaxed and alert.

All in all, there’s great sauna culture in Europe. Lots of relaxing fun. And I haven’t even to Finland yet… that’s going to be its own trip!