Notes ‘of’ a small Island

Yes for all those Bill Bryson lovers, I did borrow his title and remixed it with an ‘of’ instead of the original ‘from’! However it does work better with my post, because this humble post is about an island that I lived in for a short portion of my highly impressionable adult life. And that is Singapore.

Just as I lick my wounds I am reminded of the little island country that is hardly a speck on the big world map. It is glitzy, dynamic and highly sterile! I have been so surprised by the amount of changes the streets would undergo in a matter of weeks. Buildings there I thought had a wardrobe, of a really wealthy and tasteful woman for their facades kept changing, kept evolving always looking better than before. Ok not really, but well the speed was of a break-neck nature.

It hosted several architectural festivals, many of which I got to attend and showed a zeal of being a force to reckon with where architecture was concerned. With stellar urban planning and a state of the art transportation network it was the easiest thing in the world to get around. If you are planning to travel there or even live there I cannot get started about how safe the city is. I did however get stalked on one instance and hit on my head by a stupid(obviously) construction worker on another instance. Something that never happened to me from 5 years of living in the world’s highly unsafe city of Delhi! 😛 I do therefore have a soft-spot for India’s capital city. But apart from that Singapore is quite a safe city.

The people I met during my stay there, not all Singaporeans ofcourse, considering a third of the population are immigrants or ‘foreign-workers’, were very interesting, some kind, some funny and many highly refreshing! But I did miss India, and all her glory was sometimes brought on a platter through Little India, an area that wouldn’t soon make one miss India!

So what were my notes from living here? And what would I not miss for sure if there was to be another stint? Focusing on the good, here goes!

1. For starters is all the walking I got to do there. Considering that walking is my favorite mode of transportation (mind you, not exercise!) I thoroughly enjoyed walking everywhere. The high-rise buildings and green sidewalks ensured that the sun did not pose a serious threat. From grocery stores to work etc etc. I would walk so much and I think cities would do so much better without automobiles. I completely vouch for ‘car-free’. So a good pair of shoes is a must in this island!

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2. Secondly, is the urban-place making. Architecture and urban design. From malls to the riverside, from the parks to the plazas there were places one would really just sit and draw or read, simply soaking in the beautiful city. I would sit at the plaza in front of the ION orchard Mall eating my humble sandwich and that would totally brighten a hectic work-day. But my highly rated places would definitely be the Marina Bay area that offers up a spectacular skyline from all angles.

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3. Thirdly, the museums. I am a big-time art-digger and if you are too then the museums give one a lot to take in. The fact that the exhibitions keep changing and the government tries to take-away business from the art hub of nearby Hong-Kong is a huge plus.

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4. Fourthly, the National public library. The borrowing systems and the large collection of the library were really out-of-the-world. I truly miss hopping around many a library and wish our great country had such effective Public libraries too.

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5. Fifthly, shopping. From grocery to clothes, to shoes and all the like. Orchard road is the urban strip of malls and the place is inspiring just like most people seen around the country to shop. Remarkably the required sizes were there, unlike Police bazaar of Shillong in North-East India! But overall not as great as Delhi I must say, but it’s almost there. A pair from the local brand ‘Charles and Keith’ is a must though!

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6. Sixthly, the food. As a hub for South East Asia a vast variety of cuisines can be tried here. Even as a vegetarian I got to try options in not only Vietnamese, Thai, Singaporean, Korean, Malaysian food from the region but also French, Swiss, Greek and German food! Vietnamese rice noodles was quite interesting as was the Korean stone bowl rice but a dish I couldn’t really get over is the Basil Tofu from Bali Thai, a spicy and delicious variation.

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7. Seven, is the weather. Its hot and humid, I wonder why they wouldn’t use ceiling fans as majorly as I would expect, but its also highly air-conditioned and sealed. Rain and thunder is serious business here. I remember how close the lightening looked and sounded from the National University of Singapore’s high-rise apartment or the blaring loudspeakers that asked us to get off the playing field as it started to rain. But well if you do visit during the time its quite nice to hear the thunder and feel the rain.

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Not too far from India and a showcase for the region its always a traveler’s delight. I have been flagged down at least several dozen times on my way up and down by bleary-eyed travelers stringing cameras and asking me for directions. I prided myself for impressing upon people that I seemed to know the place or possibly for looking very approachable 😀 . The young country has many many people who throng the island for work, for better pay and for opportunities apart from just visiting. A colleague of mine on freshly moving from Chicago wailed, ‘its just not America!’. Well it’s just not America, it’s Singapore, scratch the surface and its China, Korea, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Australia, Switzerland, England, France all rolled and peppered into one.

But I have to agree with him, it just aint America! In size ofcourse 😀

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