Impressed in Singapore


a nicely kitted out 777 dropped us yesterday afternoon at Changi Airport, and a shuttle whisked us to our temporary home at the Shangri-La, before we head further north west wards to Germany tomorrow. So today was a day of sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere in Singapore. What an impressive place this is. As someone who is used to living in urban environments, I was surprised by its airyness. Nothing like the crampedness of London, the gloom of Berlin or the dirt of Sao Paulo. Instead a reasonably modern urban space interspersed with the heritage colonial buildings of the British and numerous waterways.

It is of course impressively clean and populated with an interesting mixture of Chinese, Malay, Indians and Europeans, giving it a rather cosmopolitan flair. Everything seems to work very well, including an excellent public transport system and the place feels inherently safe. The best girlfriend ever joked that it is so much easier to create a working infrastructure in a de-facto one-party state ruled by technocrats because you don’t have to take any heed of the pesky opposition. Reading the Straits Times certainly reminds you of the Pravda or the Neues Deutschland from the olden days, with glorifying reports from the government prominently on the first few pages. Apparently the Economist Intelligence Unit calls the place ‘partly free’, which is probably a pretty apt description. Nevertheless, the place is certainly buzzing and all that authoritarian ruling seems to have made Singapore a desireable place to live, which puts me old liberal in tough spot: Authoritarianism: bad. Good public transport, proper housing, advanced environmentalism: good. It’s a bit like congratulating George Bush on his drug subsidy bill. You do it with gritted teeth.

Talking (again) about public transport: when we walked through the MRT, Singapore’s metro system, we noticed strange, shiny metallic lines on the floor. This must be the coolest way of telling the visiual impaired where to go:


It’s got texture, it’s linear and it’s a bloody brillant idea. Maybe our European/American colleagues should take notice?

Anyway: gotta go.

More in two days from the fifth circle of hell, er, Germany.

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