What I Learned In The City pt 5

A Weekend in The City of The Lion
2005, so far has turned out be a great year for travel for me. I haven’t travelled to so many places in such a short time ever, in the history of my short/long life. The odd thing is that I simply seem to be treading paths already trodden. I’ve been to HongKong/Singapore/USA before at different periods in my life.

I began this year with New York and London.
Then spent a little bit of time in Bombay.
Then Hong Kong.
Then Agra (of course New Delhi comes in the middle of all this).
Finally, I spent the last 4 days in Singapore.

Singapore is an Anglicisation of the words Singha-Pura….which is Sanskrit for Lion City (thus the famous MerLion as Singapore’s emblem).

So here’s what I learned (with an inevitable HongKong-Singapore comparison, as many people refer to these city-states in the same breath). Can’t wait for the day that those cities get happy at their “de-hyphenation”, LOL.

1) (The Most important point, again). Cellphones are cheaper in India than in Singapore. In fact, Singapore in general seemed to be expensive – US$1 = S$1.65

2) There aren’t half as many tall buildings in Singapore than in HongKong. The population is also around half.

3) Singapore is very close to the Equator. This means that in June, it ALWAYS rains around 4 pm… (Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a cold winter). In July, you should also be sure to take your umbrella with you.

4)Despite all the alleged strictness and caning, I saw a drunken brawl go on for about 20 minutes in an area called Boat Quay, among some really happening clubs and pubs.

5) Singapore is the one place I’ve been to in the world that Indians are actually liked and respected. When people talk of Indians in Singapore, it’s not as a bunch of usurpers, but as locals. In Hong Kong & India, Indians are just plain hated. In USA, we’re tolerated, with polite comments about how tasty Chicken Tikka is. In the UK, we may be jumped on by plainclothes policemen and shot 5 times before they realize we ain’t terrorists( OK, that’s below the belt, but whatever). The local paper (The Straits Times) even has a whole section devoted to India alone. Wow. The current prime minster is also talking about how he wants Singapore to be to India what Hong Kong was/is to China. (A sort of conduit/middleman, which is mutually benficial)

6) Diwali is a public holiday in Singapore (I think Fiji and Trinidad also have Diwali as a public holiday.)

7) Despite the drunken brawl mentioned, Singapore (like Hong Kong) is amongst the safest cities in the world. You can be walking down a dark alley here at 4 am in the morning, and not worry about a thing. I think this leads to the women over here being generally friendlier and more approachable. And considering that most people here are mixed-race (inter-mingling of Indian, Chinese, Malay, European), they are tongue-hanging-out-and-salivating attractive….or maybe I just went on a good day.

8) There isn’t as much public transport as I expected. In Hong Kong, double-decker buses are basically piling on to each other, and climbing steep hillsides and the like. In Singapore, not so much. There is an underground train system, but it seemed more in the mould of the New Delhi Metro – most stations were a bit of a walk.

9) Following on from point 8, I think this is why the most common type of car in Hong Kong is a Mercedes (as everyone from poor to upper-upper-middle class doesn’t own a car, they just use public transport. Whereas in S’pore, the most common car I saw was the Toyota Corolla. Of course this is just anecdotal. I also saw quite a few Honda Citys (Cities?) on the streets of S’pore. This car is only made (and sold) in India, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia/Singapore. I like it (because I own it).

10) The (Jurong) Bird Park is a great place to go sightseeing. Lots of rare birds and a great bird show. The Night Safari on the other hand was not so impressive. I’ve seen Elephants up close, and South Asian Buffalo are NOT something to be included in a “Safari”. But to be fair, to the urban Singaporean, the Night Safari would be a cool experience.

11) You need a visa for Singapore, (which is easy to get, but still annoying). S’pore, Hong Kong beats you on this count.

The bottom line is that Singapore is Hong Kong in the Twilight Zone. The Same, but Different.
Well that’s that. I don’t have any pictures of S’pore, and am still deciding between posting a Flikr badge or using Google Images to get the Hong Kong pictures up.


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