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Ports Of Call: Singapore
By Mike Thiel

Depending on your perspective, Singapore is either the Disney-fication of an Asian metropolis, or what every big city should be. Clean, high-tech, and run with an efficiency that makes you think the Swiss are in control, Singapore is a blend of ethnic neighborhoods, markets, temples, cultural centers, ultra-modern skyscrapers, and elegant tree-lined boulevards.

Like the Disney-lands of the world, Singapore was carefully planned. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles, the city's founder and an officer in the British East India Company, divided his emerging center of trade into districts, one for each ethnic group migrating to town. Over the centuries, district boundaries have blurred and Singapore has become a true melting pot; here Chinese, Malay, Indian, Arab, and Anglos peacefully co-exist.

We found Singapore a fascinating place to explore (easily done on foot) and shop. Bargains abound in the international jewelry shops, and you can buy crafts, antiques, andd food from all of Asia. To complement the ever-present B'mers and Mercedes (none by law more than five years old), there are plenty of high-fashion emporiums.

Although more renowned as a wired urban commercial haven, parts of Singapore and some of its islands boast attractive beaches and tranquil settings. Singapore may lack the raw charm of older Asian cities, but with its safe, near-perfect rendition of urbanity, it may be a good introduction to Asian cultures for first-time visitors.

Spring/Summer 2001

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