Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lost in Singapore

Although it would have been much more fun with Kathy along to share the experience, I really enjoyed my time in Singapore. After a day of mostly sitting at meetings, I looked forward to a chance to get out, stretch my legs, and explore the city. So after changing from go-to-meeting clothes into more comfortable jeans, a t-shirt, and running shoes, I’d strap on my camera, ride the elevator to ground level, walk through the front doors of the hotel, and hit the streets.

Despite the many interesting sights, I was hesitant to pull out my camera. Years of restraint in Burkina, where people don’t like you randomly taking their picture, had made me cautious. But much to my surprise, I soon saw people taking pictures all over the place, especially with their cell phones! I wonder how many times my face showed up on Singaporean Facebook pages or albums? In any case, it didn’t take me long to throw restraint to the winds and snap merrily away like everyone else.

The main rule to survival in Singapore, I discovered, is remembering which way to look before crossing the street! Traffic moves on the opposite side of the road from what I’m used to. If you’re not from the UK, you’ll find yourself looking left for oncoming traffic instead of right and either getting honked at or doing last-minute sprints for your life to get out of the way of a bus bearing down on you from behind! But apart from that, Singapore is known as one of the safest cities in the world. And one of the cleanest! True, this is because the penalties for crime or littering are pretty severe, but I was pretty impressed nonetheless.

Despite the amount of construction going on in the city both day and night (there were cranes almost anywhere you looked, and I saw construction crews pouring cement at night in the glare of powerful lamps), there was a nice mix of urban space, gardens, and green space. In fact, Singapore is known as The Garden City.

The first night I went out, I got lost. However, I continued to wander the streets in hopes of finding my way back to the hotel, knowing that if worst came to worst I could always flag down a taxi to take me home. They were everywhere.

Eventually, I came to a river. Lights, walkways, shops, and inviting restaurants lined the riverside and the occasional boatload of tourists plied the waterway. A variety of bridges carried traffic or pedestrians from one side to the other, most lit up with lights of some kind. In the distance, some things with lights soared and dipped against the dark sky. As I got closer, they turned out to be kites with LED lights on them. Pretty cool idea!

At another place, I saw several white pylons sticking up into the sky. When I went to investigate, I arrived just in time to see a couple getting strapped into a round metal cage. Once the gate was closed, the long, elastic straps running from the sides of the cage up to the pylons began to tighten. More and more they stretched until they seemed about to break! Then the cage, which had been anchored to the ground, was released, sending it soaring high into the air like a stone from a slingshot! Kind of like reverse bungee jumping :) After bouncing up and down for a while, the cage was finally lowered to the ground again and the couple staggered out to the cheers of friends.

I finally did find my way back to the hotel. But not before walking for miles and miles, and getting blisters on my feet. I could hardly wait to go out again the following night!

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