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Singapore – on communities and contrasts

Singapore – on communities and contrasts

Singapore was a British settlement for over a century and there are loads of British influences in infrastructure – driving is obviously on the left – and the British based legal and security system, such as the omnipresent camera surveillance, which is very UK inspired. There are fire doors and safety procedures in public buildings which reminded me strongly of my student times in Manchester. Like the fact that we weren’t encouraged to open our (locked anyway) hotel windows. In my hall in Manchester the windows would only open 15cm and then block due to strict safety measures.

Singapore is a mixture of old British historical buildings and modernity. The country-city boasts a Manhattan skyscraper skyline and loads of modern office buildings making sweet and ornate 19th century shop houses even more of a special sight. Surrounded by massive housing estates that are obvious land shortage solutions but would be declared ghetto block architecture elsewhere, the shop houses look so fragile and admirable – bringing back a gone era of colorful decorative elements amidst the glass steel dominated business world. Singapore’s government owns most of the massive estates and financially supports its tenants.

Shop houses can be traced back to the time of Singapore’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822. They feature beautiful timber fascia boards and fretwork influenced by Malay building design. The face is often decorated with plaster and tiles.

Traditional shop houses Singapore


Shop houses are a unique feature of Singapore. Business was done on the ground floor and the family used to live upstairs. Nowadays most have been converted to restaurants or modern shops with big ads.

Traditional shop houses Singapore


This one is barely still standing.

Traditional shop houses Singapore


Tight city planning.

Living contrasts Singapore


New age meets old age.

Traditional shop houses Singapore


This pink beauty dates back to 1930.

Traditional shop houses Singapore


Singapore is a city of architectural contrast. Modern, massive, shiny, sometimes even color changing skyscrapers and exclusive housing estates for the well off. Then there is the communist inspired living solution for a lot of people with little space in pastel dullness for the remaining 85% and – one might wonder if Russia splashed out its generous block presents not only to Poland :) –  finally the only two storey tall shop houses outshining them all with grace and beauty.

Living contrasts Singapore


The invention that literally stands out – drying laundry on limited living space.

Residential blocks Singapore


Straight streets, modern office buildings, the road to success lies in these skyscrapers.

Modern Singapore


Singapore’s shining skyline.

Skyline Singapore


We inspected three most distinctive city quarters with each representing another ethnic diaspora. China town, little India and the Muslim community, with own writings, products, restaurants and traditionally dressed people. The city appearance is one of immigrants who live next to each other to form one country. There are about 5 million people in Singapore, of whom 3 million were born locally. Most are of Chinese, Malay or Indian descent. There are even four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil with dominating Chinese and English in business communication.


Little India

Little India Singapore


The Hindu-Indian Sri Mariamman temple on Pagoda street is unexpectedly located in Chinatown.

Indian temple Singapore


There is another funny mix up, which is explained on the plaque: ‘Pagoda street’ got its name erroneously from the entrance tower that frames the temple which is not a pagoda but a gopuram!

Sri Mariamman Temple Singapore Pagoda Street Singapore


Little India grocery shop. That lady picked a lot of vegetables for her headdress :)

Little India Singapore


Indian folk like to picnic – everywhere. This is in front of the metro.

Little India Singapore


One thing I really liked were those mansized history signs in Little India. This picture shows one Indian forefather who recalls on his migration from India and the hard work as a rubber plantation worker. Later many workers would set up own businesses and shops. Now there is the Little India Arcade with convenience stores.

Little India Singapore Little India Singapore


Two interesting pictures (for different reasons). The first one shows an amazing blooming banana plant and the second one amazed me because we came across a Jewish house, the David Elias building from 1928. No brochure, guidebook or tourist info source spoke about Synagogue street or the existing Jewish community in Singapore.

Pagoda Street Singapore Jewish house Singapore


Arab neighborhood

Arab community Singapore


Could be just as well a shop in the middle east. The name Rania makes me think of Jordan’s gorgeous queen.

Arab community Singapore


Arab Street will spoil you with carpets.

Arab Street Singapore


The big Sultan mosque.

Arab community Singapore


There is a curious mix of trendy and traditional in these old precincts, which are Malay and Muslim communities.

Heritage walk Singapore


Cat made its way onto the picture.

Heritage walk SIngapore


Very nice shop deco.

Arab community Singapore


 Funny wall ad: ‘For free sex call….’ Cheers to that.
Arab neighbourhood Singapore Arab neighbourhood Singapore


Conveniently open 24 hrs.

Muslim headscarfs Singapore


Unisex fashion.

Burka Ninja



Chinatown Singapore


Chinese lanterns and character.

Chinatown Singapore


Loads of goods ‘made in China’.

Chinatown Singapore


Impressive Buddha tooth relic temple.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Singapore


Impressive ladies in Chinatown.

Chinatown girls Singapore Chinatown girls Singapore


What Singapore manages to do very well is to keep almost half of its lush tropical vegetation despite high urbanization. There are green recreational areas, parks, green strips and amazing trees everywhere in the city which add to a light and airy atmosphere. It never felt crowded making walking around easy and enjoyable.

City vegetation Singapore

City vegetation Singapore

What Singapore manages even better is the peaceful next door living together of three major religions on very little space. With the majority being Buddhists, there are Christians and Muslims living together without conflict. An Indian temple in Chinatown is perfectly normal just as mosques and churches get along fine in close proximity. It magically works with respect, tolerance, compromise (and effective government regulation).


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