A week in Singapore is like being in heaven.
It gets light about 7 o'clock in the morning and starts to get dark about 7 o'clock in the evening. We're close to the equator, so the day length should be 12 hours. The weather is said to be the same year-round, except that there is more rain during the rainy season. It only rained one day during our visit and it was a warm rain. When it stops raining it dries up quickly. The temperature is usually about 30 C (86 F), but it doesn't feel that warm! Especially inside where it is always air conditioned. There is always a breeze in the shade, which feels good.
On Sunday we tried out the city's excellent MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) train/subway system. We bought stored value ez-link cards. The card registers where you enter and exit the system and automatically deducts the value from your card. We had one week's unlimited travel for the same price as what two round-trip tickets for a 50 km (31 mi) ride would cost in southern Sweden.
The trains go about every 5 minutes and are very long. If everyone traveling on the trains had been above ground, it would have been impossible to get anywhere because of all the traffic. Working hours are staggered to lighten rush hour traffic.
When it got dark it was time for a sound, light and laser show at the
fountain. A fantastic half hour! Back on the "mainland" (? –
Singapore is an island!) we ate a local dish of fried rice, shrimp, eggs and a
bunch of unknown ingredients. We drank a local speciality of sugar cane juice!
Very sweet and it looked poisonous – seaweed green.
|In "Little India", old buildings have been renovated and the area is full of markets, including their own IT-market! We visited a special "cultural corner" displaying old Indian products and customs for both tourists, school children and even young Indians who have lack awareness about their heritage. This ethnic quarter is however only commercial, since housing is mixed in all the areas.|
|We walked around Explanade, a theater complex. Then we walked through "Chinatown", which is also a commercial market area and not a housing area.|
for sale at the market, however they are totally forbidden in any hotel or
other public area as they stink to high heaven (but taste heavenly).
Archaeological digs in the middle of town next to St. Andrews Cathedral.
We also made the obligatory visit to a jewelry factory with fantastic factory-outlet tourist prices. If you're in the bargain for gold and fine gems, it is the place to shop.
We ended our tour in a fantastic orchid garden where we could have spent much more time, but it was time to return to our hotel.
Our guide was a walking encyclopedia and also told us many interesting things about everyday life here in Singapore.
Singapore became a "city state" in 1965 and was then considered part of the third world. It has however during the last 40 years has transformed into a strong economic state with extremely strict laws, free exchange and where everything for sale is imported. The only natural resource is people!
Women are necessary in the work force, just in most other countries. Unemployment is about 5%, which reflects a normal labor market with people changing jobs, etc. Our guide is self-employed and was very happy during the SARS-crisis that his wife worked for an international company so that they had an income during that time. There doesn't seem to be any unemployment benefits. No work, no pay proclaimed our guide.
There are 13 public holidays in Singapore, but it's not certain that employees are paid for them if they are off. Our bus driver worked 5 days and off 1 in a rolling schedule, since stores and markets are open 7 days a week. He often worked a 12-hour shift, but much of that was waiting time. There don't seem to be any labor laws here!
Employers can fire people at will. We talked with one lady who works as a financial advisor for an insurance company told us that once when she came back after a two-week vacation, her employer had moved her desk and requested that she quit of her own free will. She refused and instead negotiated a contract. When she later quit she left with money in her pocket and immediately started a new job at a bank.
There is nothing to stop an employer from firing employees, but there isn't either any loyalty towards employers! If someone finds a better deal elsewhere, they'll take it immediately, perhaps putting the old employer in a bind.
Sound politics have resulted in great successes, even if everything wasn't equally popular. Trade has been placed outside the political arena, where everything is allowed. Nothing is produced in Singapore, only refinement and assembly of things that are imported. All planning is long-term. A new city center is being planned for completion in 2040 on reclaimed land. Most problems are foreseen and a solution is planned BEFORE it is needed, reducing the need for "fixing" what goes wrong. The economy has recovered after the SARS-epedemic. A system has been developed to test body temperature from a distance, so they know long before a person reaches passport control if they have a fever. The next time a similar epidemic comes along, they are prepared to be ready for it within two hours!
Stored-value CashCards that flopped in Sweden, are surviving and used everywhere in Singapore. Many small shops accept them even when they don't take debit- or credit cards.
No obligatory vacation laws, it is up to the employer if an employee gets any vacation. One lady we talked to had worked for the same employer for 30 years and is now up to 3 weeks paid vacation a year.
About 77% off the population are Chinese, 14% Malaysian and 6% Indian. There are approximately 3,500,000 inhabitants + another 900,000 guest workers who mainly work building. Building is going on everywhere, about 15% of the land is reclaimed. Now they are considering filling the sound between some small islands in order to reclaim even more land.
Most of the housing is subsidized. It is also a rule that each district be ethnically represented in the same proportion as the total population. This means that when selling, it is not certain that the seller chooses the buyer, if the buyer's ethnic group is already over-represented in the area. In this way, all residents learn how people from other ethnic groups think, as well as learning about the culture, customs, etc.
There is no state-supported religion, but the state encourages activities within all the religions represented in the country.
The official language is English, which everyone speaks. Most residents however speak two or three different languages.
|It is soon the Chinese New Year and there are decorations up everywhere, as well as booths everywhere selling things for the celebration.|
There are signs everywhere warning for pickpockets. There is very little criminality in Singapore. They say that pickpockets are mainly illegal immigrants, as they are not allowed to work and have to support themselves someway.
Our week is up and it is time to move on to Sydney.
Copyright © 2008