The most expensive city

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2018, Singapore has been ranked as #1 most expensive city in the world. If New York’s cost of living index is taken as 100, Singapore works out to be 116, topping the list. Paris and Zurich are at 112, and Hong Kong is at 111. Seoul is at 106 and Sydney at 102, amongst Asian cities.

According to the EIU Survey, a bottle of wine (my favourite topic!) costs USD 23.68 on an average in Singapore, while it costs only USD 11.90 in Paris, the second most expensive city in the world. There are many things which are more expensive in Singapore than in other countries, like clothes and cars. Certain things are fine to be more expensive, as land-strapped Singapore needs to control the population of cars and road usage aggressively. Clothes can surely be cheaper – it makes no sense to buy branded clothes in Singapore when the same brand costs less than half in the U.S. for instance. But then not everyone travels, so locals look for heavy discounts and bargains; sometimes the same brand is made available at half the big store prices, via a third party in an industrial estate outlet (akin to the outlet malls in the U.S., but the ones in Singapore are just single makeshift places in a very cheap location and exist only for a couple of weekends). Since Singapore needs to import almost everything, prices tend to be higher, but the extent of price increase in the hands of the consumers is sometimes not acceptable, but we have to carry on with our lives in any case and need to buy at least the essentials.

The tag of the “most expensive city” in the world is unpalatable to most locals, as that designation just tends to increase the costs further. Expats who come to work in Singapore get increasingly higher salaries based on the EIU’s Cost of Living Index for Singapore (it is a popular survey), and that action increases the cost of living further, as the expats are just willing to pay more for everything. This in turn, increases the cost for everyone living in Singapore.

The demand for quality accommodation has pushed up market prices of housing in Singapore over the past year or so. All in all, Singapore is surely an expensive place to live, but is also probably as safe as Tokyo, which is widely regarded as the safest city in all of Asia. Rule of law and enforcement of law dominate the city state, keeping most people honest, whether they are locals or foreigners.

Coming back to the issue of cost of living, I “feel” that Tokyo is much more expensive, especially when I am having lunch or drinking coffee. I get the same feeling in Hong Kong. Clothes seem to be expensive everywhere, except in Vietnam and India. So, the major aspects afflicting Singapore with regard to cost of living pertain to things on which nothing much can be done – personal transportation when it involves owning a car, and accommodation. Wines and cigarettes will continue to be expensive, so the only way is to curb their usage. I believe hawker centre food from ‘A’ category outlets still remain affordable in Singapore – it has gone up over the past decade, but still manageable. A good quality plate of Chicken Rice can be had for around S$ 5.50 and a Bento Box of Teriyaki Chicken can be had for S$ 7.00 in most hawker centres. I am afraid when these prices will double making them unaffordable for most people. Foreigners tend to spend more than S$ 10.00 to 15.00 for daily lunches, but locals are sensitive to the S$ 5.00 mark. I see this everyday. It is sometimes funny to notice that the locals would not mind spending S$ 2.00 or more for a bus ride to their favourite hawker centre, as food plays a central role for them (like it is for most of us). I consider myself as a “local” for all practical purposes, so I tend to adopt similar benchmarks as these help when you are with Singaporeans going for a lunch session.

Cars are expensive, and enough has been written about cars in Singapore, so I am not spending any more time on this topic. I see some people shifting to App-based taxi usage away from their personal cars and other modes of transportation, and this is increasing the traffic density in an already crowded city. However, traffic flows along almost smoothly due to a very effective implementation of traffic rules. These are getting affected a bit by the big number of cycle riders who are using the same road space in a city where the average car speeds are in excess of 60 KMPH. Then there are also these personal mobility devices – like e-scooters, and you have the most infamous bike riders who twist their way between two high-speed car lanes at tremendous speeds, which will not be an acceptable way to drive in most developed countries.

Cost of credit is cheaper in Singapore than in most other developed nations, so that could be a positive. Food, as I stated above, for common daily lunches/dinners are not that expensive, but beer and wine are very expensive. Electronics items are reasonably priced, though not as cheap as in Hong Kong.

Hopefully, Paris will overtake Singapore in the next EIU Survey – most people recall the #1, but not the #2 and #3 ranks, so it is better for Singapore to slip to #2 or #3 rank soon.


Vijay Srinivasan

18th March 2018


Washing Your Own Car

Wow! What a topic to write on? Amazing. I know what you are thinking – “this bloke must have run out of things to write”. I don’t mistake you. I also thought the same thing.

But then, I thought that it is an important thing to write upon – it is very important that you wash your own car. I am sure most of you don’t – you either have a maid at home whose SOW (Scope of Work) includes washing of your car, or you will drive into a car-washing facility at a local gas station. But I do neither.

For me, washing my own car is an important bi-weekly action to be undertaken with my own hands – sometimes, I miss the schedule and the car looks really dirty during the third and fourth weeks. It happened today for me – the trigger for me was the ugliness of the car with some bird sh** on the bonnet. I told my wife that it has now become very critical for me to go down and give the car a thorough wash.

The interesting thing is the assemblage of multiple liquids and wiping clothes in preparation for the washing of the car. In my case, it takes a good 5 minutes to put together the car washing liquid, the wiper cleaning liquid, the glass cleaning liquid, and the tyre-blackening liquid, along with a plethora of some 5 different yellow wiping clothes and two buckets, etc., I then triumphantly set out after intimating my entire home that I am going to wash the car. Everyone says bye and they all know well that it would take not less than 75 minutes.

Here I go, and what do I see – atleast two maids washing their owners’ cars. No owner in sight. There are some 200+ cars parked in the parking area of our condominium. Since the owner is not available, the maid cannot move the car to the washing area, and so washes with water from a bucket and no advanced fluids except for a liquid detergent. No polishing either.

I got my favourite place to wash however, and started setting up my “equipment”. Following are the steps I used for washing my car today:

  1. Since no hosing is allowed for washing cars, I used small buckets of water to throw on the car and wash it adequately. My estimate is that I used some 15 small buckets (10 litres capacity) of water to remove the dirt and grime accumulated over the past 3 weeks.
  2. I mixed the liquid soap wash in a bucket of water and lathered it up. It was thick and creamy with thick soapy feel. I thought it was of the right mix and density, and proceeded to apply the same using a high quality wiping material (like a hand brush) all over the body of the car. This is the most time-consuming action, as one needs to ensure that almost all areas of the car are well soaped over and rubbed using the soft clothes brush.
  3. Once step #2 is completed, then the major work is throwing water with some force all over the car to clean off the soap. Sometimes, the soapy foam is still there, and it takes some repeated effort to get it off the surface of the car. This will probably required some 20 small buckets of water. One has to be reasonably sure that all the soap is gone completely from the car’s surface.
  4. Now comes the next tedious part – wiping with soft cloth all over the surface of the car and the inside edges of the doors, the boot and the bonnet, apart from the top surface (roof) of the car and the windshields. It is tough and takes time, but this is essential before any further cleaning is tried upon. Also, clean the tires with lots of water and soap, and then again with lots of water to remove all the dirt.
  5. Now, open the bonnet and wipe off any residual water along the edges. Then use the wiper cleaning liquid to fill up the container with 1:10 ratio with water. It should fill up to the brim, and once done, it will be ready for atleast the next 5 to 10 wiper washes. Most people don’t do this and just fill up with plain water. I recommend a wiper cleaner.
  6. It is now time to use the glass cleaning liquid to spray on the front and back windshields as well as the glass windows and side mirrors. This would make visibility 100% and is an essential action that car drivers need to take up, as the weather conditions make all glass areas dirty, with visibility reduction.
  7. Finally, use the tyre-cleaning spray on the tyres (generally this is a whitish liquid) – you should spray only on dry tyres. This liquid will make some mark on a clean surface or road, so ensure that the spraying is done around the washing area, and wash off any marks from the area on which your car is standing. Upon further drying, you will have fresh-looking black tyres, and I can tell you that you would surely like them. Tyres should look shiny black and not greyish black, as you would agree.
  8. Once all this is done, take a smoother cloth (like a vest cloth) and wipe off the entire body of the car. Now, the car should be entirely dry with no residual water on any surfaces.
  9. You have achieved a total car washing phenomenon, and your car should be looking great now, irrespective of its age!

It is very important we do the above all by ourself. I used to get help from my family members long time ago when my kids were young – they were eager to learn how to wash a car. But now, nobody wants to join the experience. I am sure that the children would prefer to go for an auto-wash facility and save time and effort. But I feel that it is a great experience to wash one’s own car (no need to wash others’ cars, though I felt that the drivers in my car park wanted to stop by and ask for my service!!!).

Learning to do something and self-help are the best things life has to offer to us.

Enjoy car washing and the weekend!


Vijay Srinivasan

6th May 2017

Amazing Formula Rossa Thrill Ride of a Lifetime

This time I was really scared.

My son persuaded me to at least take a look at the ride video on YouTube. Take a look for yourself:

Ferrari’s Alonso and Massa ride world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World

Formula Rossa POV – World’s Fastest Roller Coaster Ferrari World Abu Dhabi UAE Onride

Scary, right?

Well, my son and I went to the Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi last week, and I can tell you that the real experience of riding on the Formula Rossa was not any less scarier than the videos that you just saw. The website of Ferrari World is at Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Formula Rossa is currently rated as the fastest roller coaster in the world with a top speed of 239 KMPH which is achieved in less than 5 seconds of extremely fast acceleration using a technique used on aircraft carriers to launch jet planes on a very short runway. For the initial run, I chose to sit on the very back row of the Formula Rossa – though my son objected. I told him that I need to get a “hang” of it! Even while sitting on the back row, the ride was instantly terrifying with a speed which I have never experienced in my life. My heart beat increased and my heart was pounding when we finished the ride. The air pressure on the face and body was immense. The cork screw turn from the very top was scary to say the least. But the best part was the initial acceleration and the steep climb up.

For the second time experience, my son insisted on sitting in the very first row (like sitting on the very edge of the nose of a fast speeding bullet). I asked for time to think and so went around on other rides and eventually came back to Formula Rossa ride. I agreed to sit with my son on the first row of the ride. And, it was the most terrifying ride I have ever undertaken in a theme park ride. I could not even move my hand, the air pressure was too much not allowing any movement (I wanted to hold the plastic spectacle wrapper which was holding my spectacle glasses). While I managed to keep my eyes open for the initial 4 to 5 seconds, I could not do so once the roller coaster climbed up on to its steep ascent of over 50 metres and then accelerated with heavy momentum on the cork screw. I tried to open for a sneak view but decided to keep it shut as the tracks were speeding towards us at enormous speed (!!!). I only opened my eyes towards the last 5 or 6 seconds of the ride, but came out smiling as the thrill gene in my body seems to have grabbed its rightful sync with the Formula Rossa!

This is a fantastic ride, and I would strongly encourage you to take the first row, if not in the first attempt. It is a great feeling to almost feel what a Formula 1 race driver would experience on the race track (and more). It is overall a fabulous experience and very much worth the visit to Ferrari World (which is located at Abu Dhabi, some 75 minutes car ride from Dubai).

Hold tight and enjoy the speed, acceleration and momentum of the Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller coaster as on date.


Vijay Srinivasan

3rd December 2016






The Singapore F1 Grand Prix Experience

I was fortunate to attend the F1 pre-qualifying races yesterday in the Singapore Grand Prix, which is in its 9th year of operation. It is the only night F1 race performed on city streets, unlike the very expensive race tracks built in other countries.

I read in the local newspapers that the Singapore economy benefits to an extent of SGD 150M in terms of travel, transportation, food, accommodation, shopping, etc., for the three days (Friday to Sunday) during which the F1 event is held in Singapore. Hence it is economically an important event for Singapore as well, apart from its sports value and the innovation of being the only night time F1.

The atmosphere was electric. The only thing I did not like was the long walk from the Ritz Carlton to the Paddock and back in the night (the walk back in the night was longer, almost close to 2 KMs or so). Otherwise, it was a great thing which I have not experienced before in my life.

I also had the chance to photograph myself with Max Verstappen, one of the racers. He also signed my entry ticket. I did the garage tour of Red Bull Racing, and also the long pit walk around the grandstand. I was hosted in a nice club by one of our corporate sponsors, so food and drinks were not a problem. There was special treatment for the Paddock Club attendees (and am sure, for the other VIP attendees), we could walk around and get food, coffee, pastries and drinks in famous outlets. There were more crowds in these outlets than were sitting on the grandstand, except when the final race began at 9:00 PM.

I saw the Red Bull cars getting tuned and prepared, and the IT/Networking systems connecting the sensors from Singapore back to the U.K. where the Red Bull factory is located. These sports cars attain a speed of 300 KMPH (around 200 MPH), and so appear in your camera for just a fleeting second. I tried hard to capture the cars on my iPhone Video, and did manage to do so eventually.

Any position on the Grandstand or the Paddock Club only affords a narrow view of the race due to the manner in which the race tracks is designed. Further, the race uses the normal streets without any modification. Hence, to get a full view of what is happening on the entire race circuit, the best way was to view the TV feed. I was told that there were many cameras along the race circuit, and further there was camera shots/video taken from the overflying helicopters. This is a disadvantage in the Singapore F1 as the tracks are rather narrow and short in length before the view disappears via a turn, etc., In any case, the roaring thunder of the cars, their slightly reducing speeds when they are negotiating the curves, and the fire sparks emanating from their tyres from their receding views were thrilling to say the least. I was not able to figure out who is in which car, unless I saw the large TV displays.

It was a wonderful experience overall, notwithstanding the steep cost to attend. I saw that generally people were enjoying themselves in the midst of all the noise. They were eating and drinking for most part, however they looked happy. For many of them, it could have been their first experience of attending the F1 race.

It all finished around 10 PM, and I was told that there was a party afterwards. But I chose to skip that one, and return home. The funny thing was that public taxis from Ritz Carlton to any part of Singapore were priced at SGD 55 at around 10:30 PM Saturday evening, which I thought was atrocious. I decided to walk to the Pan Pacific hotel and to my surprise, there were many taxis waiting and absolutely no passengers! It was normal fare (adjusted for late evening excess), so it was good.

Overall, an amazing and captivating experience. I will see the F1 Finals today (Sunday) on the TV ! Hopefully Red Bull wins the No. 1 spot or at least the second spot and gets to the Podium !


Vijay Srinivasan

18th September 2016

Road Experiments in Singapore

I have been observing driver behaviour on Singapore roads for the past several months, and decided to conduct an experiment recently.

For the uninitiated, Singapore traffic system looks to be the most advanced system of its kind in the world, with orderly traffic and less congestion than what should exist in a densely populated city state of over 5.5M people and nearly a million cars (not yet verified). Singapore has over 3,500 KMs of paved road (must have gone up by now – my data is couple of years old) in a small island with an area of 700 SQ KM.

However, the orderliness for which Singapore is famed over the years has come down in recent years – traffic incidents are on the increase, rash driving is common, and simple violations are going up on the roads. I see this every day while driving to office and back.

Of course, compared to other large and even small nations, Singapore scores on multiple factors, such as accidents per capita, traffic deaths per capita, etc., It is still a well-managed traffic system, with controls and monitoring in place to ensure appropriate driver behaviour.

However, I decided to check this out. Most days, I take the innermost (high-speed) lane on the expressways (I am avoiding mention of the specific expressway here), and maintain more or less a constant speed of 90 KMPH. I noticed that many drivers did not like me as their conclusion appeared to be that I was too slow on a high-speed lane though the displayed speed limit at most places on the highway was 80 KMPH and in sections of the highway it was 90 KMPH. The daily occurrence was that high-speed cars acted as though they were chasing James Bond on the expressway, and zoomed in behind me at speeds in excess of 100 – 120 KMPH and gave me the scare. After seeing that I was not going to dodge them by shifting to the next lane, they eventually overtook me and occasionally looked at me while doing so. But the most scary part was when they are behind my car at probably couple of feet away at very high speeds, when the advised distance between two cars is six car lengths at speeds of 60 KMPH. I do keep at least a gap of 3 to 4 car lengths between my car and the car ahead of me, even in the innermost high-speed lane, irrespective of pressures exerted at my back by drivers who were fast losing patience with my cautious driving and wondering why I was driving on this lane anyway.

My conclusion was that if one sticks to the speed limit imposed on expressways, he or she is bound to get into problems if he or she chooses to follow that speed limit on the innermost high-speed lane. He or she will be hated for following the traffic rules, and will be cursed for blocking high-speed cars.

Now I decided to check out the middle lane which is supposed to be for slightly slower cars. One thing that I noticed is that my overall time taken to reach the office was more or less the same – though my speed was averaging at 70 KMPH, as compared to the high-speed lane in which my average speed was in excess of 80 KMPH. Second thing I noticed was that my slower speed was respected by most motorists, who decided to overtake me without much issues, either from the left or from the right. They must have just come to the conclusion that there is no point in arguing with a guy who has decided that the world will indeed move slowly today. Luckily, there was no threatening and over-speeding cars behind me in the middle lane – in fact, there was no such cars occupying the middle lane. The reason for that could be simple – the fast riders move very fast from their starting or entry point to the innermost lane and then push ahead with speeds higher than what is stipulated by the authorities.

I found that the middle lane offered most comfort at less cost. Petrol consumption was lower, and driving was more relaxed. While one has to be cautious all the time, there was no reason to be scared in the middle lane. Of course, the irritant of the high-speed, maneuvering motor cycles (mostly from Malaysia) cannot be avoided, and one has to be wary of them as they weave in and out of lanes all the time. The Singaporean motorcycles also violate all the road rules, and it is tougher for them as they usually have bigger motorcycles or scooters with bulges on both sides, etc., Even they try to sneak between the lanes which is a dangerous game.

In a nutshell, my experiment revealed that driving has become a tad dangerous on Singapore expressways and even on the regular city roads because motorists drive at high speeds and cut across in front of you without warning. Or tailgate good drivers who are following the traffic rules. And so on and so forth.

Traffic education should be mandatory before renewal of driving licence to all motorists irrespective of their past performance. That seems to be the only way to secure improved driver behaviour on the road.

Best Regards

Vijay Srinivasan

11th June 2016

The Youngsters’ Traffic

For most people who visit Singapore, the traffic on the roads would seem to be orderly, regulated, and rule-bound. Especially for people visiting from India, the traffic in Singapore always appears to be highly controlled and methodical, compared to the chaos that rule the roads in most cities in India.

But apparently that is the perception. For every reading of a situation, there is a counter perspective.

If you are a driver in Singapore, of late, you would have noticed that the drivers on the roads are erratic, and if you carefull observe, these drivers are almost always in their early twenties or new drivers on the roads. If they also happen to have a fast car (which is often the case with the rich ones), then you could easily witness speeds in excess of 100 KMPH on city roads with criss cross driving behaviour to get ahead of most of the other normal drivers. I have been seeing this behaviour often. There is absolutely no patience even in some normal drivers. They just want to get one car space ahead by switching lanes, sometimes in a dangerous manner.

When cars switch lanes when the traffic signals turn green, that is not just dangerous but also outright discourteous, and indicates bad planning on the part of the driver who probably wishes to get to the extreme left or right. And when two lanes merge, alternate cars should go forward instead of all cars rushing forward to get ahead. Simple courtesies which have been in practice for a long time are being abandoned by the new drivers, and the older drivers seem to be having no choice but to follow.

Typically, I like to drive on the middle lane at a regular speed (something in the range of 60 KMPH in the city roads, and 80 – 90 KMPH on the highways), but sometimes I will be pushed to the rightmost lane because of a slow moving vehicle in front which has createda long vacuum in front of it. This vehicle should have chosen the left most lane which is the recommended lane for such vehicles, but they often do not follow that lane discipline. Trying to slow traffic is also a bad thing.

Fast moving youngsters worry me the most. The number of fast cars in Singapore is on the rise, despite the huge cost of owning such cars. The other issue on Singapore roads is the high-speed motorcycles, who are allowed to go on any lane (even the innermost high speed lanes). They dangerously weave in and out of traffic and could appear without any indication either ahead or behind you. Very thrilling indeed……but very dangerous as well. Both to the motorcycle rider and to the car riders. There seems to be no control on the behaviour of the motorcycle riders on Singapore roads.

Pedestrian crossings are sacrosanct in Singapore. Every vehicle has to stop completely and allow the pedestrians to cross on the zebra crossings. There are round big lights at most such crossings to warn the motorists. However, I am noticing that motorists tend to be careless these days, and try to speed up ahead of the approaching pedestrians. This has caused accidents as reported in the media in recent times.

I also notice that motorists who are entering an expressway from a slip road do not brake and stop while letting the traffic on the lane that they are cutting into go by……they just continue driving forcing the motorists who have the right of way to slow down rapdily. Again, this is dangerous behaviour on the part of the motorists who are joining the expressway.

And so on and so forth. You might say that I am trying to suggest ways to make the Singapore traffic even more perfect than it already is. I disagree. My point is that a very good traffic system is being gamed by aggressive drivers who are not following what they learnt in their driving schools. Some of them do not deserve their driving licenses. The best way to improve the situation is to enforce a driving test once every five years on each and every driver on Singapore roads. May be that will enforce some discipline. The other way is to increase the already high penalties on drivers who are erratic.

This tells us that even a good system is not necessarily the best when human behaviour comes into play.

Drive carefully and smartly. Follow the traffic rules. Do not follow the rash driving behaviour of some drivers. Follow your instincts, and follow your learning.


Vijay Srinivasan

6th March 2016

From Second World to First World

Singapore is now clearly ensconced as one of the top ten wealthiest nations on planet earth.

This has not been achieved easily.

Lots of sweat and thinking has gone on into making a marshy land one of the world’s top financial centres today. Earlier, it was one of the top electronics manufacturing centres as well, which it has ceded to Malaysia and some other countries. Singapore still has the world’s busiest container seaport, the best airport, and a crime-free city which is still to be rivalled anywhere in the world. There are many other firsts for this tiny “red-dot” of a city state, but the purpose of this post is not to list all of them.

The challenge facing the country today is cost competitiveness.

While larger developed countries have the sustainability due to their larger population and long-standing core country competencies which have been in-built into their economies, Singapore has always been a small city state with core trading skills. As countries around develop their systems and people, Singapore needs to find its feet, while competing on costs.

Which is not entirely possible, with a population aspiring for the best things in life.

Costs have been on the rise over the past four years in Singapore, despite multiple measures taken by the Government to check the rise. Real estate and car prices have risen at breakneck speeds, and are still rising. This has frustrated the local people, who often tend to blame the foreigners for the price rise.

While that may be partially true, there is no substantive rationale for the real estate prices more than doubling in less than four years. Lack of land space is not the reason, as there are probably more than 30,000 apartments lying vacant even now.

I can understand the rise in car prices, but these have again become just untenable. Cars are not really needed to go around the city, but then people have aspirations which cannot be controlled purely by policy-making.

There are other price rises in retail – while food seems to be still OK, clothing and other stuff have become pricier. One of my European friends mentioned to me that he now gets his clothing and suits from Germany (!), which is some 30% cheaper than the same quality commands in Singapore – and he still felt that even the European materials when purchased in Germany are of better quality.

Goes to show that profit-making seems to be the motive rather than catering to a wider population in retail business. While that is fine, Singaporeans also travel all over the world, and so are not immune from learning of prices elsewhere. A high-quality suit can be ordered in Bangkok for USD 500 or in Hong Kong for USD 800, while that would cost not less than USD 1,200 in Singapore. How do you explain that – we are talking of same textile material here, and one cannot explain it saying that the Hong Kong tailors are more efficient with less turnaround time, or that the Bangkok tailors use fake material.

Many examples can be given. In my opinion, Singapore is at least some 25 to 30% more expensive than the neighbouring countries, and some 10 to 15% more expensive than the developed countries.

A strategy to contain inflationary trends in retail does not work due to the variability of the market, but it does work for major elements such as real estate and automotives, etc. It only takes longer – some six to nine months, to take full effect.

It is critical for Singapore not to make it to the list of the top 10 most expensive destinations in the world. Or, to the top 10 most expensive real estate locations in the world. That ranking is not needed to be successful.


Vijay Srinivasan
22nd Sept 2013