a few days in Singapore hanging with old mates Dian and Richie otherwise known as 'the perfect hosts'
04.07.2010 - 08.07.2010 30 °C
My old uni friend Rich (banker, photographer and foodie orignally from Hull n London) and his lovely wifey Dian (art therapist, product designer, creative all rounder originally from London n Jakartha) played host(est)s with the most(est)s. They have been living in Sing since 2007.
Some background info.
Singapore as you probably already know is tiny and is an island country 'founded by Sir Stamford Raffles' (check out the photos) off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It only has a population of 5 million made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians, and Asians. There is the interesting culture called Peranakan.
"Peranakan and Baba-Nyonya (Chinese; pinyin: Bābā Niángrě; Hokkien: Bā-bā Niû-liá) are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region during the Colonial era. It applies especially to the ethnic Chinese populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted partially or in full Nusantara customs to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. They are the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca and not all intermarried with the local Malays. They are usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa. They almost always have the ability to speak two or more languages. In later generations, some lost the ability to speak Chinese as they became assimilated to the Malay Peninsulas' culture and started to speak Malay fluently as a first or second language.
While the term Peranakan is most commonly used among the ethnic Chinese for those of Chinese descent also known as Straits Chinese (named after the Straits Settlements), there are also other, comparatively small Peranakan communities, such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (Jawi Pekan) (Jawi being the Javanised Arabic script, and Eurasian Peranakans (Kristang = Christians). The group has parallels to the Cambodian Hokkien, who are descendents of Hoklo Chinese. They maintained their culture partially despite their native language gradually disappearing a few generations after settlement."
Also though everyone speaks Chinglish, as English is the first language, many are billingual. Most speak English and another language, most commonly Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil. In fact in schools if you are of Chinese origin you have to take up Mandarin Chinese as your second language etc so similarly if you are of Indian origin, you have to learn Tamil - may be Hindi would be more useful ?
It's strategic location as a port has always meant it had a very high GDP and after independence in 1965 direct foreign investment and a state-led drive for industrialization based on plans by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Goh Keng Swee created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning.
These days, Singapore is the fourth wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita, and the twentieth wealthiest in terms of GDP (nominal) per capita. Despite Singapore's small size, it has the world's ninth largest foreign reserves. The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-Of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.**
The Cs are credit card, car, country club and condo. So quite materialistic in the outlook. Everyone with a good job seemed to have a nanny/maid. Everyone seemed to work super hard leaving little time to chill out.
Rich mentionned it is not overly democratic and power is passed through nepotism, however because the goverment have been responsible, they make long-term decisions to improve the country as they have been in power for so long and will be for so long.
It is a lovely country and last time I was here, it was literally a stop over from Oz to London. I remember we stayed in a lovely hotel (Ritz Carlton) on the Marina and I spent most of my time sleeping off the flight and getting used to the humidity of Sing. This time I was determined to scratch under the surface.
Rich n Dian organised dinners and drinks with their friends here, so it was great to get their opinion of Sing (check the photos for recommendations of great places to go to). Life clearly is fabulous but as one of their friends said "In Sing, you get complacent because everything is so easy compared to other parts of the world. You are in a bubble. It's like Disneyland."
Anyway, every day I took public transport getting into Orchard Rd and the like and walked around visiting galleries, did a 10k rainforest walk and other tourist attractions (check photos). Yes it is probably the easiest and safest place I have ever been to. The MRT/ train system was sooo good. When buying tickets, you just have to choose the station on a map that is touch sensitive and it takes a photo and shows you a picture of you pointing to the station while you are paying.
Even Disneyland has tarnished bits, so the crappy things I saw were the truck loads of foreign nationals - mostly Indian and Bangladesh who live and work under deplorable conditions within construction. Rich said that when he was mountain biking through this rainforest with his friend, part of it had been flattenned they cycled past a tiny encampment with a hose for washing facilities. Dian also mentionned there are some really really rough social project areas like any other city.
All the same, I am so glad I spent a few days here staying with mates.
Thanks Dian and Richie again for putting me up and taking me out and look forward to seeing you in London very soon.