I had often heard about couples visiting Singapore for honeymoon. As I prefer destinations with natural surroundings, I used to wonder what takes them to the city of vertical development with everything man-made, except for the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. My bad, I underestimated this place with ‘good vibes’ until my visit in May 2016.
My first rendezvous with Singapore was obviously at Changi Airport, which has been voted as the world’s best airport consecutively for past few years. The Airport is not just the largest transportation hub in South East Asia, but also houses a free movie theatre, sunflower garden, MTV booth, Xbox 360 stations along with many other options for entertainment.
After collecting our luggage from the belt, we went to the airport’s parking where our cab from the hotel was waiting. It looked much cleaner and better than some of the hotel lobbies in India. While we were being driven to our hotel, I observed tall, beautiful trees symmetrically planted on roadsides, with plenty of hedging and flowering around it. The shade provided some serious relief to pedestrians and gave its contribution to the environmental health of the city. Cleanliness is such an intrinsic part of everything in the only city that’s also a state and a country, that talking more about it would actually be a waste of energy. It’s not just a rule, it’s a way of life. The cleanliness topic can be well concluded by stating that chewing gums are banned in Singapore.
During the first two days of our trip, we stayed on Orchard road. In evening, we went strolling around Little India and that’s when I first noticed how pedestrian friendly Singapore is, something I crave for in India. Even if there is a site under construction, you will see a stretch separated for people to walk past it. Drivers are alert and respectful towards pedestrians, always breaking to let them go first. Crossing roads is a systematic, relaxed group activity, unlike in India where crossing a road in New Delhi may make you count seconds remaining of your life.
You will find tall trees surrounded by small trees and flowering plants everywhere. The poles used for street lighting also have inverted lamps to highlight the trees. Needless to mention, it looks beautiful and also shows their focus on the environment. Not surprisingly, abundance of trees also invites several birds around them. House Sparrows, now hardly seen in Indian cities, can be spotted playing around on the streets of Singapore. One night, around 10 pm, several birds were chirping the way they usually would during dawn or dusk. The loud yet melodious sound took us by amaze.
There are many cars/cabs in this small country. Roads are good but not wide like in America. Thinking aloud, traffic jams don’t exist in their dictionary. Most of the roads are one-way but the town-planning is so good that it just doesn’t seem to be inconvenient at all. You are never far from a toilet or a waste bin in Singapore. There are separate trays for stubbing cigarettes atop all the trash bins on roads or in public areas. Since it rains often, there are plastic bags available outside commercial complexes for keeping wet umbrellas before entering. Tap water is potable in many countries, but tap water in Singapore is far above the WHO recommended standard of potable water. When we were in the S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa Island, there was a particular aquarium in which visitors were allowed to touch the fishes. I also tried feeling their texture and within seconds was given a tissue by one of the attendants to wipe finger. Little things matter!
Singaporians are health conscious. You can find joggers on Marina Bay even when it’s drizzling. It’s a place to walk. The primary reason for not buying a car may be the cost, but you actually don’t need a car there. Metro and bus network is great and short distances can be covered by walking. For other times, Grab and Uber taxi services are pretty reasonable. If I were to live there, I would actually buy a colourful bicycle or a skateboard, it’s so much fun! ‘Singapore is stress-free because Singapore is car-free.’
People from naturally blessed and bigger countries may find everything compact in Singapore, but it’s amazing how they have not left any good untouched because of space issues. The indoor gardens, safaris and parks have been made thoughtfully and the focus on quality is high. While many locations have world’s best Axis (A Swedish Company) CCTV cameras and Genetac (A Canadian Company) softwares, there are Bose public announcement systems and speakers used by authorities.
One of the most unique characteristics of Singapore is the equality, in every sense of the term. Not everyone in that country draws a handsome salary; in fact the minimum wage per hour is lesser than its European or American counterparts, but you will just not be able to differentiate between people on the basis of their financial strength or weakness. Everyone enjoys certain privileges, eats and dresses up well, making everything around look happy and positive. There is a good number of foreigners based out of Singapore, but there is nothing like discrimination. There is Little India and Arab Street, China Town and Churches. Tamil is one of the national languages and announcements in Metros are made in at least four languages. Everyone is welcome in Singapore. Law enforcement agencies are strict and unbiased to both, Singaporians and outsiders.
Inflation has its own socio-economic reasons, but there’s no dishonesty or corruption. Ministers are paid well so they don’t indulge in bribes. Singapore and Dubai are both popular, global destinations. While taxes are extremely low in Dubai, there is serious corruption and discrimination Asians may face; whether it be for your driving license or parking cost, Dubai has its own flexible fashion of dealing with people. This is another form of equality Singapore can boast of.
Good logistics is not the only reason why Singapore is a corporate magnet. It is also business friendly in many ways and growth-oriented when it comes to expansion. Irrespective of the country of origin, if you have a work set up registered in the Merlion state and wish to expand further, the government provides attractive tax benefits. Forget expansions, even if you send your team for a training program or a trade show outside Singapore, you are entitled to tax benefits of double the amount of the total cost involved in that training or visit. Registering a company is hardly a matter of a day or two if all your documents are in place. The country is tourism-conscious beyond words. Not only does it have numerous websites, detailed maps, mobile applications, but also is spontaneous on social media. While my difficult-to-please partner was going gaga over Singapore’s infrastructure and tweeted something nice about it, Singapore Ministry of Tourism responded within hours and requested him to share more about his experience.
Singapore is that feel good country where you may not sulk over anything, except for the humidity, perhaps! For the same, there are AC vents in some of the open spaces too. Having said this, it comes across as problem solving in its approach, a pre-requisite for every developed nation. I would love to visit again and stay there to absorb the culture and enjoy the vibes. While there may not be much to see then, there’s certainly a lot to learn.