Wednesday, July 11, 2007

10 things about singapore

So far I have resisted to write any post that includes the words '10 things...' or anything similar in the title (pure adolescent rebellion against rules in general, I guess) but at last, here's a list of '10 things about Singapore'. It's a mix of travel tips you won't find in the guidebooks, with things that made me think, and things that I learned from having lived here for the past three years. So here's the list (in no particular order):

1. It's truly amazing what Singapore has achieved in the span of one generation (17th in the GDP/per capita rank, 25th in the Human Development Index). Of course, prosperity should not be measured only in terms of economic development but you can't claim the former without the latter. If you're interested in learning how a small island-nation became one of the Asian Tigers, watch Discovery Channel's documentary. It's fairly comprehensive, depicting Singapore's history since the times of the British colonization till the present (it's sold in DVD format).
2. The nicest magazine stand in the island (note that I said 'nicest', not 'largest') is the one inside Tanglin Mall's Market Place. There's an old gentleman who works there, I never asked his name. He always greets me with a smile. We exchange some words, 'so long no see', 'been traveling?'. Sometimes I can hardly understand his thick accent (and I guess he can't understand mine either) but small pleasantries like that always make me feel home. And he always keeps my 'Sports Illustrated'.
3. Cotton buds here are hard. I miss the soft J&J ones I was used to in Brazil.
4. There's something Jekyll & Hydish when it comes to Singaporeans driving cars. The usual affable and friendly Singaporean forgets all courtesy and manners when behind the car's driving wheel. There's even a government campaign called "Singapore Courtesy" aimed at tackling the problem. I don't know exactly what triggers this behavior, but there's a Ph.D. thesis there waiting to be explored.
5. Best cafe: Spinelli. Their cappuccino is very creamy and the tarts and cakes are yummy!
6. Best bakery: Simply Bread.
7. Multiculturalism vs. assimilation: Coming from the melting pot that is Brazil, I first became aware of this issue when I moved here. Singapore advertises itself as an example of a multicultural society, where people of different races, languages, and religions live harmoniously together while still preserving their culture. I've only scratched the surface, but from what I've seen, they've managed it like no other place. It's not perfect, there are many problems (one in particular that bothers me is the differentiated treatment given to foreign workers such as maids and construction workers), but to be fair, they acknowledge some of the problems and constantly try to improve it. With the growing movement of people from one country to another, the immigration discussions in the developed nations, and lately the terrorism issue, this debate will continue, here and in the rest of the world, for many years to come.
8. Overrated: Chili Crab (and this from somebody who loves sea food). Go for a Char Kway Teow instead.
9. Underrated: Siloso Beach. OK, it's not Hawaii, and there are oil tankers and other vessels in the horizon but this artificial beach is very nice on a lazy afternoon (and if you get the chance to go on a weekday when there's no crowd, it's even better. Just chill out and watch the sunset).
10. Changi Airport is the best in the world. Where else can you, on an international flight, get out of the airport in less than 20min after your flight lands? And that's counting the time to retrieve your checked-in suitcases!


michell said...

it's a lovely place and i wish i get to spend more time in SG some time.

Nelson said...

Why not? We'll get closer then. Just a 7-hour flight.