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October 1, 2010

Singapore, Singapore!

Sands Hotel (Photo: Jason Schwary)

This very sentence is being typed not more than 15 minutes in to a very short flight between the city-state of Singapore and the formerly named county of Borneo.
Beyond being 100% immersed into the last 5 days of my Singaporean life I’ve only managed to pull myself away to take photographs. Writing about my most recent experience was 
My flight from singapore to the formerly named country of Borneo took off less than fifteen minutes ago.  The last five days of my life involved absolute immersion into the Singaporean life style and oh boy, what a lifestyle it was!  Everything I previously imagined about Southeast Asia and what little I was capable of expecting from this small dot on the map quickly took shape the exact moment my fourteen hour bus ride  passed through the immigration gates of this mighty and majestic city, i mean country, i mean...
It’s important to note that a six month itinerary focused solely on Southeast Asia generally includes a stopover in Singapore. I mean, even if you don’t want to, the flight routes are such that it’s pretty much inevitable. The airport of Singapore alone is the 5th busiest airport in the world and within three weeks of being in this region of the world, Marie and I were already pressured to discover this city.  Being faced with this inevitability, a healthy portion of our “backpacker speak” gravitated towards the “do’s and don’t” and the time necessary to fit it all in without passing on activities and encounters that would leave you uncomfortably frustrated for having been there, but for not having done it.  
With all of the above in mind our consensus was that two days would be sufficient, after all, it was just a small city-state focused on finance.  But my name is Jason, and for that I doubled the two days to four, traveled hard, went to bed late, walked over 5 kilometers a day, and still, I boarded the plane to Borneo feeling more frustrated than ever before, something akin to a severe case of  “backpacker’s blue-balls”. Sorry for the queazy analogy but for those who are familiar with the sensation it really is the most accurate way of describing it!
The age old adage that “that every picture says a thousand words” is probably going to be the best way for me to do justice to this city and it’s wonderment I experienced. I hope you enjoy the following as much as I had in living it.
Crazy City (Photo: Jason Schwary)
My first impression of Singapore was its skyline!  The modernity of it’s buildings, the attention to placement, shape, color, lighting and diversity will most undoubtable be the one concept I’ll reflect upon most. The indescribable beauty was love at first sight.  Reminiscent of the infamous characteristic of Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “Mona Lisa”, depending of where you are at and what altitude you find yourself, it will completely affect your experience with it, while all the while the spirt of the city, like the eyes of Mona Lisa, are continually staring right back at you.  
The city-state of Singapore is as majestic as it is intricate, built on an archipelago of islands, flanked by the Straights of Malacca,  immersed in the South China Sea, cut by rivers, paved with bays, dotted with multiple harbors, linked by bridges, sectioned by jungles and stewed with the largest concentration of XXII century skyscrapers known to XXI century man. Upon further dissection of the skyscrapers that dominate this city-state you’ll find that there  are three distinct concentrations that if each assessed individually would rank well on any skyline scale.  However, when I consider the city as a whole, the skyline of Singapore ranks at the top amongst the superstars of New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur and Paris.  All for different reasons but all for one magical sensation that drops your jaw, blurs your eyes and boggles you mind and what man has done, what man can do, and a glimpse into the future at what man most likely will be.
Malls, Malls, Malls (Photo: Jason Schwary)
My second greatest impression of Singapore goes to something I personally don’t care for but nevertheless was so profoundly impressive and integrated into the design of the city that with no hesitation takes a very close second place.  I’ve been to a shopping mall or two in my lifetime but what I’d never been to before was a city entirely constructed above the rooftops of an underground network of malls whose size would measured in kilometers not storefronts. I know, it sounds  ludicrous but I kid you not, it’s true. 
Taking cover from a monsoonal rain which lasted all afternoon, Marie and I crossed a substantial part of the city passing the storefronts of  every brand  we had  ever heard of, read about, or even cared to encounter while on our “grass roots” adventure of Southeast Asia.  It was insane! It felt as though for every square foot of developed real estate above the ground, you could multiply that by three to begin to feel the enormity and  intensity of the underground shopping experience in Singapore.  For many a visitors that decent upon this city, they see this place as the ultimate shopping destination, or better yet, the “Mecca of Malls”, but for myself, I was personally blown away by the world class architectural design that went into building the most expansive underground web of conspicuous consumption i’d ever laid eyes on!  
It's all good (Photo: Jason Schwary)
For me, the term “food court” conjures up negative images of fast food served at the back of the top floor of a mall drenched in neon lighting whose purpose is to distract you from the disgusting food your putting into your mouth.
This is not the case in Singapore!  The infamous food courts of this city collectively share the largest variety of the best food Asia has to offer.  If it’s Asian and more importantly, if it’s good will find it here.  And the price, forget about it. You will eat like never before and for a third of the cost of that other fast food shit we gobble up faster than the money that burns a hole in our pocket during a 24 hour sale at Macy’s.   
Fantastic Fantasy Island (Photo: Jason Schwary)
Typically I shy away from from man-made attractions like Disneyland, Universal Studios and other one off attractions aimed at taking your money without giving you anything in return. Of course I say this excluding you if you happen to be the parent of a youngster or two.  I find that this is usually the case, unless you’re weird. Sorry. Kind of.
Siloso Island is virtually entirely manmade, dedicated to entertaining everybody including the ecstasy popping spring-breaker (maybe if the death penalty was the only punishment), woman looking  to perfect their island tan, visitors laking the time to experience Barcelona’s famous Gaudy Park, and no, I haven’t forgotten the parents who are out of options with distracting their children long enough to hear themselves too! It’s all there! Great shopping, top dinning, seductive nightclubs, water shows, entertainers, fountains, a giant 15 story mermaid-lion (the mascot of Singapore), 5 star resorts  and so much more.   
All looking in one direction...$ (Photo: Jason Schwary)
Perhaps more than any other topic i’ve previously mentioned about Singapore, the culture and history is one that should deserve the most attention.  Not surprisingly though, this is something that is impossible to even begin to understand after such a short stay. Nevertheless, it would be highly uncharacteristic of me not to give it  my best attempt in the shortest space possible.
The Singaporean culture has been one in development over the last two thousand years and then some. It sits as the gate keeper between several ancient worlds, been a major European topic of territorial discussions since the dawning of the pirate age, experienced wars over the title of its land ranging from the north, south, east, west and even from within itself.  The influences that have taken siege of this small city-state have been as deep and varied as any other of it’s kind. All the while, Singapore has persevered like no other through it’s latest round of independence (back some 50 years ago) asserting itself resoundingly as the preeminent capital of capitalism, free trade, assimilation of different cultures, tolerance of different religions and defenders of all pursuits of that illusive term we call “happiness”! If I was forced to slap a slogan on Singapore it would be this...”If it’s good for business, it’s good for Singapore!”

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