[The Approach] [The Country] [The Cultures] Nov 2000 - Oct 2001
We approached Singapore from the east - dreading the crossing of the Singapore Straits, which had been described as a "conveyor belt of ships looking for yachts to run down". The sky-line was the most impressive we had seen since leaving Brisbane over 4000 miles before. We found the procession of ships to be orderly and well-spaced and easily made it across the eastbound and westbound lanes with no drama. We cut through one of the shipping anchorages and passed the container port entrance where ships entered and exited every couple of minutes. Extensive dredging and landfill operations had made our charts obsolete (Singapore extends their land by 1% each year, much to the dismay of their neighbors) but we wended our way through ships, dredges, markers, ferries, and breakwaters to find the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club and Judi, waiting to take a line.
Singapore is an independent republic with 3 million people on one major and 20 smaller islands. Thrown out of Malaysia in 1965, they have had to make their own way in the world - and have done a great job of it. Clean, prosperous, safe with all necessary amenities, it is a first-world enclave in a developing part of the world. Technically a democracy, Singapore seems to be more like a benevolent dictatorship, where the country has been run since its independence by a single political party which controls the press, selects its candidates, and runs the country very well.
Chinese make up over 75% of the population with Malays (14%) and Indians (7%) distant 2d and 3rd. Cultural harmony is paramount, and so holidays are equitably divided between Christian, Hindu, and Moslem and intolerant behavior and statements are not tolerated. The Lonely Planet guide to Singapore describes 24 different festivals and holidays through-out the year, so any time of year can be interesting. Orchard Road during the Christmas shopping period is as busy as Fifth Ave. in New York and Chinatown is covered in red a month later as the Chinese New Year holiday is in full swing - 2 weeks of celebrations, lion dances, and Yu Sheng's where a large Chinese raw fish salad is tossed high - for prosperity in the New Year.
Our observations of the Singaporean lifestyle are somewhat limited, but they include: