Thursday, August 8

Singapore: Memories Versus Reality

Photo stolen from kindly Yee Lee Wong
In an earlier post I mentioned I had an idolised view of Singapore. This fantasy was generated from visits to Singapore, which I experienced as a child. While I can’t say I idolise Singapore any more, I still retain the memories and experiences of why I felt that way in the first place.

One such memory I have is when I was around 8 years old. It’s a hot and humid day, the sky is clear, I had just left a play park. The scenery is green, filled with luscious plants, contrasting the grey roads and pavements. I am walking parallel to a drainage ditch, babbling with flowing water. The air is still and quiet. I'm feeling euphoric and free, I'm wondering at the simple and organic beauty. In a way I feel at home, this is were I belong. In another memory I remember very little. I'm in my grand parents house watching Biker Mice From Mars on a tiny television. I feel safe and secure.

I remember very little from when I was younger, but none the less, the feeling still remained; Singapore was a wondrous place. So when I got off the plane in June 2013, after being away for years, part of me still expected and hoped Singapore would be like that.

First impressions were good. It was hot and humid. It was sunny and green. The air felt and smelt pleasantly different. But riding the taxi to my accommodation, I realised that everything wasn't the same. The place seemed duller than I remembered it. The sense of nostalgia I expected didn't really appear. When I first got to my grandmas apartment I actually thought the place looked crappy. Over the next few days reality didn't progress any further in meeting my lofty expectations.

I went to Orchard Road and was turned off by the rampant consumerism and materialism; malls, malls, malls and more identical malls, with no culture or history in sight. The food was good, but not as good as I remember. At least the girls didn't disappoint, still good looking. So what had happened to Singapore I knew?

In reality the change in Singapore I thought I perceived, had less to do with Singapore physically changing (though that certainly happened in some areas) and more to do with me changing. Over time I began to take some things for granted like good food and beautiful foliage. Other areas like the lack of history and culture, and an obsession with materialism are things that I found distasteful. When I was younger I didn't really notice the ceaseless building of new malls, but now I did. The first few weeks left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, the Singapore I thought I knew didn't exist any more.

However I realised the folly of letting my unrealistic expectations dictate my present mood, so I came to re appreciate Singapore. The food here is still pretty damn good, any hawker stall/coffee shop will serve you something enjoyable and at a reasonable price. The city is still beautiful in its verdant greenery, I still love vegetation and Singapore does not disappoint, there are trees and shrubs everywhere. The women are still hot. The transport system is extremely efficient and makes getting around the place a breeze. Generally the climate is great, though being in a rush, walking outside in 30 degrees, with a suit on is torture. Its a modern city in every way. The job market here is good. Singapore is an amazing hub for travelling to dozens of locations in Asia.

In the last 2 months, since I arrived in Singapore, I've had to go through a mindset change. Now I can say I'm enjoying my time here a lot and I hope to continue to value what Singapore offers me.