20 March 2010
It is raining steadily, as I sit overlooking the Singapore River, with my hot tea and curly fries. Not exactly sightseeing weather, but as it is not cold, I am content enough. It’s only a bit of water after all. Besides, having nearly lost my voice through a throat infection and a bit of a cold coming on, I’m not bouncing off the walls. It seems a good time to reflect on my few days here, before I make my way to Malaysia tomorrow.
Apart from the balmy weather, there’s a lot to like about Singapore. It is organised without feeling over-policed (despite the joke that it is a fine city – for everything, there is a fine). Everything works, and the people are friendly. Because of the mix of cultures and the cornucopia of shopping malls, there is a very cosmopolitan feel about the place. And yet, it is not all neon lights and concrete; there are plenty of green spaces and cultural sites to visit.
After arriving on Monday night, I had a ‘rest day’ and took a city tour. My favourite part was the story of how the merlion represents Singapore’s past as a fishing village – hence the mermaid’s tail – and the future, a lion representing power and progress. Singapore literally means ‘lion city’ and has 5 colossus merlion statues in the city. Another memory I will take away is walking along a busy boulevard (Orchard Road), just when the sun was setting and the trees roaring with the deafening sound of birds roosting for the night.
The botanical gardens, which I only visited briefly, are extensive and beautiful. I was hoping to see the Singapore Symphony Orchestra playing there tonight in an open air amphitheatre, but they are playing in another public venue. I might still go to listen, depending on how the weather holds up. Meanwhile, I will head down the Singapore River towards the waterfront. I have heard there are some sculptures in the area.
The food is, as one would expect, a fabulous mix of Asian cuisine. I had a particularly delicious dinner on Thursday evening at Tambuah Mas, an Indonesian restaurant. I was also spoiled with a dinner at the top of the 64 story Republic Plaza Tower, hosted by the EU ambassador to Singapore. Besides the food, a trip to the Singapore Art Museum was more weird than wonderful, but it was interesting to see several exhibitions making political statements against oppression in countries like Indonesia.
My work in Singapore has been quite good, despite being unpaid. On Wednesday I gave a 2 hour talk on The Future of CSR hosted by the Singapore Compact for CSR and had about 80 people in attendance, and there were about 250 people at the EU conference on CSR, where I gave the concluding talk. My accommodation – the YMCA Orchard Road – has also been a pleasant surprise: far more hotel than hostel. Unlike in my Melbourne pad, the toilet was not actually in the shower cubical! 🙂