Singapore is no. 1 as top destination in 2015 due to Lonely Planet.
I do not wonder why – as this year the state celebrates its 50 anniversary of existence and many attractions are prepared. 1995 Singapore gained independence, when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced a separation from the Federation of Malaysia and independent country was born.
Singapore has no natural resources (even they have imported water from Malaysia), is very small country but belongs with its national capital per person to the richest countries in the world. Singapore has made from geographical location and people human capital main assets. You can see wealth at every corner –not only in the marvelous architecture, but people seem to be wealthy and happy. A literacy level is at almost 100% (maybe some very old people can not read and write), 80% of citizens are living in flats got from the government, transportation and food is cheap, and unemployment level is very low. The education is promoted – talented children get scholarship.
I like idea of presenting values of the country at the reverse of banknotes (art, sport, education). For me this incorporates collective values Singapore supports.
The value of the country was presented in inaugural address in 1990 of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong taking this position “My mission is clear: to ensure that Singapore thrives and grows after Mr. Lee Kuan Yew; to find a new group of men and women to help me carry on where he and his colleagues left off; and to build a nation of character and grace where people can live lives of dignity and fulfillment, and care for one another”.
Grace, fulfillment and dignity are words that are more connected with spirituality than politics.
Law – for European standards could be seen a restricted but there is no hooligans, no graffiti, you can feel safe at streets but regarding freedom of doing business (due to report Doing Business done by World Bank Group) Singapore is no. 1 in the world (Poland has position no. 32 after Georgia (15), Lithuania, Latvia and Macedonia). Regarding national income per capita Singapore is placed on 3rd position after Qatar and Luxembourg.
What else I admire in Singapore (SG)?
When visiting different places what I look at, is a public space – as it belongs to all and it is very democratic in its nature.
I like space in Singapore – how a modern part of the city was designed – with marvelous hotel Marina Bay Sands, which became a new iconic symbol of the city, with trees in the Garden by the Bay and other building and still preserving old parts. When walking in the city I have recalled a sentence form the Richard E. Nisbett’s book “The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… And Why“ that Westerners design objects and Chinese design a space between objects. I could feel that approach, a harmony not only in the objects (buildings) but also in the composition of the space. (see photos of SG architecture)
WHERE WANDER BLOOMS
The Botanic Gardens
I like how Singapore integrates nature into city, especially The Botanic Gardens and the Garden by the Bay with its ideas to present the nature with information helping preserving it, are marvelous. During my visit (June 2015) they got confirmation that the Botanic Gardens’ application for UNESCO Heritage was approved.
Walking in the Botanic Gardens is not only a relaxation, but also an occasion to learn about flora in Asia, There are different kinds of gardens: the National Orchid Garden, the Ginger Garden, the Healing Garden. The National Orchid Garden with more than 1 000 orchid species is a delight for senses. A pinky orchid named Vanda Miss Joaguim was chosen as Singapore’s national flower in 1981.
The Ginger Garden with more than 550 kinds of ginger and the Healing Garden are a must to see. I liked idea of presentation of medical plants traditionally used in Southeast Asia in the Healing Garden, they are laid out in a ground in a shape of a body in relation to the parts of a body, where their efficacy lies. Visiting the Fragrant Garden – especially in the evening when trees give scents, is an aromatic experience.
Stroll in the Botanical Garden is an occasion to admire different kinds of bamboo: red – which is typical for Singapore, black – typical for Tasmania, and yellow –common one.
The Garden by the Bay
hotel Marina Bay Sands
The marvelous architecture of the Garden by the Bay with 15 designed Trees serving as cooled conservatories and the Skyway 22 meters above ground and Supertree is a must to see at a day as well at night. At a day – you can stroll around Heritage Gardens: Indian, Chinese and Malay Gardens telling a story of the diverse history and culture of Singapore’s main ethnic groups. A visit of 9 kinds of garden presenting nature from different continents at Flower Dome and Cloud Forest is unforgettable experience. The Garden by the Bay has got many awards – among them: the International Architectural Awards 2013: Museum of Architecture and Design & The European Center for Architecture and Design and Urban Studies. They really earned this.
The building of Art Science Museum with a stylized form reminiscent of a lotus flower and a hand, is regarded as highly innovative is counted to the 10 most innovative building in the world.
Art Science Museum at day through Felix Bridge and at night
Singapore is a young country that builds its identity as multicultural country.
About 80 % of Singapore’s population constitute Chinese, about 10 % Indian and 10% Malayan people. As acts of religious and racial aggression are punished by law, when being in SG I have never read in newspaper about any such incidents.
The coexistence of 3 different religious you can observe at the Pagoda Street where Buddha temple, Hindu temple and mosque stand side by side.
The multicultural character is presented everywhere. All public information is written in 4 languages: Chinese, English, Malayan and Hindu. Another example of diversity is a sculpture in the downtown with one Chinese in traditional dress and braid, Malayan and a white persons in discussion. You can see this diversity in TV in an advert promoting participatory budget, when showing its beneficents – a Malayan child, Indian young person, Chinese elderly lady. (see photos of cultural diversity)
People in Singapore are living in a harmony of tradition and modern way. You can see in Chinatown traditional Chinese pharmacies, where drugs are prepared at the spot from different traditional roots and herbs like ginger, mushrooms and others.
I have founded dried sea dragon or horn of a deer, sold as normal drugs.
I was enchanted by the beauty how the drug for example oil was packed.
There are many practices with traditional Chinese medicine and salons with feet massage.
But the society is changing with modern technologies and wealth. A changes occurring in Singapore’s society were described by Emeritus Senior Minister as change from one flat, one child to 5 C’s – cash, car, credit card, condominium and club.
But I like that you can still see old men playing in traditional Chinese game and women dancing at the public places.
Culture of eating
Chinese people care much about food. It reflects the Chinese greeting meaning, “Have you already eaten?” which can be compered with “how are you?” The Chinese talk about food oft and with pleasure and good food is a part of their life.
When you enter the arrival building at the airport a first glimpse you got is at big lobster. For me it was a promise of good seafood.
But the food – not only seafood is delicious there.
I like dumplings with black beans, Laksa soup with coconuts curry, rice noodles and prawns (this is a peranakan classic soup, specialty of indigenous people of SG), fruits – rambutan, dragon fruit and many more. I found the food very harmonized and missed it coming back home, but people used to eating bread and diary food could have a different opinion. The food without bread and milk is by the way very convenient for many people with allergies.
Selection of seafood Laksa soup Rambutan and dragon fruit
Food is cheap, so the families can afford eating outside. When I compare the size of tables in Singapore’s restaurant and food stall – there are big and round in order a big family can enjoy eating together. I like the regulation prohibiting drinking and eating at public places, I do not know the ration behind it – I can only guess that is because that such behavior can disturb others and as Singapore in majority is a Confucian culture is caring about group harmony – that may be a explanation for this regulation. I would welcome such regulation in Poland as in this respect – Poles eat junk food in cinemas, underground and even in the parliament during session, not caring about the smell of the food that can be incomputable for other. But it is a matter of culture, as we see in Singapore case, not only personal culture, but society culture.
Out of tourist guidebooks
Learning a country is for me foremost emerging in its daily life and feeling connection with people living there. I like to discover places out of the main path and guidebook.
A Café museum and Opera Café in the Chinatown were such places. A Café museum, serving as normal café, is presenting old traditional of drinking of Singapore’s café, which in a tee country is an exception. In another café – on the wall the picture of most famous Chines opera singers were presented together with dresses they wear. It is a beautiful installation.
Living there for longer for a foreigner can be from the one hand easier – as people there are multicultural and exposed for diversity and except different accent and behavior but from the other hand understanding people from differed culture – when interpreting them with Richard Lewis model of 3 cultures: Indian and Malays as representatives of mulitactive culture, Chinese as representative of reactive culture and others, when coming from Europe or USA representatives of linear culture, could be exciting!
I like Singapore – I see this country and city as a good example of harmony which others can learn from.
Do you know what it is?