I recently went on a short trip to The Lion City, Singapore. Read on, as I unravel this pristine city-state while I travel across it.
Like any other visitor to Singapore, I also landed at the majestic Changi Airport, which is one of the busiest airports in the world and is currently rated the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax. As I was waiting for my checked-in baggage, I started to have a conversation with a fellow passenger who was from Singapore. He told me two interesting facts about Changi. The first one, was about the Changi Museum, which provides an emotional exploration of Singapore’s wartime history during the Japanese occupation. The museum also sheds light on the infamous Changi Prison that existed for the Prisoners of War. He then asked me if I could smell something different in the air at the airport, to which I nodded in agreement. He then told me that it was the orchid tea fragrance, that is exclusively manufactured for the Changi Airport. The fragrance is diffused in the air for visitors to always feel fresh. This juxtaposition of the history and the modernity of the place, and the fact that Singapore covered it in such a short time span, created great enthusiasm in my mind for the next two days of my trip.
I was put up in a locality which seemed quite familiar at first glance, as it was full of things that were Indian in all aspects. The only thing that probably made a difference was the air. The area that I was visually experiencing was the famous ‘Little India’, an establishment by the ethnic Indian immigrants who began residing here during British colonial rule. This area was dominated by Indians, with Tamils being one of the major ethnic groups that I was surrounded by. While I was travelling by the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), I also heard public announcements being made in four different languages, with Tamil being one of them. It was then that I learnt that Tamil is recognised as one of the four official languages of Singapore. After doing a bit of research, I found out that Tamils were a majority among the Indian convicts who were sent to Singapore during British colonial rule. Since the independence of Singapore, the Tamil community has progressed in all spheres, so much so that one among them, Sellapan Ramanathan, ended up becoming the President of Singapore.
Image: Little India , Image source:evolve-vacation.com
Apart from travelling by the MRT, when I commuted by the famous GrabTaxi on a few occasions, I got a chance to zip through the extremely clean and well-maintained streets of this beautiful city-state. As I was mesmerised by the scenic beauty of everything I saw, my attention was brought back to an article that I had read somewhere. The article talked about Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, and his vision of turning Singapore into a garden city. As I was reflecting on the article, I planned on visiting the famous Gardens by the Bay and Jurong Bird Park, both of which are examples of how Singapore has turned its former Prime Minister’s vision into reality.
The Gardens by the Bay, located adjacent to the famous Marina Bay Sands, is a treat for nature lovers. The entire Gardens by the Bay was conceptualised in 2005, and the area is built over 101 hectares of reclaimed land that houses more than 10,00,000 plants. It houses what is the world’s largest glass greenhouse garden, called the ‘Flower Dome’.
At the Jurong Bird Park, I was able to share space with more than 5,000 birds, including penguins. I had never thought that an industrial area could co-exist with birds! The Jurong Industrial Area was established before Singapore’s independence, with the vision of industrialising Singapore to boost the otherwise stagnant trade-dependent economy of the city-state. Singapore was earlier an area with a lot of swamps, jungles and small fishing villages, and was turned into this modern industrial estate. After Singapore’s independence, the area attracted a lot of investments, which led to the creation of many jobs, ultimately leading to a massive positive impact on the GDP. As a person from Jamshedpur, India, one big company that I could recall while at Jurong, was the famous NatSteel, the first steel establishment at Singapore, which Tata Steel later acquired.
Image: Flamingoes at Jurong Bird Park, Image source:Palak Kumar
Later in the evening, I visited one of the most happening places located along the Singapore River— Clarke Quay. While exploring the beautiful restaurants there, I noticed that most of the buildings in which the restaurants were housed, looked like old granaries. After some enquiry, I discovered that Clarke Quay had once served as a dock to load and unload cargoes, for the warehouses and commercial houses situated along the Singapore River. Today, these warehouses have been converted into beautiful restaurants and clubs. This interesting historical fact about one of the most modern places in Singapore, was something that really amazed me.
While I was not able to visit the famous Sentosa Islands on this trip, I did manage to dig up an interesting fact about the same. Interestingly, the name ‘Sentosa’ means peace and tranquillity in Malay. Ironically, my mind was not at peace at having missed visiting this beautiful place in Singapore. It is on my checklist for the next time I am in this mesmerising place.
All-in-all, the short trip that I had to Singapore was an enriching experience. I felt really inspired by the city-state, which turned its fortunes in the last 50-odd years through self-belief, honesty, perseverance and hard work.
About the Author:
Palak Kumar is India’s youngest professional quiz host. He is an alumnus of NIT, Jamshedpur. He is the national champion of the Tata Crucible Campus Quiz 2017. With around 100 quiz shows to his credit as a quizmaster, Palak has hosted various shows at schools, colleges such as IITs and NITs, and employee engagement events for corporates like BPCL, Cognizant, etc. and is the architect of the Quiz Premier League.