Of all the countries I have visited so far, 15 in all – in Europe, North America, Canada, Africa, China, besides the different cities in my country of birth, India, Singapore has impressed me the most for specific reasons.
Its orderliness, discipline, promptness of service, air quality, honesty, kindness, fairness, clean environment and above all, a “customer is always right” attitude. Here I quote just 3 examples to prove my case.
Once, I could not make use of a free taxi service offered by Singapore Airlines. The information desk advised me to travel of my own and claim a refund instead, which I did in a haste with the help of a flight attendant before disembarking the plane in Chennai, India. Within two weeks, I had a check mailed to my home address in Kerala, India!
I bought a 22 karat gold necklace from a duty free shop and hurried to my hotel. My wife wasn’t happy about the design/fashion when she saw it. I called the manager in the duty free shop to return the necklace. She volunteered to meet us in the hotel to pass us the refund. Unfortunately, we were about to make our way to the airport to take our flight home. Instead, she promised to wait for us at the airport. She waited for us at one of the duty-free shops in the airport and, with a smile, refunded the whole amount I had paid her, in U.S dollars and Singapore Dollars!
While on a guided tour around the city, the tour guide stole the hearts of everyone by extending his courteous help to a frail looking old lady. At the end of the tour, he guided her to a connecting taxi and left specific instructions with the driver!
Courtesy doesn’t cost anything, but adds a lot of credit. All the above experiences, and many more which I saw in a short span of two days, indicate that the good culture of Singapore could be contagious. Our stay in Singapore has left indelible impressions in our minds and certainly the same happens in the minds of the millions of people who visit Singapore. Their example could change the attitude of people the world over – slowly but steadily. Small in size but mighty in action. Keep it up Singapura!!!
Singapore after Sundown
One of the characteristics of cities located at tropical islands is that the people come out on to the streets after the sun comes down.
This is true of Singapore, a city where major shopping and dining areas burst with people and activity at night. Bright and colourful lighting punctuate the night, and where clubbing happens, you will also hear pulsating music.
Hanging out at night in Singapore
The streets of Orchard Road, the main shopping district, teem with crowds. Stand at any of the major traffic crossings and you will experience the rush of people clashing from opposite directions at the zebra crossing, on their way to their next stop on the shopping strip. On any given night, you might find: a street performer or an entire performance troupe with a music or acrobatic act, workmen setting up a large tent for a major product launch, or the ice cream man whose specialty is a cut out of a block of local ice-cream filling a wafer or bread sandwich.
Farther down the road you will come to CHIJMES — the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. Previously a combined orphanage and school for girls run by Catholic Nuns, the complex was restored and today serves as a mixed use complex with retail, restaurant and watering hole outlets. The impressive chapel is the centerpiece of the complex, and now serves as a multi-purpose hall. Music performances and sporting events are celebrated here, while artists’ works are often on exhibition around the compound.
On warm nights near the waterfront, the row of preserved shophouses around the three quays — Boat, Clarke and Robertson — come alive with the bar-hopping crowd. Most of the bars and dance clubs have a theme — Latin music, pool table, sports, refined appreciation. Take your pick. One of the (harmlessly) naughty attractions at Clarke Quay is the local outlet of Hooters Restaurant. With a service staff made up exclusively of comely young ladies dressed in singlets and running shorts, they serve up fried chicken and burgers with a little hula hoop dance now and then.
Well, there is more than one way to appreciate the tropical nights. If you are game for wild animals, you can take a trip to the Zoological Gardens for a Night Safari. Located in the Northern part of Singapore, the Zoo sits by the shore of a reservoir lake, which forms part of the backdrop. Visitors can take an open tractor-bus into the park, and get off at stop points to walk around and observe the animals in the park.
The animals are clustered by region of origin. Various sections are designed to re-create the Burmese hillside, the Himalayan Foothills, a Nepalese River Valley, India, equatorial Africa, an Indo-Malayan forest, an Asian Riverine environment and the South American Pampas. If the animals cooperate, you might catch a glimpse of mountain goats and sheep from the Himalayas, the familiar Tiger, rare Rhinoceros from Nepal-Assam and giant rodents from South America.
For a little of the local flavour, you can make a visit to the East Coast Park, where several seafood restaurants serve local style crabs, prawns fishes and other sea delicacies. The atmosphere is just right, with a mild sea breeze and open air dining when the weather is good. After dinner, you can take a stroll along the many walking paths criss-crossing the park. Joggers, inline skaters and cyclists zoom along the wider roads, and anglers park themselves along Bedok Jetty or outcroppings of sand and stones. In the near distance, you will see the international fleet of merchant ships waiting their turn to dock in Singapore’s bustling harbour.