Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Round-the-island tour, Singapore

Today was amazing. The round-island tour is the best I’ve been on, along with the hop-on-hop-off tours. The guide gave a lot of basic information about how Singapore is organised. Things like the public housing system where 20% of income is put into a fund and that’s used to help you buy a house and provide for retirement. We drove through all the industrial areas and the sections of land that have been reclaimed from the sea were pointed out – there’s a lot of reclaimed land.

It’s absolutely amazing what has been done with such a small island in 45 years. The planning and organisation required to make it all work, and work so successfully, is just mind-boggling. Today was the first time I’d seen anything resembling a military presence too. Even then, even though areas were pointed out and I saw a lot of ‘restricted area’ signs, the only military personnel I saw apart from the guards at gates were National Service boys just finished their basic training and waiting at a bus stop. There are highways that can be turned into airfield within an hour or two. What a clever use of space.

We were told a story about two brothers who built a house in 1937. When the Japanese came, the house was bombed. One brother died during the Japanese occupation, the other survived to return to the house and witness the destruction of his home. He demolished the house and built a garden that showed 101 ways to behave well. The garden also included the ten gates of hell. The garden has pretty much been abandoned now and is slowly decaying. They’re trying to find sponsors to provide funding for the upkeep.

At one point I stood at the water’s edge and looked over the sea to another country. I’ve never done that before. In Australia, everywhere you look, there’s more Australia. To know that the land you’re looking at belongs to someone else with different rules and regulations, language and culture emphasised the transitory nature of life.

British barracks, Changi.
Changi museum and chapel was emotive. The British barracks are still there, untouched. Even though everything’s falling apart, you can still sense the lives of those lived there during that time. There’s still a prison on the site. We didn’t have access to that, of course, or to the original site of the prison that was there during WWII (it’s a huge tract of land). I had thought I’d be disappointed that there was so little left of what had happened, but I wasn’t. I’m glad there’s the memorial, but I’m even more glad that things have moved on from that time. They’ve taken the lessons to be learned and put things in place to try to prevent it happening again, but they’re not letting it control the lives of everyone living in Singapore. There’s a sense of the past underpinning the present but the future driving direction.


Nagendra kumar said...

This looks like a very nice place! I liked it so much and very interesting, too! Thanks for sharing the experience.
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Jack Witson said...
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