Friday, January 30, 2009

Singapore-wired and diverse

Well, here I am in Singapore, the country where I was born. I am writing this in a coffee shop in a surburb, called Toa Payoh. Surburbia in Singapore means a cluster of government, or Housing Development Board (HBD), flats, where more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live. Of course there are richer people who own private property (i.e., not government owned), which has led to a labelling of "cosmopolitans" versus "heartlanders".

The government builds satellite towns around these HDB flats, so each surburb will have its own centre, with a library, supermarkets, banks, clothing shops etc etc. Its extremely convenient because it means you do not have to travel far to get things done. We can even pay our bills at electronic kiosks all over the island.

I am applying for my new passport online and it takes only 3 days to get ready (my passport expires next month, which is why I am back here). I love the convenience of Singapore, and I love how wired the island is. I am surfing for free, at a coffee shop, in an HDB heartland. I took a bus here from my parents' place (where I stay when I am in Singapore, since I do not own any property), using my E-Z link card. The card is a cash card you tap onto a card reader, saving you the need to carry cash. Later, when I go to Orchard Road, the main shopping belt, I will take the MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit (if you have not already realised, Singapore is well-known for having three-letter anagrams names). The MRT is our subway, which goes under as well as above ground. It will take me fewer than 10 mins to travel 3 stations to get to Orchard Road from Toa Payoh. The train will be air-conditioned and clean. Very convenient.

I am meeting my ex-colleague and friend Pauline for lunch and also check out the new stores on Orchard Road. It will no doubt be packed with people but that's ok. One thing I love about Singapore is its diversity. The first night I returned, I was so happy to hear people speaking Malay, Tamil as well as English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. It is something I did not think about when living in Cambodia: how homogeneous Cambodia is. Cambodians speak Khmer and it was refreshing to see the mix of people, Indian, Malay, Chinese, Eurasians in Singapore. Of course there are also Westerners, tourists and expats, just as there are in Cambodia.


Tanya said...

Have they switched to the new ez-link cards yet? We might need to send ours back to a friend to get them switched over to the new CEPAS cards.
I love the fact Singapore is so wired too! Hope you are having a great holiday.

Ron said...

Singapore is one of my next destinations to explore. I'd love to visit one day. Unfortunatley, I'll only get to spend 6 hours there at the airport hotel enroute to Indonesia next week. After reading your post, I'm tempted to maybe head out and explore for a few days...hmmm...

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