Today it was Singapore’s turn to be explored – how awesome. First of all we met up with Irena and Chris. They came to the port (PPT 24, Port of Singapore) to bring us to a lovely little hotel to have coffee. We walked along the Singapore River getting caught up with all the news since we last met. Irena never changes – she still looks the same as when I worked with her over 10 years ago – how awesome. Later Gert and I took the red bus or Heritage line to see the city of Singapore. We said our hasty good byes with hopes that
we’ll see each other in August/September when one of her daughters has her baby. (One of her 2 daughters still live in Toronto).
Lee Kuan Yew, the first and longest reigning Prime Minister of Singapore, stepped down in 1990 when Goh Chok tong assumed the post.
Singapore’s rules are tough, but clear. Jaywalkers are fined on the spot (oops, we did a bit of that at the Fountain). Litter and you pay (even it you toss a cigarette butt), and convicted drug traffickers can expect to earn a death sentence. The walls of Singapore’s buildings are clean – and I mean CLEAN. No graffiti or soiling of walls here. Media is scanned at the state level for content and inappropriate websites are blocked. There is no denying the system’s icy effectiveness. Unlike any other large city, you walk fearlessly in Singapore at any time, day or night. And there is no denying that the tax structure that supports entrepreneurship works. City planning works to provide excellent public spaces, e.g. along the rejuvenated Singapore river where there are plenty of places for people to enjoy the views and spaces.
The tiny country consists of the large island of Singapore and 63 smaller islands at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. It’s just 90 miles north of the equator, the climate is tropical, but the pace is anything but relaxed. There are more than 3,000,000 people that live on the big island. There are 14 major nationalities, but most people belong to one of several Chinese groups.
In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in the Sumatran trading centre and claimed it for Britain. The harbour, strategic position and free port status fuelled rapid growth. Forced to labour at cutting away the thick jungle that once blanketed the countryside, the first Indians came to Singapore with Sir Stamford Raffles. They quickly weaved into Singaporean society, the immigrants were well versed in the arts of British-style civil service.
The city appears to have 3 major ethnic communes – Little India, bounded by the Rochor Canal, Serangoon Road and Veerasamy road – this area is awesome. Authentic atmosphere, delicious foods, and scents of exotic spices fill the streets. Then we have the Arab Streets linking Beach and Rochor Canal Roads. The surrounding quarter’s Sultan Mosque, named for the nearby Istana Kampong Glam (sultana’s Palace) is Singapore’s largest. Finally there’s Chinatown. Most Singaporean’s are of Chinese descent and Chinatown is one of the largest districts. Established in the beginning of the 19th century by immigrants from Xiamen, it is a city within a city. There are many famous landmarks in the district and feng shui reigns. We passed Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple (Sri Mariamman) – the architecture is just awesome. We ate in one of the many Chinese restaurants in the area – cost was $7 Singapore dollars ($5Cdn) and that included a Jasmine cold drink. We found the city amazing – It is amazingly clean and the people all appear to speak English (thankfully).
Singapore is currently undergoing a tremendous growth spurt. Buildings are very modern and all are air-conditioned. I loved the overall architectural feel of the city – quite European in design – no curlicues here (which we both loved).
Much of the housing is managed by the government. It is compulsory for everyone to save for a home. There are large BDH housing complexes which people must save for and are given by the government. There is NO beggars or homeless people. A portion of every pay-cheque goes towards housing, health care and retirement. The government takes this money and gives an interest of 3%. All buildings are air-conditioned, there are no dryers in the homes, clothes are placed on a line and hung outside the condo or BDH complex. It’s hot enough – the humidity level here was a little higher than we’ve had but we put that down to an early morning shower. We definitely loved Singapore and hope to visit again.