Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, April 03, 2015

22. Singapore - The Republic of Singapore -


Amazing Architecture
My first impression of this country (the Republic of Singapore) is a good one. Wow, so clean it makes NYC look dirty. So organized it makes London look sloppy. Things work here. The subway is clean, efficient and runs like clockwork. Shiploads of tourists are dealt with without breaking a sweat. People seem happy and content with their lot in life. But, Singapore is a Republic, not a democracy. The law rules here. Singapore has strict laws and they are strictly enforced. No porn is allowed in any form. The Internet is censored in many more ways. Newspapers and TV are censored. Fireworks are forbidden. The political leadership is very conservative. Personal liberties are curtailed to make for more harmonious living conditions. The law reaches so far as to forbid spitting, chewing gum or smoking in most places. Don't even think of dropping a cigarette butt on the ground. The fines are steep, 1,000 dollar fine for spitting out a glob of chewing gum? Even corporal punishment is not unheard of. It is not that this is a police state; I did not see any police at all in the three days that I was here. Yet when caught, there is no mercy for you no matter who you are. I did not walk around in fear of anything but felt pleasantly safe day and night. One needs to be aware of the laws, however.
More Modern Architecture

Carol and I opted to use the hop-on, hop-off bus and bought a two-day ticket right at the marine terminal where we docked since we were to be in Singapore for three days. This terminal is a very modern, clean place filled with shops that sell almost anything. When you come off the ship you must go through customs. You could shop right at this marine terminal, turn around and board the ship again. Literally, all you ever wanted is for sale right there.  

Naturally we did not do that but took a taxi to the first stop of the hop on/off bus near Chinatown. It rained buckets when we were in the cab. I noticed pedestrian traffic did not subside. Most buildings have overhangs so these covered walkways keep you dry in rain and shaded on hot days. This is a very convenient idea. I wish NYC or any metropolitan city had this set up. It would keep a lot of people clean and dry.

Singapore is well thought out. Singapore proper is an island. There are 50 other, smaller islands belonging to Singapore, but the main business occurs on the main island. Most of the smaller islands are very small and not useful, have no harbor facilities and serve mainly as storage areas for industry or, when pretty, as weekend get always. I visited the large island only.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Marina Bay Sands Hotel Lit Up at Night

We visited the 57th floor of the “Marina Bay Sands Hotel.” This is the newest icon representing Singapore. Three large tower buildings, side by side, with a ship-like super structure across all three buildings at the top.  At one end, the bow of the “ship” protrudes, telelevers way out from the tower. This hanging over area is accessible to visitors and gives a unique vista. A “No-edge” swimming pool (Infinity Pool) was created for the very daring

Infinity Pool Inside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

atop the roof. One has to be a hotel guest to visit the pool but Carol snuck in to take a picture. A bit scary to swim in the pool I think when the water's edge literally disappears over the horizon. We enjoyed a cappuccino in the coffee shop on top of this daring architectural marvel and watched others swim in the pool. This tower, this hotel is an impressive structure. No wonder the Marina Sands Hotel became synonymous with Singapore, the building that spells Singapore like the Eiffel Tower spells Paris.

Looking Down on the Lobby of the
Marina Bay Sands Hotel

View From the Top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel


There are a multitude of interesting places to visit when visiting Singapore. We choose to go back in time and visited the Raffles hotel next. This is the
Raffles Hotel

home of the famous drink, the “Singapore Sling” first served in 1915. It was and is now, served in the Long Bar, a place that recalls old times, colonial times. The hotel is extremely expensive, yet an icon of Singapore too. The hotel has a dress code, sandals and halter tops are a no-no. Men need dress shirts, even a necktie for afternoon tea or dinner. The dress code for the Long Bar however, was a bit more relaxed. The tourists are needed to bring in the money and concessions need to be
Doorman at the Raffles Hotel
made when it comes to what to wear. To save on our expenses at the bar I only ordered only one Sling. Good thing I did. Carol liked the drink, for me it was really yucky tasting. The bar had free roasted peanuts in the shells; you peel the shells and just throw them on the tile floor. It creates a mess but the procedure is based on history. I liked making a mess. We mainly went to Raffles because of the Sling.

Singapore Sling, Roasted Peanuts and Beer
The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel


Lush Gardens at the Raffles Hotel

Singapore seems to have districts for the majority of their races. Chinese live in or near Chinatown. There is a section called little India and it looks, feels and smells
Hindu Temple in Little India
like India when one visits there. Mostly Indian people live near or in little India. This is literally India, including the temples, shops, clothing and foods. There is a Malay section of Singapore as well; and an Arab section with some mosques and souks.

Ganesh in Little India

Images in Little India

Singapore is running out of land however. Every inch is built upon.  Only 1% of the land is agrarian and even that is dwindling. Land has been reclaimed from the sea already, yet still there is not enough room.

 The Gross National Income is about $US 42,000/year. Their major industries are electronics, shipbuilding and finance. For workers there is no unemployment insurance. Housing is subsidized, there are no slums. Close to 6 million people live in Singapore, of which 60% are Chinese and 20% from India.

Upper Level of Hindu Temple

On day two we visited little India and walked around a bit. Everyone was busy; people were preoccupied with their lives. Indian dialects were spoken but everyone also spoke English. The same was true with Chinatown, our other stop on day two. Stalls, small shops, large department stores were offering their wares. The places were humming with activity. People shopped, ate and looked prosperous. We looked
Chinatown in Singapore
at the darkening sky at one point and just caught a taxi again before it stared to rain slightly, then heavier.

On day three we did not even leave the ship. When we woke up, the rain was coming down side ways. It poured. While the walkways in town are covered we did not feel like ducking the rain when crossing street intersections. We looked at other options for this rainy day, like a cable car ride that crosses the city, but decided not to go.

Chinatown in Singapore
We just got an inkling of Singapore on this short visit but our impression was a very good one. The taxi driver maybe said it best when he said: “I don't mind giving up some liberties for comfortable and peaceful living conditions.”

There are many ways to live; the American way is not the only way. 

Getting Ready for Chinese New Year

Celebrating Chinese New Year at Raffles Hotel


Supplies for Celebrating
Chinese New Year


Singapore Skyline at Night

Hopefully Clearing Tomorrow


No comments: