I thought I knew what to expect from Singapore. I’d been before, admittedly a few years ago, and done a fair bit of exploring. I only had 24 hours for this visit but that would be fine. It couldn’t have changed that much … could it?
Was I in for a surprise?!
There was much that was familiar. It’s still the same safe, clean, green environment with strict laws on littering, graffiti, chewing gum and spitting. A shiny and manicured city without the usual grime associated with rapid urbanisation, whilst its heritage endures in a multitude of well-preserved colonial buildings and colourful shop houses.
It remains a melting pot of diverse cultures: temples, churches and mosques sit side by side in the same street. The use of Singlish, a colloquial slang, blends many languages and dialects with the Queen’s English and makes for some entertaining conversations. This expression of multiculturalism is also found in Singapore’s food: a hybrid of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and Indian influences. Tasty dishes are available at hawker stalls all over the city. You don’t have to go far or spend much to sample delicious street food.
So what was it that took me by surprise? The extent and speed of the continued evolution of this diminutive island nation was something I hadn’t expected. Not a country to be held back by its small land area, Singapore has extravagantly reclaimed land. Where once there was sea, there is now terra firma, already adorned with huge sky
scrapers, seamlessly linked to the CBD with public spaces, gardens, pedestrian friendly zones and well served by public transport. There is a dominance of cutting edge architecture, such as the Esplanade Theatre inspired by the durian fruit and the spectacular Marina Bay Sands with its Sky Park Observation Deck soaring 57 storeys high above the city.
Since gaining independence 50 years ago, Singapore has punched above its weight economically and this wealth is in evidence across the city. Tourism has been embraced and is continuing at quite a pace. The airport alone is like a city in itself and must be one of the most pleasant in which to spend time. The city is compact and easy to navigate using the uncompromisingly efficient MRT network. The Equatorial heat is tempered by arctic air conditioning and, along with the intermittent thunderstorms, can easily be avoided by following an extensive system of underground walkways.
This vibrant and exciting city is innovative and intriguing. It’s well worth a visit and certainly deserves more than 24 hours. Next stop for me though is Malaysia.