Sunday, May 3, 2009
I have to say, Singapore is RAD. It's like Vancouver and Tokyo had a Chinese baby. The cleanest baby ever.
You've all probably heard about the kid who got publicly caned in Singapore for vandalizing buildings. It's true. But he keyed cars, not graffiti - which in a way, is worse. Here, in efforts to minimize pollution and reduce traffic, the government imposed strict and incredibly high taxes on cars. So, when you see a Honda Civic driving by, in all likelihood it didn't cost $25K like it would in North America, it probably cost more like $80-100K by the time it hit the road. And every car on the road has to be less than 10 yrs old.
So, imagine the shock and outrage when a foreign kid keys 13 cars in Singapore. Not to mention most people in Singapore drive Mercedes or Jags, not Hondas (high end cars cost upwards of $500K to get on the road). I saw more than a dozen Ferraris in one day.
The government is strict here, but this country runs like a well oiled machine. And without a police presence. I haven't seen one police officer since we've been here. Not even a traffic cop giving out speeding tickets. That's because no one dares break the law.
Get this: it is no longer illegal to chew gum in Singapore (it used to be), but it is illegal to sell it. And you can go to jail for littering. Oh, and drug trafficking carries an automatic death sentence. A DEATH sentence.
There's a reason for all this order - there are 4 million people in a country the size of 600 sq. kms. But strangely, there's an absence of traffic and people. The city is gorgeous with grand tree-lined boulevards, beautiful architecture, landscaped promenades, and numerous parks. There are no homeless people (they're rounded up every night and given food and shelter), everyone owns their own home (gov't subsidy program), and everyone has been incredibly friendly.
But it is not cheap.
I've whiled away my time here wandering the streets of Chinatown, little India, Orchard Road, and peaking into various temples. The population is largely Chinese, and the dominant religion is Buddhist followed by Christian then Hindi. And with tomorrow being Buddha's birthday, the Buddhist temples have been alive with rituals and chanting.
Last night I ventured out of the city for something completely different - the world's first night safari. The city has built a jungle safari with natural barriers. You can take an open air tram around the park and see the wildlife up close. The only thing between you and a pack of hyenas or lions is a small moat. They use water and other natural barriers to prevent the animals from escaping. And then as a final defence, there's invisible electrical wires. For some animals, they can get right alongside the tram.
And the cool thing is that the safari isn't a tourist grab. Locals love it, and the government is using it to raise awareness of conservation. I'm so glad I went. I got to see leopards, tigers, lions, zebras, and elephants - and we walked through a free flying bat habitat. Fun!
Apparently the zoo is designed in the same way with orangutans running wild, but I never got a chance to go. Next time.
I'm now off to the airport hotel. I also have a 4 am wakeup call to look forward to. See you guys on the other side.
Photos to come soon!