We flew to Singapore a few weeks ago, for a few days before continuing on to Malaysia to visit Jacqui’s Dad. It was my first time visiting Singapore, only having stopped at Changi on the way to Europe previously, so it was nice to wander around and get a feel for the city state.
On the surface it’s a little antiseptic, everything spotless in the touristy section, not much traffic on the roads, same shops etc. as everywhere else in the world, epitomised by the Marina Bay Sands’ “The Shoppes” - complete with fake Olde Worlde name - where you won’t find a store that isn’t a designer brand. Yet you often round a corner to where the real people live and work and it’s busy, vibrant and full of hawker stalls selling cheap, tasty food. I’m not sure if it was Anthony Bourdain who said that all good food comes from street food, or maybe it’s a truism amongst chefs, but it’s certainly true in Asia and particularly in Singapore as it has always been such a melting pot of cultures.
It’s also a surveillance state - I’ve never seen so many CCTV cameras keeping an eye on everyone - and I wonder how much is being done with the footage. Is it merely temporarily recorded in case of crime, or are they heading the way of the Chinese and applying facial recognition on a large scale? Cars are also stupidly expensive (circa $95k for a Hyundai i30 which costs about $22k in Aus), which explains the lack of traffic, though the public transport system is excellent, so that’s an overall win in my book.
Single-party Government is always a bit suspect, though the country scores highly on lack of corruption etc. and elections are technically free, though there’s no effective opposition. The ‘benevolent dictator’ model seems to have helped them transition very effectively from Colonial rule, certainly much better than Malaysia has, though the large income from trade coupled with only a small land mass to manage has undoubtedly made things easier.
Anyway, some superficial thoughts from a superficial visit. We had a great time exploring by foot over a couple of days. Highlights were the various hawker stalls, Tiong Bahru, walking through Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Gardens by the Bay and seeing the Supertrees light show.
Here’s a few snaps.