63 Islands of Efficiency

5 Jun

Welcome in flowers in Little India

From the moment I got off the plane I could see the signs of efficiency at every turn. At immigration, there were automated lines where Singaporean residents just swiped a card and a machine scanned their finger print. For foreigners there was a long bank of border control agents that issued visitor visas. Not a single line at any of them, I just walked-up handed over my passport and off I went. Sure beats the 2 hour immigration lines at US Airports. And then there was the big bold red letters on my tourist carrd – Warning Death for Drug Trafficers Under Singapore Law. A stinging reminder that this is a land that embraces judicial corporal punishment. There is no trial by jury and you are proven guilty before proven innocent. Singapore is thought to have the highest execution rate in the world. And you are reminded of these strict laws at every turn. $1,000 fine for riding your bike through a walking tunnel. $500 fine for littering on the street. Death for firearm offenses, murder, etc. The list goes on.

Despite this stark reality. Singapore is the world’s fourth largest financial center. It gives the vibe of intellect, progress, and accomplishment in every nuance. There are skyscrapes as far as the eye can see, and tropical rainforest trees and gardens are interlaced throughout a sea of glass and steel.

Singapore Skyscrapers

Along with the immense sense of economic development, vanity and wealth really is everywhere. Shopping malls are all around and filled with only the highest end European and American shops. Gucci. Yves Saint Laurent. Prada. Jimmy Choo. Such a sharp contrast from the rest of Southeast Asia that we’ll be exploring over the next two weeks.

It’s not just all about money and lack of individual freedom. There are also a million wonderful things about this island country made-up of 63 islands, totaling just 224 square miles. Singapore has mastered efficiency. You order a taxi on your mobile device and its at your door in under 5 minutes, no questions asked and no delays. Street access for cars during peak times is controlled by automated tolls controlled by microchips in every car. There are no homeless or shanty towns, the government subsidizes adequate housing for all Singaporeans regardless of income. There is no garbage. There are no rats. There are no cockroaches. None has or carries firearms – except the police of course. And a sense of personal safety is shared by all. These are all things I really appreciate about Singapore.

Its also a land of beautiful cutural fusion. Malays. Chinese. Indians. Europeans. Indonesians. Americans. Hindu. Christian. Muslim. Buddhist. They all call this home and many of them are ‘Singaporeans’. From my short time here is appears all ethnicities and religions coexist in harmony with one another. There does appear to be some class divisions based on ethnicity to a certain degree, but not absolute divisions.

Flower necklaces in Little India

One of the areas of this island nation that I really loved was Little India. It was very authentic in terms of all food & decor Indian and Hindu. Except it was probably a million times cleaner than any Indian city and there was no sign of poverty anywhere. Vibrant flower neclaces hung at little carts along the narrow streets. The pungent aromas of Indian spices hung in the dense hot & humid air. Glimpses of glittery gold and beaded sarees adorned women at every turn. We walked on through the many bazaars. Then we came across a neat little area where a few women sat on plastic stools at tables with other women carefully painting detailed designs
on the skin of other Indian women. These women are henna artists. Their hands moved swiftly with a little henna pen that released a small amount of ink onto the skin, forming the designs of intricate flowers, mandalas, birds, and more. This is Little India in Singapore and I loved it.

Henna artist in Little India

Moving on. Other cultures collide in this serendipitous landscape. I just happened to be in Singapore during the Dumpling festival. This is one of the local traditions that originates from the Chinese influence here. Its a typical street festival. With dancers, street performers, traditional music, and all the like. And of course lots of rice dumplings were sold all over the streets. The dumplings consist of rice sweetened with cane sugar or honey and stuffed with a myriad of meats, vegetables, nuts, and spices. They are bundled in banana leaves, tied with string, steamed, and hung out on long poles for sale in the streets. I tried a vegetable rice dumpling and it was delicious. Its basically an Asian version of a tamale. Then there are hawker stands everywhere that sell a variety of other asian dishes and fresh juices. I washed down the dumpling with some fresh pineapple-celery juice. Perfectly refreshing!

Rice Dumplings

Now on to the rest of Asia!

5 Responses to “63 Islands of Efficiency”

  1. Mummy June 5, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    So good to hear that you made it! Have a great trip 🙂

  2. Kevin June 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Very interesting how you can order a cab with your phone and the bit about traffic access being controlled by automated tolls, that I guess charge your micro chip linked to your account?

    • vivevivir June 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      Yeah the taxi system is amazing. All taxis have these little computers in them and the taxis are managed by some type of gps-based automated vehicle routing system. So the e-dispatch system automatically identified which taxi is the closest to you, sends that driver towards you, and then sends you a text telling you what type of taxi (vehicle make, etc.) is on it’s way and will arrive 3-5 minutes. Oh and best of all if he arrives before you are ready he will wait there for you with a smile and won’t charge you for extra wait time. We have so much to learn in the US…. 🙂

  3. NANNA June 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Hi Becky,the photos are so beautiful and
    colorful. Happy your having a great time
    Thanks for all the wonderful information
    about your trip.
    LOVE,
    NANNA

  4. Jackie June 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    How exciting for you to be exploring the world. You have an excellent way of describing your experience. Thanks for sharing.

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