A moving memoir that only a woman could have written, it is a unique contribution to the appreciation of a life in Singapore. -- C. V. Devan Nair, Former President of Singapore, May 2002
Escape From Paradise had been banned by the whim of an influential individual, not by the Government of Singapore, and not by the laws of Singapore. -- Hollywood Inside Syndicate, September 2002
It is a remarkable story and so full of intrigue that it reads at times like fiction. -- Jonathan Burnham, President, Talk Miramax Books, 2002
The book is more than just a woman's story; it is a social comment on today's Singapore. -- Hollywood Inside Syndicate, September 2002
This book out-Dallas, Dallas. No one has written so well of the other side of paradise -- Francis T. Seow, Former Solicitor General of Singapore, 2002
Singapore is a name of a dream, an imaginary vision of the orient of colonial times, of leisurely lives, of verandahs, of all the things it isn't.
There are no clouds on the horizon. Well, almost nonethe CIA claims that Singapore serves as a transit point for Golden Triangle heroin going to the West.
Singapore is Chinese. Singapore is safe. Singapore is making money.
It's not that Singapore isn't nice. It's not a particularly interesting or easy place, but it is nice. Singapore is slick on the surfacemarble hotel lobbies stretch sky high. It is China in paradise, with a Manhattan skyline, where Chinese autocrats talk about preserving their core values from the onslaught of "pseudo-Western" culture. It is materialism run rampantthe most mercenary of environmentsa Chinese dreama contradictory clear win for Western-style capitalism.
Todays Singapore has swept the colonialists and its history aside. The British-favored Malays and Indians have all but disappeared. Even the mixed-breed Eurasianswho never had much of a place-have no place now. Singapores population of four million is 77 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malay, and 8 percent Indianthe remaining 1 percent is classified as "Others."
Located at the end of the southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, less than 100 miles from the equator, Singapore is a small island, only twenty-six miles long, and fourteen miles wide.
In 1819, with the landing of Sir Stamford Raffles on its shores, Singapore became a ward of the British Empire. It remained so, with the exception of the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, until England granted it self-government in 1959 with Lee Kuan Yew becoming Prime Minister. Singapore achieved full independence from the British by becoming a province of Malaysia in 1963. Finally, in 1965 Singapore became a sovereign nation in 1965, when it was expelled from Malaysia for racial issues between the Malays and Chinese.
Lee Kuan Yew served as Prime Minister until 1990 and even now with the specially created position of Senior Minister, remains Singapores undisputed ruler.
Most likely, Lee Kuan Yew will be succeeded by his number one son, Lee Hsien Loong, who retired from his position as Brigadier-General of the Singapore Armed Forces to enter politics. Lee Hsien Loong was all of 32 years old at the time.
Singapore is moving fast. I was born there in 1957, when Singapore wasn't even Singaporeit was part of Malaysia. The world I knew as a child, and even as a teenager is a long-gone distant memory.
Most Chinese arrived in Singapore as coolies during the time of British rule. They were permitted to do only the most menial of tasks and were not considered acceptable even as house servants for the Britishonly Indians and Malays were good enough.
Still, over time, some Singapore Chinese families grew to be wealthymost did not.
My family arrived in Singapore by a different route. They were not coolies and did not fit any of the popular Chinese stereotypes.
We were not gloomy Joy Luck Club middle-class folks. We had no ancient faded family photographs of destitute peasants to gaze upon with simple pride. We were not humble. We were not obsequious. No one impressed us. No one had more than we did, or showed it off so grandly. We were flamboyant, irreverent, and loud. We came to Singapore from Burma, and arrived in style. We were already rich, very richwe were the Tiger Balm Kings!
Our business empire grew from one simple product, Tiger Balm, to newspapers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, and Canada, and to banks in Singapore and Malaysia.
Our houses, the Haw Par Villa in Singapore, and the Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong are now tourist attractionsfree donations from our family for public pleasure and family aggrandizement.
No one had anything quite like what we hadbut that was then.