BY PHILIPPA BARR
A fter seven very happy years in Singapore, I left kicking and screaming at the end of 2007. I did not set foot in the place for ten years – a sad state of affairs that was happily brought to an end in July this year. Stepping into that familiar sticky air outside Changi Terminal 1, I was fascinated to see what had changed … and what hadn’t. Front and centre, of course, is Marina Bay Sands. The iconic three-tower deck-of-cards-inspired structure is as familiar in print today as many of the world’s most famous buildings, but seeing it up close has definite wow-factor, especially knowing that it was created – along with its surrounding park and attractions – on reclaimed land. Yep, when I left, there was nothing but water out beyond the Merlion.
It’s lovely to see the children still wearing their pyjamas outside, and the colourful assortment of plastic slippers people wear on their feet. Geckos continue to scurry up and down the walls; the distinctive buzz of the fogging man still resonates, gradually increasing till you know it’s time to duck for cover. And the sweeping! How is it that Southeast Asia has so much sweeping to be done? I asked an old friend where the best place was to shop and eat hawker food; she answered Bugis Junction and Lau Pa Sat – no changes there. Best spot for a drink? No.5 Emerald Hill – also an old favourite. So, it seems, while Singapore now has so much more, it still has lots the same. Any pain or frustration fades fast; the wonderful memories remain. Live it up while you’re there … it’s a great place.
And MBS – a handy new acronym, of course – is not the only new structure. Singapore island might be constrained in size, but there have been plenty of upward additions. I was particularly taken by the gentle curves of D’Leedon and the Lego-like protrusions of Sculptura Ardmore. Next up in terms of change is the SMRT network – both what’s there and what’s coming. With typical Singapore efficiency (or is it autocracy?), nothing gets in the way of those stations and lines going exactly where they are most needed. A few inconvenient road diversions at present? Have no fear, the outcome will be worth it. Hmm … dare I say it? Traffic! There were definitely moments ten years ago when it
seemed that the small island could disappear under the weight of cars on Bukit Timah Road, but they were usually the result of a downpour or a “jam”. Now, even the infamous COE isn’t enough to keep a lid on vehicle demand! But to my great relief, there are also many things that haven’t changed. My taxi driver from the airport delivered a delightful dissertation on condo prices, jams on the PIE and the BKE (at the Woodlands exit, naturally), and whether we had “breakfast already, lah ?” My daughter asked me what language he was speaking. She was also puzzled why we stood waiting for other taxis, while so many empty ones streamed past marked “Shift Change”.
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