Nervously we wade along in the uncharted waters of a foreign shore. We are amidst an enigmatic uncertain people, in a city cut off, isolated, a state in itself with no connection to a fatherland. Distant from its past, a mix of traditions and peoples, Singapore has a fractured uncertain identity. On the one hand it presents an image of strictness, order and cleanliness, yet its streets are dull and grey, its building utilitarian, stark.
The plane ride across was, to speak plainly, horrible. Flying out at midnight is a disgrace. One cannot sleep because the chairs are mercilessly, unremittingly uncomfortable. Aches in the legs, in the back, and the arms ensued from poor posture over a prolonged period of time. Restless, irritable I emerged into the sombre, tropical heat, with wilted palm fronds and the relentless miles of grey concrete and steel that comprise the Singapore landscape.
To be honest, I’m not sure why this has not received more media attention, but the lack of quality in the airlines is quite appalling. Singapore Airlines have not upgraded their in-flight entertainment in 10 years. The leg room and the seating is horribly cramped. There is no food or drink available after a certain time and all lights are out. If you can’t sleep on the planks they call chairs, you can watch Hollywood movie after movie, or play poker against horribly bad AI players. I was up $3000 when the plane started rocking uncomfortably and I took this as a sign that God wanted me to stop playing poker. Superstitious as that sounds I didn’t want the plane to crash on account of the make believe money I had been winning.
My first impressions of the country are not positive.
On one side of the card they make you fill in it says, ‘welcome to Singapore’ on the other ‘You may face the death penalty for carrying drugs’. Believe me I’m not in favour of drugs in any way. I feel people who waste their time selling or taking drugs need to get a life, that is to say, read a few good books, make love to some beautiful woman and play hours of online multiplayer video games. But seriously, the death penalty? Surely there are worse things people can be doing like murder, acts of terrorism or voting for the Greens. I just feel it is a barbaric people that still subscribe to this form of punishment and it immediately colours my perception of the place.
Likewise for a city famed for cleanliness and order, their first thing I saw when I arrived was litter on the ground. Their taxis are old, their buses are old and the drivers wear dishevelled uniforms. Their buildings are very stark as I alluded to earlier. They are all painted in this off-white, the only way to tell one from another the large blue number indicating the street address. Customer service seems overly efficient: five people are on hand to do the job of three. Well, I have survived and perhaps my jaundiced view is due to the lack of sleep and the fact the hotel room is still not ready. It can only improve from here…one would hope.