When we told people we would be in Singapore for three days , the general reaction was that it was too long. But Singapore has so much to see that three weeks would still be insufficient to explore the architecture -old and new, the parks, the temples and the history.
Singapore is exciting- there is an air of activity as new roads and apartments are being builtand old buildings restored. One guide told us ” we build roads under roads and roads over roads because we are so short of land.” Singapore embraces t new, but respects the past. Transport is cheap and efficient with metros, buses and taxis all affordable. Most people live in apartments, so it is a city of tall buildings, including outstanding office blocks and hotels. There is the Art Deco reproduction – Parkview Square, Marina Bay sands with it’s suspended ship and swimming pool, as well as towers with trompe del’oeil aspects, and towers with octagonal windows to bring good fortune to those inside.
There are temples everywhere, including the flamboyant Hindu Sri Mariamman, the single story Daoist, preserved despite sitting on extraordinarily valuable land, Buddhist and Sikh. There are churches, Including the stark white of St. Andrews cathedral in its third reincarnation because it has been struck by lightening twice, Baptist, Roman Catholic and others. The are mosques with golden domes and the simple Sunni mosques nestled amid the bustle of Serangoon Road.
Singapore maintains its Colonial heritage – whatever attitudes to Britain are held today, Raffles Hotel recreates the grandeur of a former era, the Fullerton Building is now an exclusive hotel, and Empress place houses a magnificent collection of art and artefacts depicting aspects of Asian civilisation.
And there are still the quaint old buildings, ornately decorated – some restored, some shabby. And lots of affordable public housing.
For shopping Singapore also has innumerable malls – not only Orchard Road, but every couple of blocks in the city there seems to be another a mall. And Singapore has Mustafa’s . Open 24 hours a day, Mustafa’s is Costco on steroids. From the amazing selection of gold jewellery – mor gold than I have every seen in one place- to electronics to pharmacy, shoes ,clothes and food ( but no alcohol) , Mustafa’s shelves are lined with the cheap and nasty, the practical ( the travel clothesline we forgot) and the exotic. Like all of Singapore, it is well staffed. Men in their distinctive pale blue shirts were everywhere, ready to guide us to the goods we were looking for.
It was the same at the. Botanic Gardens and national Orchid Garden. Plenty of staff to answer directions, hose the plants (despite the recent monsoon showers) trim branches and mow the lawns.
Food courts have more than enough people to clear trays – despite signs asking you to do it yourself. Often these are seniors – one place was proud that they employed older people and the needy, as well as ” rehabilitating inmates.” But I wonder how the Chinese adage of filial piety sits alongside older people doing menial tasks cleaning up after tourist and successful young business people.
In contrast with the modernity of its buildings and transport system, Singpaore has signs which remind me of life in the fifties. I have been asked to dry my hands incase someone slips on the water I splash on the floor (toilets at Botanic Gardens), and
not use too much toilet paper in Case I block an older toilet. On the MRT(metro) , you are encouraged to be kind, sweet and nice in giving your seat to someone who needs it more than you. The signs are usually accompanied by old-fashioned graphics.
There are still prohibitions against loitering -I found one sign next to a garden outside an eco-mall;another, threatening a fine of $1000 appeared to be just a pice of a4 paper stuck to the wall with blueback.
Singapore doesn’t have much land – yet there is a huge golf course next to the Marina Bay Resort built on reclaimed land. Most food is imported – including pork form Australia, proving that (dead) pigs can fly , but they are developing agricultural technology which they is being sold to neighbouring countries with mor land.
The downside of Singapore is the climate . I was warned never to walk faster than the locals, and wandering the streets takes a lot of energy, necessitating stops for water and a a blast of air-conditioing.
Everyone in Singapore seemed happy- admittly we mainly dealt with service staff who were being paid to be nice, but it nevertheless seemed forced. After a holiday, I always say I’ll be back, but Singapore has definitely beguiled me, and I hope that I will return.