Adequately covered in the travel sections of the week-end qualities, and
other leisure magazines, Singapore is a popular stop-over for flights from Europe to
of words have been written about this duty-free shopping-centre, and its sights have
already been seen by many. Evelyn Waugh had similar problems in his labeled cities of
Naples, Venice, Istanbul, and others on his Mediterranean voyage.
One notices the
differences first; after being directly transported from the last port of call:
A base, in such a place, is the
first priority. Serious travellers look for the cheapest...
"Wah you wahn?"
the old lady at the budget barracks asks in
There's the first
impression; a lack of unruly touting. No one tries to carry your bags, find you transport,
or offer to show you their velly clin rorms.
she barks. "Nor rorm," and returns to her work in the kitchen.
The blond foreigner is
not of any interest here; even the cyclos wait in their sidecars for customers to approach
them. Like British taxi-drivers at a rural railway-station, they talk to each other, or
take a nap.
Old buildings are pulled
out of the environment like bad teeth. Amid the neck-craning, tinted-glass structures in
Raffles Place, a decaying building, with greenery sprouting from broken walls, spoils the
overall facade like a rotting canine in a supermodel's pearly smile. It has to go!
Chicly clothed Chinese
wait for old-style buses. Hardly anyone wears shorts, except the patient riders of the
cyclo-taxis. Unlike, Indonesia, where the locals use the pedal-power, the cyclos in
Singapore are mainly for tourists.
At night, especially,
convoys of eight to twelve Japanese or elderly Americans, parade around the Beach Road
district; the riders ring their bells to display a sense of occasion.
One thing missing in the
towering-modern-triumph-in-the-tropics of Lee Kuan Yew's, is the genuine smile; the Hallo
Mista giggles from the children of a struggling people. The youth here wear European
labels, and throw away half-eaten Big Macs. Those with materially more, share spiritually
A ride on the Mass Rapid
Transport system, to the western suburbs, shows just how the citizens of sterile Singapore
have to live; crammed into identical concrete blocks, individual only by giant number,
visible for miles.
It seems as though they
are serving a sentence for spitting. Washing hangs out on long bamboo poles, and the noise
from cramped quarters is not unlike that from battery-hens. In Singapore, they are cooped
up, but the streets are clean.