It’s my second day in Singapore and I have to admit that the city has grown on me over the years i’ve been visiting. As a backpacker in the early 90s it always seemed horrendously expensive compared to neighbouring countries. It was easy to blow your budget here. Cheap accomodation was had to find and often very basic, but it was a good place to shop for bargains – and it was one of the few places in the region where I could buy Fuji Velvia slide film that had been kept correctly as well as being sold at a decent price. There were also labs I could trust to develop slide film so that I could post it back to the UK for safe-keeping. Oh, the days of film! Then my backpack would be loaded with 30-40 rolls. It was a logistical nightmare to store. I used to keep it in stainless steel ‘tiffin’ tins at the bottom of my rucksack. I’d have several notebooks to keep records of what where and when i’d taken pictures as well as details of which roll i’d ‘pushed’ the ISO on. This meant each roll had to be individually labelled. It was an expensive habit then. I worked out that when you added the costs of buying, developing and postage it meant that each time I pressed the shutter it was costing me 23p. When you consider that I’d probably only keep 33% of what i’d taken the unit costs were even higher. Photography wasn’t exactly environmentally friendy either. Think of all the chemicals used – and the wastage. So, if anyone asks me if I miss the days of film, my answer is “not bloody likely!”
OK, that was a slight digression. Being here has triggered many memories. I hadn’t thought about the fun and games with film for years.
Singapore has grown on me for several reasons. I’ve spent my life travelling. I’ve visited all four continents and as I get older I can see the attraction of a country that has political and economic stability. One where everything works nearly all the time. One that’s multi-racial, using diversity as a strength, not seeing it as a threat or a weakness. One that has has a wealth of cuisines (one of the benefits of diversity). Oh, and one that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. Also a country that is both civil and believes in a civil society.
Don’t get me wrong, i’m not ready for my pipe and slippers yet. I love India, but it’s the antithesis of Singapore. It’s corrupt, its political institutions are a madhouse. It’s turned beauracracy into another circle of hell and it’s an environmental nightmare. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful with a richness and depth of history thats unique. India is a Marmite country. Ask anyone whose been and they either love it or hate it. No-one will ever say “s’alright, I suppose”.
I’ve been writing this piecemeal as I’m travelling around the island looking at the MRT network and one of the things that’s struck me as really positive is their transport integration. Stations have plenty of cycle storage and many have bus interchanges (but no car parks). The MRT network is also constantly expanding. Right now i’ve been visiting Woodlands, where a massive hole in the ground will soon be a part of the new 43km long MRT Thompson line from Woodlands North all the way to Sungei Bedok via Marina Bay . The MTR has sprouted lines all over the place in the past couple of decades and i’m looking forward to coming back when this latest batch opens.
It’s not just the MTR that’s expanded. The whole city has – which is producing some fantastic modern architecture to complement the city’s rich heritage. One only has to take a wander around the Marina Bay area or business district to see some brilliant examples of design, many of which incorporate exotic gardens (hanging or otherwise).
Sadly, I only had time to stay three nights, I’d loved to have lingered longer but I’ve a lot of ground to cover back to Bangkok. I’ll just have to come back again. Soon…