Singapore balances that small-town atmosphere with a cosmopolitan scene. Within a short taxi ride, Al can reach hundreds of restaurants offering international cuisine, several performing-arts centers, a sports stadium, dozens of clubs swinging late into the night and a mass of fashion malls. "Over Christmas, the streets look just like New York at rush hour," says Al. "Thousands of people fi ll the sidewalks." For divers like Al, Singapore is not only a global microcosm but a launching point from which to explore the rest of the planet -- both above and under water. "Within a couple hours' plane flight from here, you can be diving the most exotic places in the world -- Bali, Thailand, Sipadan," he says. But Singapore always lures Al back home, perhaps someday for good. "There are lots of people who come here for a job and fi nd a way to stay," says Al.