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.
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.
This one is barely still standing.
Tight city planning.
New age meets old age.
This pink beauty dates back to 1930.
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.
The invention that literally stands out – drying laundry on limited living space.
Straight streets, modern office buildings, the road to success lies in these skyscrapers.
Singapore’s shining skyline.
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.
The Hindu-Indian Sri Mariamman temple on Pagoda street is unexpectedly located in Chinatown.
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!
Little India grocery shop. That lady picked a lot of vegetables for her headdress :)
Indian folk like to picnic – everywhere. This is in front of the metro.
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.
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.
Could be just as well a shop in the middle east. The name Rania makes me think of Jordan’s gorgeous queen.
Arab Street will spoil you with carpets.
The big Sultan mosque.
There is a curious mix of trendy and traditional in these old precincts, which are Malay and Muslim communities.
Cat made its way onto the picture.
Very nice shop deco.
|Funny wall ad: ‘For free sex call….’|
Conveniently open 24 hrs.
Chinese lanterns and character.
Loads of goods ‘made in China’.
Impressive Buddha tooth relic temple.
Impressive ladies in Chinatown.
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.
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).