Decidedly urban couple who quit their jobs and successfully backpacked their way through Asia for a year. They met Buddha, drank baijiu and learned to master the squat toilet. Now appearing in a new life as ex-pats in Singapore.

Singapore Tech Scene

Singapore Tech Scene

Singapore was a trip, only a week long, but a fun city.  And Steve is right, it is Adult Disneyland thanks to its countless fun attractions –  from the giant sling shots launching crowds of people into the air, to the man-made lake with a moving cable around the top pulling kneeboarders around and over jumps.  This is a place to spend it if you’ve got it.

All of this will set you back a handful of Andrew Jacksons though, as the fun is built and priced for all the foreign born execs and their families.

We learned that a full 20% of the population are foregners living in Singapore for work – that number includes western execs to daylabors and migrant workers who come from as close as neighboring Malaysia or as far as India.

But Singapore shouldn’t put all its eggs in the multi-national corporate market when it has such an interesting domestic tech startup scene hatching…

Singapore Geeks

I heard Singapore had a bit of a tech startup scene so Kristine and I went to check out a local co-working space, HackerSpace.  There is an active and bright startup community in Singapore, more so then in other cities I’ve seen so far in Asia.  At just about a year old, HackerSpace has definitely been a major contributor to the local startup community.  I met up with one founder for dinner, Vin Nair of, a successful LendingTree for Singapore.  After dinner, we met up with some other startup folks for drinks – showing that the community is not all just work, but play as well.  I met half a dozen fellow geeks for coffee, and though introduced separately, each knew of the other people I was meeting with and what they were working on.

However, while attending a talk for a university entrepreneurs group – the question was thrown out by Danny Tan of “How many of you have an idea for a business to start?” and nobody raised their hand!  On the follow-up question “You’re part of an entrepreneur club and you don’t have any business ideas?” one student raised their hand to say “but we need more experience first” – a complete 180′ from what you would overhear at Stanford.  Following up on that mentality, two people mentioned to me that many young startups fear sharing their ideas, going as far as to require NDA’s from potential investors during a pitch – young startups like to stay in ‘stealth mode.’

Over coffee with Jason Ong (who runs the local Ruby meetup) we discussed the startup mentality in Silicon Valley vs. Singapore. Toying on the notion of how to kickstart the ‘free flowing’ of ideas, I mentioned Super Happy Dev House (SHDH) = A party in which geeks get together to build fun software/services in one day and show them off at night.  A SHDH encourages people to work together, then share and present their ideas to a crowd of fellow geek enthusiasts.  From this conversation, we decided to wortk together on hosting the first ever Super Happy Dev House in Singapore – in fact, the first ever in the whole continent of Asia!

Ghost Hunting

Ghost Hunting

Like most backpackers, we travel with a guide book (Lonely Planet for us), which we may complain about at times, but it usually proves itself to be helpful.

We’ve found that the little tidbits in the book that don’t get a lot of attention tend to be the most fun adventures – from “the roads less travelled” sections to the little gray boxes of interesting facts, off to the side of some paragraphs.

One of these boxes contained a brief sentence about the Singapore Paranomal Investigators (SPI), a local group obsessed with the supernatural.  The images of Ghost Busters came to our minds and we had to check it out.

Singapore Paranormal Investigators

After emailing them, they  invited us to join them on a trip around Labrador Park, where an iconic battle was fought between the British and the Japanese in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (we’re slowly learning how aggressive & brutal the Japanese were in the early 20th century).  This park is known to every Singaporean because the Brits fumbled with their canyons pointed in the wrong direction as the Japanese snuck up behind them on bikes!  We were to go ghost hunting for tortued  souls!

We tagged along with a dozen or so investigators, many donning fitted black collared shirts with SPI embroidred in white letters to the chest and across the back (think FBI).  We were given an array of ghost hunting tools, from three-dimensional Electro Magnetic Radiation readers to laser powered heat sensors, to infrared spotlights and IR cameras.  We were told of past sightings and learned about paranormal that exists in Singapore.

Our Ghost Hunting Gadgets!


A lesson in the Paranormal

We learned about the black market for stillborn babies – their spirits used for good and evil.  In ‘evil’ hands, these tortured souls are used to put curses on enemies and control them by hanging very personal items above the soul in a jar.  On the ‘good’ side, monks pray to these souls placed within alters for many many years until the souls mature and the hatred and sadness behind their unfortunate deaths can be put behind them and they turn into deities and the jar can be opened (a spirit may talk to a monk in their dreams).

We also learned that typically virgins have the best visions of ghosts and the 15yr old investigator in the group could help with that!

With ghost hunting gadgets in hand, we set out to explore the area just before sundown, which was starkly different then our return trip by moonlight.  As  night fell a feeling of eeriness took over as wind blew tree branches and everybody ran over with their instruments to investigate.  The group is well balanced on it’s theories and keeps a level of skepticism among them to keep everything in check – including using physics to explain why one tree branch was aggressively swaying while others around it were not.

Ghost Hunting in Infra-Red

Ironically enough though, as we were walking by an obelisque monument to the veterans that died in battle, a nearby festival down the bay started playing that famous song from Ghost –  Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers.

While we didn’t experience any encounters, we did have an interesting time and the investigators of SPI were nothing but fantastic towards us – welcoming us into their group, sharing past stories, asking about our travels, and sharing local knowledge on cuisine and politics. – And we’ll happily trade a lack of virginity for a lack of ghost sightings any day!