Saturday, January 28, 2006

Its too clean here!

As you know I’m here in Singapore and just exploring this island of many cultures and of that ever-present ‘Merlion’ thingamajig. It’s been a very surreal experience so far but I’ve been trying to squeeze as much out of the short time I have here as possible. I caught an early morning flight to Singapore which meant that I had a few hours to rest at my cousin’s place once I arrived, before heading out and exploring the city.

I’m sort of lucky to have not one but two personal tour guides in the shape of my two younger nephews who know the island back to front. The eldest one lives and goes to the top local school and the younger one lives in Sydney and is in Singapore for a few days before going back to school. As I was saying before, this is one very surreal place (probably not to the extent of Tokyo) but surreal nevertheless. Why? Because rarely do you find such a well developed country in a place like Asia where people of many cultures and backgrounds getting along with each other to make this the one of the most successful economies in Asia.

Granted it’s a very small and rather manageable country, but given what problems nearby countries like Thailand and to an extent, Malaysia are going through with their different ethnic groups, I’d say Singapore’s done pretty darn good. Everything from the bird flu epidemic originating in this region to terrorism, its all kept in check and the Singaporean government isn’t one to be messed with.

It’s a really strange social experiment – if I can call it that – they got going here, very few places on earth can boast total ethnic and religious harmony. Its as if the issue doesn’t really need to be discussed because its understood so well and it’s a given. Having said that you’ll always get a little racism and general backwardness here and there as my eldest nephew told me, referring to a few comments he gets from his Singaporean-Chinese schoolmates probably due to his dark skin.

Mild racial bigotry aside, this is a very – how shall I say – welcoming yet highly restrictive country. Yeah we all know how you’re not allowed to spit chewing gum (no shops sell chewing gum in this country) or throw cigarette butts on the streets here

Signs like this are a common site, no wonder the souvenir T-shirts say 'Singapore is a 'Fine' city!' You'll find out about the 'Durian' if you read on

Public transport

Everything here seems to work seamlessly and the public transport system here is no exception. We took decided to take the train Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) that criss-crosses the island to the more central parts of the city and I’ll tell ya, they got this whole ‘Clean-and-stay-clean’ thing down pretty good (see above picture). All trains as far as I know are driverless.

But I must say I just can’t seem to quite get my head around the idea of every single citizen of this country actually OBEYING the very strict laws here. And the amazing thing is there are very few CCTV cameras around to enforce these rules, this is of course in sharp contrast to here in the UK - I think we have the highest density of CCTV cameras in Europe and it still doesn’t seem to work here!

Downtown Singapore

Our first place to visit was the Padang (A Malay term for large expanse of space usually used for national events) and its surrounding areas next to the Singapore river and the central business district where all the tall buildings are. Just before that we broke for lunch and went to Burger King, and I’ve gotta say the variety of burgers here are so much more mouth-watering and ooze with local flavours and they’re just so ‘moreish’, you just want to have more. The ones back in England don’t even compare to these spicy burgers. Sorry, I just got carried away there trying to relive the taste-bud explosion, after all its ONLY a burger (I’m still trying to convince myself). I forgot to take a photo of it.

The central business district of Singapore

Same buildings but from the Singapore riverside

We also visited the famous Esplanade...

The Padang with the Esplanade in the background

Another view of the Esplanade from the riverside

...(locally called the 'Durian', after the well-known spiky and very smelly fruit)

See the resemblance with a Durian?

It’s a nice multipurpose building used for performances of all the arts and exhibitions, but the young nephews found it boring so I didn’t really get to hang around much to check out what was on that day or catch any particular exhibits etc.

So we settled for messing around with the camera in front of the Esplanade.

I couldn't quite get the camera level right for this picture and the one below, I was trying to go for a 'floating/kung-fu fighting on water' effect

As the clouds were thickening we decided to head underground and catch the MRT to Orchard road and the central parts of Singapore city. Orchard road is like the Oxford Street or Times Square of Singapore, it’s got all the glitzy shopping malls and hotels there and the streets are so clean and spotless I just couldn’t believe it. Since I’m on a tight budget I settled for a little window shopping amongst all the Boss and Armani stores and all that designer spiel.

After moseying all fancy shops we decided to call it a night and headed back home and home’s where I’m typing this up from before I hit the sack. Its so humid here that I need to take a shower twice a day, I just took one now and my T-shirts soaking again, better crank up that AC. That’s all for now folks!


Melanie said...

JANUARY! Dude has nothing happened in your life since January!

shakes her head and doesnt believe it. speak up!

feel the joy of your words... and give me something new to read! giggles.


Melanie said...

Hye at least you got a loyal follower of ONE!

get to work slacker. how hard is it to pound out few snappy lines now and then!?

you are the "hard working" slacker after all...