January 26, 1019
What can I say about Singapore after a mere “panoramic” half-day bus tour? To all appearances it’s a perfectly cut gemstone with its tall buildings piercing the sky, their facets gleaming and winking in the bright sun. You can smell affluence in the air, you see it in the way the busy people dress, in the shop windows emblazoned with the names of luxury brands. Singapore is the embodiment of the old American dream, the poster child for business success, for money, and is itself the best example of the power of branding.
The Republic of Singapore lies one degree north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Its territory, which consists of the mainland plus sixty-two islets, is almost a quarter reclaimed land. Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has the distinction of having transitioned from a developing into a fully developed country in a single generation.
Our half-day excursion included a drive through Singapore’s Colonial District, the northern area of the city where Parliament House and the Victoria Theatre lie. We went to Little India, where we had a walking tour of the colourful streets on our way to the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple (the oldest place of Hindu worship on the island, lavishly decorated with seventy-two deities. We also went to Chinatown and visited Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore.
Our last stop was the very best part of our visit. The coach took us to the Botanical Gardens, home to thousands of lush tropical plants in a natural setting, including two thousand varieties of splendid orchids, the world’s largest collection.
But half a day on a bus and a bit of a wander along its streets weren’t nearly long enough to discover whether this wealthy city has a soul as well as a beautiful face.
Next stop: Malacca, Malaysia