The people on Singapore island are really friendly and helpful, unlike most of those I encountered in India (Though the hotel staff were pretty good). And no tipping...That'll teach me to check the travel guides first, as the baggage guy at the hotel hung around after he'd put the bags in the room in that way all baggage guys do when they're looking for some money to make them go away. I took out the wallet and he's like "no no" gesture with his hands. So why hang around then? Stayed in the Imperial Hotel, which was more than adequate, being clean and well located.
The crime rate in Singapore is less than 1%, and so is the unemployment rate. Because there is no welfare, and all of the population work and pay tax at about 20%, they seem to have a lot of spare money to spend on making the city pleasant. Every street is clean and safe, and every spare bit of ground has foliage on it. Under the flyovers is vast green forests of palm trees and the like, unlike over here, where we have car parks. The lack of private owned cars and the climate probably helps this situation too. Although there are a fair few vehicles (Taxis and such like), the pollution level is non existent, probably due to all the plants. Residents are encouraged not to have cars, and the public transport system seems pretty good. A Nissan Micra on-the-road is about 36000 pounds. The humidity is such that, during the day, walking round, Ruth and I have been drinking about a pint an hour. Every ten minutes it would be "I could do with another drink". In fact,the humidity is the first thing that hit me when leaving the nicely air-conditioned Changi International Airport. As I'd not experienced it before, it's like "Hey, It's warm", and in a way I'm not used to either. They are Christmas mad here, at least as hyper as England and America, if not worse. (There was no reference to Christmas in Bombay) There are loads of decorations and lights, Santas and Snowmen, (Like sure, they're going to get snow).
Obviously there are some drawbacks to living here, (It would be suspicious if there weren't). The few people we talked to said it was a bit oppressive, and there are all these laws, $500 fine for littering, $9000 fine for bringing chewing gum into the country (Because of the humidity, it never sets, causing more problems then usual). Death to anybody bringing drugs into the country, and a severe caning and a jail sentence to anyone caught vandalising anything.... the list goes on. However, if you are a normal law abiding citizen, none of these laws are a problem, and it means it is as safe to walk out at 3am as it is at 3pm. This itself is an unusual experience.
On the 10th December (1994) we took the cable car over to Sentosa Island. On the island there is this incredible beach, with golden sand, palm trees and clean water, and few people. We had no swimsuits with us, and there wouldn't have been time to fetch them, so we bought some on the island, and went for a swim. There were no towels, but as we were drenched in sweat anyway, we weren't any worse when we got out, and we felt much better. We dried a lot in the sun anyway. We took some photos while we were on the cable car, 85 m high it said. From the Cable car you can see the main reason for Singapore's prosperity, the port. The port looks like an entire city made from transporter boxes and ships. It is cloudy here a lot, although you are not in direct sunlight, it is 34 degrees and very humid.
On the first shopping expedition, we were virtually pulled into a tailors shop by a sycophantic assistant, eager to sell me a suit, (She lost interest in Ruth (My Aunt, whom I was travelling with at the time) after discovering she was a student). Eventually I agreed on a single breasted jacket, cashmere, tailor made for 100 pounds (She originally wanted 180.) Since off the peg ones are near that in Burtons, I decided that it was OK. I got the jacket in less then 24 hours, pretty normal for a far east tailor I discovered on later trips to Asia. It has 3 pockets, which I requested, so I can carry my organiser and my wallet now. Also, at the moment, it is handy for carrying airline tickets/passport/travellers cheques etc. The jacket also came with a handy carrying bag too, which saved it from damage on the rest of the trip.
There are loads of cute girls in Singapore, far more than I've seen anywhere else. People dress really well. They have obviously learned how to dress western better than the Indians, who seemed to have missed the point. There were few people overweight, or with acne, or wearing make-up.
There were loads of people trying to sell me a fake Rolex in Singapore. I would have inquired further, but they probably wouldn't have left me alone then. I wouldn't have minded a fake TAG-Heuer watch. Selling fake watches was about the only illegal act we saw. and we could on find two police stations on the map, for the entire city.I would definitely like to go back to Singapore someday.
And I did too, some years after writing this. Click here for the next visit.
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Copyright © M.F.Hughes 1995