24 August 2007

Reflecting on Singapore

Up in the air again on the way to Narita (Tokyo) from Singapore. It's just gone past mid-night tonight (Singapore time) so I can offically say I'll be in Japan today! And I suppose I should change my computer's timezone from Singapore to Tokyo.

We're cruizing at about 900km/h. About 5300km flight taking between 6 and 7 hours. We took off from Changi Airport going west, but did a quick U-turn to the south and travelled East for a bit. The view of Singapore was nice, seeing all the lights including the city, but didn't last long. We'll fly across the South China Sea, between Phillipines and Taiwan, across the East China Sea, and then up to Tokyo.

changi Airport (the airport in Singapore) is very nice. Modern, clean, tidy, well signed etc. To get onto the plane was rather painless... immigration was straight forward and security checks not too much of a rigmarole. And... there's free Internet! There are some computers setup for anyone to use for free, and if you have your own laptop (and network cable), you can plug in the use free Internet (but Outlook wouldn't let me send emails, but I could receive). So, that was great. I uploaded a stack of photos and did some emails, checked news etc.

Japan has started to make itself known to me. I hopped on the plane (with not much time to spare after spending a bit much time on the free Internet at Changi Airport), and noticed the flight attendants looked more Japanese (compared to my previous flight with singapore Airlines). They spoke Japanese, the flight info is in Japanese, they hand out Japanese newspapers and I'd say most of the people on the plane are Japanese, but thankfully, everything is in English as well, which help me. There's no one sitting next to me (I'm next to the window), but the person on the other side of the spare seat is a Japanese man from Kyushu. I introduced myself to him in Japanese, but had to quickly let him know I don't really know that much Japanese, and reverted back to English. It was nice talking with him.

They (flight attendants) just gave me a vege-tuna and lettuce roll (nice). The attendants are a bit more energetic compared to last flight. I think it's more the Japanese way. I look out the window and can't see a thing (pitch black). The ride is a little more rocky and mildly bumpy than the flight to Singapore... not rough though.

And now to reflect on Singapore...

Well, it's more Asian than I thought. I'd say more than 95% of people are Asia. Major groups of people include Chinese, Malay and Indian. Public notices often are written in 4 languages (English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil (India)).

I thought Melbourne was multicultural, but I think Singapore wins... There is a Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street, not to mention the English/Western influence and Malay. I am in the East, so I could expect to find a greater amount of eastern religion, and that's what I saw. There were many places where once could burn incense in front of an image. There are also many Muslims and many Indians dressed in their traditional clothing. Walking down the stree (or in an apartment), you'd smell a variety of different cooking odours (rice, oriental etc) and/or incense, plus other things.

Ten to 20 story apartment buildings seem to be the way people build residential buildings in Singapore. They are not confined to the city (like in Australian cities) but spread right throughout the city.
Vivocity carparks have sensors which detect if I car is parked there or not. This determines if a green light will show above the carpark for drivers to easily find a vacant park. It also allows signs to tell drivers how many parks are available ahead or in different turns.

There wasn't one public toilet that I went to that wasn't clean and didn't have automatic flush. Some pedestrian crossings tell you how many seconds you have left to cross the road. Some drinking fountains detect if you are near it and then turn on. I appreciated this kind of stuff.

One word that you might want to learn before you come to Singapore is "alight". It's used often to mean "get off the train". So, to "alight at the next station" means to "get off at the next train". Most people probably can work out what it means, but I just haven't heard it used that much in that context before.

The pace of life here seems to be relaxed. Often walking to or from the train I see people just walking casually along. In the city it's more moderate pace. People seem to be quite well behaved and neat, tidy and well dressed. People seem to keep to themselves and not cause much disturbance, but just go about whatever they have to do. It's quite nice to be in this kind of environment. There's a "safe" feel about almost all of the parts of Singapore I went to. Although people aren't super-friendly, they are generally trusting and will chat with you if you show an interest in them. I also see many families doing things together.

I notice the music played around the city seems to be "lighter" and more musical, in general, compared to Australia. Easy listening/pop seems to be the way, rather than rock/metal. Almost public place indoors is air-con, to escape the very predictable 25-30 degrees with moderate to high humidity. The shops are very nice. Clothes are cheaper than Australia. Public transport is cheaper. Meals are cheaper ($3 or $4 for a good meal). Harder to find vegetarian meals, except in little India or Arab St. Electrical things are cheaper too.

Today (actually yesterday), I went to the Bird Park at Jurong. When I got off the train (MRT) to catch the bus to the park, I met a Korean lady who's husband is in Singapore for work. Turns out she is a Christian and does Violin tutoring, so it was nice to spend time at the park with a new acquaintance, rather than just walk around like a loner.

The Bird show at 11am was excellent. Pelicans, toucans, macaws, doing tricks, flying through hoops, catching things etc. That was the highlight... and the lady in front of us paid for both of our tickets! I don't know why she did, but that was very kind of her. And then my taxi fare back to the city was paid also! I'm quite thankful for the generosity.

Spent the afternoon the walking around the city near Suntec City. Saw the world's largest water fountain (but unfortunatly it was not the right time of day to see it working). Saw Raffles Hotel, War memorial, Little India, Arab Street, Orchard Rd, and many, many shopping malls... they're everywhere! Headed home, had a quick swim, showered, packed, gobbled some dinner and headed to the airport.

Well, 2:30 am (UTC+9) now... can just see some stars outside now that the lights inside the plane are out. Will settle down... try get some sleep, and wake up to...

The sun rising over the land of the rising sun! ... the far, far east.

Ja mata...

No comments: