Archive for the 'singapore' Category

singing the praises of singapore

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

so in speaking with singaporeans, they are justifiably proud of their city/state/nation. it’s a multicultural, 21st century city which is safe as houses, pristine, successful. singaporeans are multilingual, well-educated, and tolerant people. many singaporeans are also incredibly grateful to the british. for when they pulled out of singapore in 71, they left behind a strong infrastructure and booming international economy. singaporeans know only too well what could have become of their beloved city – they’ve seen what happened in much of the rest of post-colonial southeast asia. laos, vietnam, cambodia are all prime examples of the shambles that were left behind like so much rubbish. they know they’re lucky. they love where they live and they love their lifestyles. so if i sounded a bit derisory about singapore being “soulless” in my previous post… well, i stand corrected. they know all too well what the alternative might have been – and that gives them a unique appreciation for their standard of living that few of us can understand. and that speaks straight to the heart.

personally, i would kill for their public metro. i recently read that per kilometre, taking the tube is more expensive than flying – something i can all too readily believe. and yet for not even half the price, you can ride the gleaming, quiet, efficient, and modern SMRT.

so where the hell did the brits get it wrong?

sanitised singapore

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

so we’re here in singapore. a lovely, sparkling city. full of shopping. and restaurants. in fact, the whole city is pretty much like a gigantic outdoor shopping mall. nothing particularly wrong with that. we’re staying in the “little india” section of the city, which is basically like being back at home in tooting, london. except pristine and quiet and safe. nothing wrong with that.

there are lots of banks. and “body shop” stores. and “starbucks”. (which i usually call “four bucks”, except here it’s more like “eleven bucks”. even in singaporean dollars, that’s friggin’ expensive.) there are lots of tall buildings. there is a beautiful metro system. there are nice comfy cinemas – we saw “thank you for smoking”, (which i highly recommend, especially because i adore william h. macy). everyone speaks perfect english. customer service is a dream. even chinatown is squeaky clean. nothing wrong with any of that.

i can get my favourite american deodorant. there’s hot water in the shower. my feet are not blackened at the end of the day, and my face is not grimy with dirt/dust/soot. there is air-conditioning and clean public toilets in abundance. i can get a high speed internet connection – amazing.

nothing wrong with any of that.

it’s all a very welcome respite from the hectic, slap-dash, bare-bones, gritty existence we’ve experienced the past 6 weeks. in fact, i can hardly believe that just three days ago i was tromping through mud with my pack crossing jerry-rigged wood planks over a major bridge which had given up the ghost in the rains, only to have the bus require an impromptu clutch replacement, followed by spending a final 5 hours of the most cramped and spine-jarring ride i’ve ever experienced. it’s like being on a different planet.

so why does it feel like there’s something missing?

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