Entry 3:Day 7 to 10


Bold words point at a picture on this page

It's Sunday night and I'm sitting in the Singapore Airport "Changi" waiting for my flight to Darwin, Australia. During the last four days I tried to find reasons why I should like Singapore.

When a country greets me with the words "Death for Drug Trafficking" my normally imbalanced view tends to swing towards the negative side. Unfortunately, Singapore (on the picture you can see the container harbor with the skyline in the backgroung) was not able to overcome this deficit during my entire stay. If it was not for the assistant of a business partner of my Dad's, who really made a difference and really gave her best in accompanying me, I probably would have left early.

Why am I so negative? Let me try to explain. Singapore gets its "good" reputation from being a clean, crimeless, modern city. True, it is clean but not cleaner than any Western European city, like Munich, Vienna, or Paris. It seems to be crimeless but so does Vienna and Vienna definitely has some crime. And Singapore is modern but at the expense of being sterile and uninteresting. On top of all these things, the Singapore government has fines for everything: smoking, littering, spitting, eating, drinking, etc. And these fines can be pretty steep.

I claim that Singapore is governed by a fascist regime that very closely monitors its people and all tourists or business-people. Now I can hear everyone objecting by saying "well, but it is one of the most important business areas in South East Asia and thus has to support the free market and free trade". Well that's true but not without a close grip on its people. Before you object, let me tell you my observations and explain my point of view.

1. If everything (littering to spitting) is fined and (!) these rules are adhered to, how in the world does the government make sure that this is so? By having a lot of visible police around obviously. As this is not the case it has to be secret police. Now this is a terrible allegation but by talking to people who live in Singapore and by breaking an unwritten rule of talking about politics with Singaporeans, I was able to verify it, though. I was told (only after several attempts, though) that there is plenty of non-uniformed police around. Which country that calls itself a free market society does that? Not too many I know of. Or am I just too naive?

2. Another indication of a close monitoring is that there is no Satellite TV allowed on the island. This could be because the landscape would suffer like it does in many Western European countries. But nevertheless it seems weird.

3. My weakest point is that I could not get on the WWW while I was there. Everything worked fine in Hong Kong, so why didn't it work here? I was not even able to get into CompuServe, either. On the other hand I know that people use the Internet and I know that there are sights about Singapore. But what if those are only accessible from outside? What if the people here are only fed pre-chewed information? I am not saying that this is not the case in Western European countries as well, but here it seems to fit the other pieces of the puzzle.

Singapore has democratic elections. Thus the people have to be happy with their government. Thus all I am saying is that I would not be able to live here. It is too quiet, to sterile, and, most of all, too boring.

Before I got here I was told that the island Sentosa is the most interesting place in Singapore. The ad for Sentosa reads: "Take the first step to having more fun than you've ever had." Sentosa is an island off downtown Singapore which is connected to the capital by cable car, ferry, and bridge. It is supposed to be a theme park, an historical site, and a vacation resort. It definitely has some very cool beaches and some amazing wildlife and fauna. But I had more fun watching my dog sleep than the whole day I was there. The only somewhat fascinating area is the underwater world where you can walk through a tunnel underneath a huge fish-tank. The tank contains sharks, eels, and a lot of other fish (remember from the Aberdeen fish-market - I'm not a fish connoisseur!!). But everything else ranges from boring (Images of Singapore - a museum with several wax figures from the past of the island) to dull (Volcanoworld - to this day I don't know who this is supposed to impress - definitely not kids because they looked pretty annoyed when they walked out). Sentosa is not worth a visit until they have used a media and entertainment consultant from Disney.

The next day I saw Chinatown and the downtown area. Chinatown is better and seems older in New York. Downtown is not as vibrating as Hong Kong. The food, though, is excellent. I went to a Japanese restaurant which was outstanding even though it was a chain called Geki Sushi. My last complaint is money. Singapore is not cheap. It might be cheaper than most of Western Europe but Hong Kong is definitely less expensive as far as silk, cameras, electronic equipment, and other stuff you would want to buy in Asia.

You probably ask yourself: "There's gotta be something you liked?". True, as mentioned before the food was excellent everywhere I went. The boat quay is a nice bar area with a lot of night-life with live music, etc. The zoo is probably the best zoo I have ever visited. The animals really seem to enjoy living there (as much as you can enjoy living in captivity). And as a visitor you have the impression as if there is no distance between you and the animals. There are also some amazing tropical fruits in Singapore I have never heard of. Durian is one of them. This is a fruit with a very stingy skin and a weird smell (it is even forbidden to take it on the subway or in your hotel room because of that smell). But the seed which is eaten is very tasty. So are several other fruits I have never seen before and don't know that names to. This might also be the reason for my enthusiasm - just because I haven't heard of it or never seen it before does not mean they are something entirely special.

Finally, I have to admit that Singapore is well-laid out and fully thought through. Even though this seems easy when you tear down a whole city to rebuild it but I would claim that even then you have to have some intelligent minds to come up with good solutions. Take the subway for instance. When you get down to the platform, there is a glass wall between the tracks and the platform. First I was not sure why this would be there. But after changing trains several times I realized that the glass wall was there to save energy. Because the subway system is air conditioned, it would be unnecessary to also keep the tunnels cool. Thus the glass wall was built to keep the cool air in a contained area. Pretty smart, huh?

Bottom line: Singapore was nice and a good change of pace (I got a lot of sleep) before my tour de force in Australia. But if you have to decide between Singapore and Hong Kong go to Hong Kong - it's much better and has much more flair. On the other hand, maybe I'm just not critical enough of the Western World - which is probably very true.

Today is Sunday. And in a couple of hours I'm going to cross the equator for the first time in my life - I can't wait!

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