Singapore is not that big of an island especially when you consider it is a country unto itself. It has no natural resources, except people, and people with good management skills. It is amazing how a place like this can work, especially when we consider a country like Cambodia which has a lot of varied natural resources but will never be anything more than a grimy place to stay away from.
We are living on the far north end of the island. It takes a bus 20 minutes to get us to the train station. The train takes 25 minutes to get into downtown. At 11:00 in the morning the train is easy. Any earlier or well afternoon, it is crowded with hardly any room to stand. There are a lot of busses, a lot of trains and it is cheap so getting around the island is fairly easy once you learn the routs.
Tis the season so the colored lights are full on….and in Singapore, we hear and see Merry Christmas everywhere.
At Gardens By The Bay, we listened to Christmas carols at the bandstand. We continued to sit on the grass to catch the spectacular light show. Then we mozied over to the waterfront and listened to the symphony. No Strauss or Bach, but some good upbeat MoTown and other pop songs that few people under 50 would recognize…but it had everyone moving their feet. Then we strolled over to one of the main city streets where there is a decoration competition amongst the big stores. We finally got home after midnight. Tired.
So you can pay $15 to ride the tourist elevator to the 57th floor rooftop bar. But locals, like us, know to ride the hotel guest elevator to the same elevation for free. There, we walked into the very open aired bar/disco, and found a vacant table overlooking the city. Our waitress was very personable. Eventually I asked her if she thought tourists were nuts for paying $11 for a bottle of water or a can of soda, items which cost no more than $2 on the street. A mixed drink will cost $30. Her response was “that is nothing” then showed us a drink menu, the Champaign page. Regular Dom Perignon was the cheapest at $650, Cristal and some others went up to $2,500 a bottle. “But who pays this?” I asked. She responded, “Oh, the Chinese. They really like to impress each other with their wealth.” She told us of one Chinese woman who celebrated her 23rd birthday and spent $30,000 and gave a $1,000 tip. But the next day she realized she over spent and wanted the tip back! At this same bar, the table we were sitting at was free, for now. At 10PM there becomes a $150 charge, but the table seats up to 8.
There is no charge for standing at the little chest high tables. On New Year Eve, the same sitting table charge is $2,500. But 57 floors up is a great place to watch the fireworks show over the water centerpiece of the city called Marina Bay. Even now, over the weekends, there is lots going on around Marina Bay. Live music performances, light shows…. We couldn’t have picked a better city for the holidays.
Remember when the ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, was all a flutter because a few municipalities had plans to install police cameras on city streets? “It is a violation of privacy and civil rights!” “Big Brother, Orwellian!!” Certainly the criminals in America would agree.
In two weeks in Singapore, I have not seen one police car or policeman on the city streets, bus or subway terminals. So I had to wonder just how safe is Singapore? Whether a cab driver or a commuter on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, or subway), when I mention my curiosity, they always respond “It is very safe in Singapore. There is hardly any crime here.” Yet Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world. There are miles and miles of government owned high rise public housing that are clean and well maintained. No one gets stabbed or assaulted in the stair wells. As part of his response, one cab driver pointed out another closed circuit TV along the roadway. “The police are there.” So I ask, “What if the police see something happen on their CCTV, how fast can they get there?” “They will be there in two minutes if not faster. Plus there are plain clothes policemen always patrolling.” And few drivers speed on the streets of Singapore. There are speed cams everywhere and within 3 days a speeder will receive a ticket in the mail. If you become distracted and leave your backpack on a bus stop bench, it will still be there hours later when you return. People have told us this has happened to them. If someone does have a transgression of the law, along with a bit of jail time they get a certain number of strokes with a cane. No time out in a corner here. Singapore is one of the largest, safest, cleanest most pleasant and modern cities we have ever been to.
People who work in restaurants in the U.S. and complain about not making big bucks an hour might want to consider what can happen. It is not unusual in restaurants in Singapore to be handed an electronic menu on which you do your own ordering.
Here is one for PETA. This is a typical alleyway in Singapore. There are no slippery, grungy, perpetually wet spots on the ground, no spilled food, no trash, even the outside of the dumpsters are clean. How can a city rat survive in an environment like this?