Singapore is clean, green and beautiful. Plentiful are bathrooms, water you can drink, and people who understand you. Absent are the people with bikes piled with crazy loads, pollution, and sky scrapers on steroids. Of course they have sky scrapers here, and cranes everywhere, but the buildings are more graceful, smaller in scale, and don’t dominate the skyline. Some buildings are covered with green plants! In short, Singapore seems like a squeaky clean version of the wild Asia I’ve come to love in China. In Singapore, taxi drivers actually have to pass a test on knowledge of Singapore. Everyone has to graduate from high school. No litter. Not one sip of alcohol if you drive.
Most of their 5 plus million residents own their own apartments. My last cab driver explained the government housing system and the tax system. Apparently the government subsidizes the purchase of a couple’s first home, given they are under a certain salary level, and the couple gets more subsidy if they choose a government apartment near their parents. Smart, huh? Builds in elder care! (Of courses, in Chinese culture the son takes care of his parents. God (or Bhudda) knows what happens to parents of daughters.)
As usual, I planned themed reading for this trip, and John and I are both enjoying The Shanghai Grip by J.G Farrell. Great tale of colonial life and the Japanese siege of Singapore on 1942 – beautifully written. John’s been reading it on my iPhone while I’m on my iPad. Another high tech aspect of the trip: the Trip Adviser iPad ap has free city guides which allow you to save favorites which can be accessed off line. Gone are the days when I’d carry tear- outs from various travel guidebooks.
Day one, Tuesday Oct. 9. I visited the Asian Cultural Museum after a walk along the marina and a look at the Merlion, Singapore’s tourism symbol, and the stunning waterfront. Great exhibit on early life on the island, before and after the colonial days.
Next stop on day one: the vertical gardens in the fabulous “Cloud Forest” in the new Gardens by the Bay. The British royals recently visited this site. It was built on land reclaimed from the sea – as was the land for the nearby Marina Bay Sands Hotel. There’s a thundering waterfall in the garden which welcomes you to the “cloud forest” dome – water falling six stories from the top of the plant-covered “mountain.”
Here’s the marketing group at our first dinner at The Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant – crab and many other seafood delights. The restaurant is located right next to the Merlion on the riverfront.
Day Two in Singapore, Wednesday Oct. 10.
Today I took a half-day tour which included stops at Little India, China Town, The Marina (again), and the wonderful Orchid Garden at the Botanical Gardens. The orchids were stunning – from teeny
weenie yellow ones to stunning sizes and a multitude of colors.
We had dinner Wednesday night with the marketing team at a Chinese “wheel of death” restaurant at the riverfront. Food was good as long as we skipped the fish skin and the shark fin soup. Adam said he was born at home, in this area, when it was the warehouse and shipping center of the city. Some of the original warehouses are restored into glitzy, swinging night clubs and restaurants, and the whole area is very high end and glamorous with stunning views of the river. Adam’s dad came from China: his dad worked for 10 years before bringing his mom over from China. Imagine: his dad worked as a street hawker, and tonight, a successful businessman, he sits at a table with a bunch of smart, college educated people in the developed riverfront complex.
Here’s a view of the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel from the infinity pool – the icon of the new marina.