I spent an hour in my Singapore hotel room trying to figure out where to go. It was my first time there, and I only had a day. The only information I had were from the brochures and maps I picked up at Changi airport.
One of the brochures had a quote from Rudyard Kipling on "The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it."
I found that to be an odd quote, because no scent stood out from the airport to my hotel room.
Anyway, the brochures I picked up seemed to focus on three areas, shopping, restaurant and bar locations, and man-made parks. But I was going to be there for only a day, and I was looking for a uniquely Singaporean experience. I feel that malls and bars aren't the places for that experience.
I settled on going to Chinatown and eating at one of the areas featured in the guide book. There were a couple of spots on the map marked as places of interest, so I was looking forward to seeing a few things right after eating.
Sure enough, the place was teeming with locals. Well, with Chinese, anyway. I thought that boded well.
I queued up at a busy stall and got myself something popular, sliced fish with noodles. Simple, but certainly hot, fresh, and fairly filling fare. I washed that down with a local specialty tea and milk cocktail, teh tarik. It was wonderfully refreshing.
While eating, I spotted one of the places of interest marked on my guide map. It was a building right across the street, with a sign that read Urban Development Authority.
I found, to my interest, that there was a small museum. To my disappointment, it was closed.
Oh well, there was another place of interest close by, only a block away. I walked for ten minutes to only find that the only thing of interest was a complex of restaurants and bars.
I gave up at that point.
I just hopped back on the train and met up with a friend and his family. I spent the rest of the afternoon up to the early evening hanging out at their place. That I truly enjoyed.
I spent less than twenty-four hours there, but I can't help coming to the conclusion that the only truly interesting thing there may be the people. I didn't get to converse to any while I was there, so I'm just guessing.
These were the people who were tossed out of the Malaysian Federation. These people, the Singaporeans, managed to make quite a living for themselves. In their own little island with no resources but a harbor and willing people, they built one of the wealthiest economies in the region, both in terms of national product and per person.
The spirit behind that was probably dirty, sweaty, and smelly. The spirit behind that deserves a memorial other than the antiseptic Orchard Road corner Patterson.