So, we are finally here it has taken us more than 18 hours of flying and layovers, this compares favorably with the first Europeans who showed up here a few hundred years ago so there are no complaints.
Singapore is a city state at the tip of the Malay peninsula, it is about 85 miles north of the equator. Its population is about 5 million some estimates say that about 50% of that are foreign born. Singapore is a a parliamentary republic but according to some NGOs it is a repressive place politically speaking although in terms of the economy it is one of the most liberal globally. Somewhere in this mix lies the secret of its success, according to one of the statistics I read lately about 1 out of every 13 citizens is a millionaire, Singapore has the 5th highest GDP in the world and according to my limited experience one of the highest concentration of exotic and luxury cars in the world! What makes Singapore so unique besides its economic strength is its unique way of dealing with the diversity of its people, about 50% are of chinese origin, with Malays, Indians, Europeans, etc. making up the rest. All live and work in harmony!
Now back to our trip. Immigration and luggage pick up was a breeze, it is about time that the US learns something from others. Nowhere besides Russia and US does it take so long to clear immigration, it is keeping me away. The drive to the city from the airport is surreal in many ways. I have done it many times before but it is always astonishing how pretty, how perfect everything looks. It is clean, the cleanest place I have seen, no wonder as even spitting carries a hefty fine. I guess there is a lesson there somewhere for most of our democratic and free nations of Europe where abusing, damaging or destroying city or foreign property is excused as a difficult childhood, freedom of expression or some other absurd excuse. It is hard not to compare the situation especially when the differences are so stark.
As you may have surmised I like Singapore, I have been a fan of the city since my first visit 13 years ago. We arrived at the hotel and as some hotels do our check in was done in our room.
The service was impeccable, Shangri-La is known for being an excellent hotel and they did not disappoint. It was already late in the afternoon so we quickly freshened up and as internally it was a still lunch time for us we hopped on the hotel shuttle bus that took us to one of the malls on Orchard rd. It was a quick dinner at a chinese restaurant where we had the choice of dumplings or dumplings but they were very tasty nonetheless.
We were too wired to get back to the hotel immediately so we walked around Orchard rd. with all its glitz and glamour. Orchard rd. is the major shopping street in Singapore and a major tourist attraction. It seems to have one of the highest concentrations of shopping malls in the world, over 20 if I counted correctly, I wonder why there is a need for a Zara store across a Zara store but I guess there is always a reason. It was enough for us to look at the malls from the outside to know that they were all the same from the inside. They are surely full with more exclusive stores than your average mall in Germany, the US or the UK but on the boring side nevertheless.
The time was 22:00 and the street was bustling with pedestrians, the temperature had now fallen to a cool 28 degrees. It seemed that the street side cafes and bars were full of people enjoying the warm night, it was very difficult for us to imagine that not quite 24 hours ago we were in the cold and miserable winter that has gripped most of Europe this winter. After walking for a few blocks we got ourselves a taxi and went back to the hotel where we gave Ben his milk and fell asleep …..