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Monday, December 10, 2007

You Can Count on Singapore

In the end, with all my errands and comings and goings, I was left with only one full day for proper tourism in Singapore, and I made the most of it. I took the MRT to Harbor Front and stumbled onto some wonderful hawker stalls, where I had an exquisite breakfast of rice porridge with duck, and big glass of lemonade, all for S $3.30. Big signs drew me to Sentosa, Singapore’s artificial beach and amusement park, where I spent the better part of the day taking pictures, seeing exhibits, going on rides and generally enjoying myself.

The monorail back dropped me straight in Vivo City, an immense mall of everything interesting. First I looked at an 8 GB MP3 player for only US $150, but further browsing brought me to an optical shop, where I purchased a much needed new pair of spectacles, Porsche Design, no less. After eight years of frameless, I now sport very stylish frames, and have a new chic look about me.

Later, I went down to the Orchard Road shopping area and picked up all my onward tickets, plus the visa required to enter the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. And from there, it was off to Little India with Mahesh and Jayashri of the Indian High Commission for a farewell dinner. Little India was just super. It was a piece of India in wonderful and orderly Singapore. It says a lot about leadership and vision. If only they had more of it in India itself. In the event, I ate my final south Indian thali on a banana leaf, and spoke my last words of Hindi, and said my goodbye to India in a more concrete way than I had in the mad rush to get out of Hampi and Bangalore.

Some people assert that Singapore is something of a dictatorship. That may be true, at least to the extent that you are well advised to keep your opinions to yourself. But it isn’t despotic, and there is an unspoken contract between government and the governed, that in return for obedience, prosperity will follow. And what an amazing place Singapore truly is. From the humblest of origins, with no resources at all, in a few short generations, this country, through grit, sacrifice, incredible discipline and hard work, catapulted itself from the third world to the first. In many ways it is a model of development: infrastructure, education, enterprise, with a strong social bent to help the weaker sectors. It helps that the population is small. But I reckon that the principles remain the same.

I was left with a very hectic departure day, what with picking up my glasses at 10 AM at Vivo City, checking out at 11 (no other time would do, inexplicably) and meeting Mahesh and Jayashri one last time for lunch, before heading off to the airport for a haircut, sushi meal and GST refund. Let me tell you that if a series of events has to go off in the proper sequence, in Singapore, it will. I managed everything, on public transit, with time to spare.

Nevertheless, upon claiming my tax refund, I examined my Vietnamese visa more closely, only to discover that it was for the wrong dates – December, designated for Indonesia, rather than January, the time meant for Vietnam. This put me in something of a huff, because I had paid S $230 to the travel agent to arrange the visa. However, a Monday morning first thing phone call to Singapore yielded promises to investigate and rectify. I suspect they’ll be able to do it, too.

My Singapore Airlines flight to Bali went off without a hitch, naturally, and there was a ride waiting to take me to the hotel I had booked. What I hadn’t realized was that it was over 100 km from the airport, and it took some two hours to arrive. Exhausted, the impact of arriving back in Indonesia after an absence of twelve years was somewhat lost on me, and had to wait until the next morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel that I'm with you.