We had decided the dates long ago to stay with John’s college friend Fritz in Singapore. The plan was to experience the luxurious ex-pat life after volunteering in rural Laos. With our change of plans it was now our destination between Bali and Australia. Singapore was a surprisingly appreciated change from much of what we had been accustomed in Asia; taxis honking constantly to get our attention, motorbikes weaving through cars and us with centimeters to spare, hawkers constantly hawking their wares, masseuses encouraging us to get massages, and sidewalks that require constant vigilance to avoid the crumbling holes. Our first day in Singapore we ventured out to the history museum on the immaculate, almost sterile, subway system. The streets were just as orderly as the subway with soft musical crosswalk signals and cars which stop at the red lights and politely yield to pedestrians. It all seemed a bit too easy, we found ourselves in a strange under stimulated stupor.
Luckily the Singapore history museum was fascinating. There was so much we learned about how Singapore came to be a powerful trade center and increase it’s GDP by almost 5000% in such a short amount of time. We all gained respect for the government’s focus on the future including it’s risky decision to invest in the manufacturing the natural resources of nearby countries and becoming a major exporter. This is especially impressive since it was lacked such natural resources itself. Also the ambitious goal and thoughtful plan to have Singaporeans own their own housing through subsidies and create a strong middle class. The difficult decision to break away from Malaysia to be a multicultural country in 1965. Singapore is a young country but it seemed to us, a thoughtfully designed one.
Design and engineering is clearly evident throughout Singapore. After watching the World Cup rugby game at a bar along the river with the kids I ventured into the city on foot as they headed to the subway to get back at our lovely host’s home.
The modern architecture, the beautiful pedestrian bridges and sculptures enticed me to walk around this super safe city on a bustling Saturday night. The lovely esplanade led me to the modern Super Tree grove that was beautifully lit up. I cherished this time alone in a big city where I blended in. I did not stand out as a tourist. I was not the target of hawkers. I could walk while looking up at all the skyscrapers without worrying about spraining my ankle as the sidewalk was wide and smooth. I possessed a new gratefulness for government infrastructure; organized roads, sidewalks and subways.
I do have to admit it was not all serene calm. I did get lost in the biggest mall in Singapore where everyone was busy doing their own thing and I was wandering from escalator to escalator realizing they did not all go to the same place. The mall contained many of the stores from back home, I was back in the familiar corporate homogenized shopping experience which could have been easily confused with any mall in the US. I had to admit, a part of me missed the family run shops and the chaos of walking the busy streets of Bali and Vietnam.