TIGER LILLY - SINGAPORE IS SPECTACULAR!
03 November 2016 | Singapore, Southeast Asia
Tom & Lilly
We just returned to TIGER LILLY after a four day tour in Singapore - and it was a most enjoyable experience.
LILLY SEZ: We had a GREAT time seeing the sights, meeting the people, eating in restaurants, sleeping in a real bed, enjoying the comfort of air conditioning, and just playing tourist! I liked seeing that Singapore has a population of energetic young athletic people exercising - or at least they were dressed in Lycra and looking the part. There were actually a few roadies in town zig-zagging their bicycles through the busy streets of the Central Business District - but starting and stopping every couple of blocks at the traffic signals must be very frustrating.
TOM REPLIES: I certainly did enjoy our visit to Singapore - one of the great seaports of the world, and visiting this unique city-state was on my Bucket List. But Lilly, we are NOT rosy-skinned, rolley-polley flippin tourists, we are seamen on shore-leave! Every five years or so it is probably beneficial to leave the boat for a short period, and have it reaffirmed that I NEVER WANT TO LIVE ASHORE! It was so good to return to TIGER LILLY and get out of that damned air conditioning... And oh by the way, the MAMILS in Singapore (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) - look just about the same as those in the States...
LILLY SEZ: Tom-Tom wants to die on the boat, but he comes from long-lived genes, and the chances are pretty good that I will be selecting HIS rest home! I really do love the wide open spaces of the Great American Desert, and I can see us retiring to the dry heat of New Mexico once we swallow the anchor! Hey Maria - be sure to keep his AC on HIGH, I am off to the pool!
And so it goes friends - the Ying and Yang of marital bliss aboard TIGER LILLY...
Singapore is a First World city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and it is home to some 5.5 millions of people - packed (stacked?) into only 269 square miles; and over 20% of the land area has been reclaimed from the sea. Singapore's icon is the Merlion which is half lion (an animal not indigenous to the region - but it certainly does represent Singapore's strong business acumen), and half fish, which reflects the island's initial habitation as a fishing village. The evolution of this small island in just a few hundred years from a native fishing village scratching out an existence surrounded by a swamp and impenetrable jungle, to a Malay Kingdom ruled by a wealthy and powerful Sultan, to a crown jewel in the mighty British Empire, to today's First World city-state is quite extraordinary - and unique in the history of the world.
WHAT WE THOUGHT OF SINGAPORE:
CLEAN - This huge city is swept up, picked-up, and painted-out; when we rode a transit bus through the outlying communities, they were just as clean and squared-away. Of course, the cost of this order is some loss of personal liberty. You may recall the incident a few years ago when an American teenager earned himself a canning for spray-painting graffiti (which was notable by its absence during our visit). There was a lot of liberal hand-wringing regarding this youngster's fate back in the USA, but we supported it.
SAFE and ORDERLY - Anyone, man or woman, can safely walk the streets of Singapore at any time of the day or night - and the police keep a low (but very effective) profile.
HARMONY - The population of Singapore is multi-ethnic salad bowl, and it appears that race or color does not seem to be a common basis for discrimination: 3/4 of the population is Chinese (with most signs in both Chinese and English); Malay (up until 1965 Singapore was part of Malaysia, and today many Malaysians cross the border each day under special work visas), East Indian (anywhere in the world there are shops and merchants, East Indians are likely to be found running them), Arabs (millions of barrels of crude oil and refined products are transported through the Singapore Harbour each day), and various other cats & dogs and ex-pats of the international business community that make the money flow. These folks are all living together on a very small island, yet they seem to maintain their own special identity in places like China Town, Little India, and Arab Street. The remnants of the former British Colony are epitomized by the Victorian Raffles Hotel.
Tom-Tom the Sailor Man and his consort Tiger Lilly visited the Long Bar at Raffles to partake in virgin Singapore Slings, eat peanuts, and of course, to see and to be seen in this paragon of power and influence. As you can imagine, Tom-Tom was in the persona of Commodore Hornblower of the Royal Navy, reliving the Golden Age of colonialism; while Tiger Lilly accosted the nice Australian couple Howard & Gaynor at the next table, exchanged email addresses and pledged eternal Facebook fidelity. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves...
VIBRANT - Singapore is the busiest seaport in the world; it is the gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is an international hub of finance and business. The office towers of the world's big banks define Singapore's downtown skyline, and this place absolutely BUZZES with capitalism. At the consumer level, tens of upscale malls seem to dominate the retail scene - the multi-level malls get the most stores on the smallest footprint (sans the usual acres and acres of asphalt parking lots); this seems to be the way to go in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.
PROSPEROUS - With an average per capita income of $61,400 USD, Singaporeans enjoy a very high standard of living. However, just recently we read an article on the BBC site that ranked Singapore as having the highest cost-of-living in the world. Tourism is a $7 BILLION USD industry in this little country - absolutely amazing! We tried to contribute as little as possible to this statistic by staying in an Airbnb room (double bed, private shower & toilet, air conditioning, central location) for $63 USD per night - which we were quite happy with. How cool are we, using Airbnb and the Internet to get a good deal - thanks to Gen-Xer James of S/V Mahiti who provided adult supervision with the Internet and app download.
ATTRACTIVE - Singapore has been planned and engineered to a tee, with seemingly seamless transition between living spaces, mass transit, working spaces, utilities (finally a Southeast Asian country where the tap water can be safely consumed), entertainment, and fantastic recreation facilities. We LOVE the modern and varied styles of Singapore's architecture, with the use of art, form, and color in their predominantly understated conservative neo-Asian style. (We just made up that term, but it seems to fit...)
CHILI CRAB EXTRAVAGANZA
In the tourist literature much is made of "Singapore's signature dish, the Chili Crab" and the town was plastered with attractive eye-level pictures of this colorful dish. After walking around town for two days and looking at dining scenes of the delectable chili crab, we came to the conclusion (sub-liminal suggestion?) that we could not live another moment without eating one.
LILLY SEZ: "WE?" I was resisting these expensive, difficult-to-eat, spider-like creatures quite nicely, thank you very much!
Through an oversight, we had inadvertently let our on-line subscription to the "Lonely Planet Restaurant Guide To The Orient" lapse. Of course, one would not expect our $63 USD per night hostel-like room to come with a concierge (and if it did, smart money would not listen to a $63 dollar concierge anyway); so we went into the Cheap Charlie Cruiser restaurant selection mode, and were pretty much on our own in un-surveyed waters - so to speak. Knowing that real estate in Singapore is dear, and reasoning that since the most expensive restaurants were located on the top floor of tall buildings - Tom-Tom cleverly focused low, and looked for a sea food restaurant in a basement. As luck would have it, we found such a place right next to the Singapore River - the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant. The first clue should have been the "market price" sticker on the menu next to the picture of the Chili Crab, but the lovely lady handing out the menus assured The Captain that her crabs were the best, and sweetest, in town; and besides she was so very pretty with long shiny black hair, lovely almond shaped eyes, a complexion that reminded one of cream in your coffee, and a tasteful red silk dress with a delicate neckline. We said, "What the heck - you only live once, let's eat her crabs!"
LILLY SEZ: That "delicate neckline" sported a pair of store-bought double-dees, which she skillfully, and seemingly accidentally, brushed against his forearm (being only about 4 feet tall), and Himself actually began drooling. It looks like I will be getting "lucky" tonight...
Little Miss Suzy Wong demurred with a practiced eye flutter and informed us that she was "so-sorry" we did not have reservations, but we could be immediately seated at one of their large round tables in their public room - so we accepted. We were shoe-horned into a dark back room where some nefarious looking characters were already seated. After perusing the pictorial menu, we decided that perhaps a single crab was not enough for the two of us - so we ordered a chili crab and a pepper crab; to enhance our dining pleasure through both diversity and volume.
LILLY SEZ: According to the conversation I inadvertently heard while Hot Shot was checking out the Chinese waitress and telling me sea-stories about some floating restaurant in Hong Kong (which happened 40 years ago) those "nefarious looking characters" were in fact medical doctors - surgeons to be exact...
While waiting for our dinners to arrive, who should be seated right next to us but THREE of the loveliest young Air Taiwan flight attendants a sailor ever did see! (Note: Unlike US based equal opportunity air lines which are dedicated to taking all the fun out of air travel by hiring grandmothers and homosexuals as flight attendants, Air Taiwan still goes by the tried and true hiring practice of selecting their girls on looks and age.) They were absolutely delightful "Hello Kitty" versions of the lady out front handing out the menus, and we had a most convivial dinner conversation with these charming young ladies.
LILLY SEZ: Ladies, it was just too pathetic for words, Grandpa missed his mouth and put a crab leg right in his ear as he attempted to inconspicuously look, smile, and eat at the same time... Luckily, the restaurant dressed him out with one of those ridiculous looking paper sea food bibs; which Miss Suzy Wong was only too happy to tie for him - while working her double-dees across his shoulder... I think that the average age of the young Taiwanese flight attendants was perhaps 19; and yes, they did all have genuine "Hello Kitty" cell phone covers, which of course they never once put down during the meal...
When the $203 SD ($150 USD) bill came Mister Man of the World, swallowed hard and cheerfully paid the bill - while trying to divert Tiger Lilly's attention from the credit card slip - which of course did not work.
LILLY SEZ: OK, been there, done that, and I didn't even get a chili crab tee shirt for $150 flippin dollars!
SINGAPORE's QUALITY OF LIFE and the roll of GOVERNMENT
As Americans travelling the world, we have seen first-hand several ways the United States could increase the quality of life of its citizens by adopting elements of other First World economies which are actually working - today. In the recent past we have reported to you on the wonderful culture that the Australians have created through a national medical care system, a practical minimum wage that a single person can live on, and government-funded post-secondary education. Australian students have access to low interest student loans which do not have to be paid back until their incomes rise well above $50,000 AD. Australian society benefits from a trained and educated young work force not financially burdened by student loans early in life. Likewise, during our visit to Singapore we witnessed the actual results of several government policy issues which SHOULD be a part of the national dialog in the United States during the current election cycle - but sadly are not. Here are some of the effects of government policy we observed first-hand during our short stay in Singapore:
Mass Transit - The bus and train system in Singapore moves millions of people each day in safety, comfort, and efficiency. Inefficient private vehicles are discouraged by a tax and quota system. This is the sort of government policy that can actually make a difference - in the short and medium term - to improve any urban environment now. While we were in Singapore we did not see a single teenager (or his daddy) out cruising the roads in a huge jacked-up, vee-eight powered, four-wheel-drive pickem-up truck...
National Medical Program - Medical care for its citizens is an integral part of Singapore's high standard of living, and it is a critical element in providing the energized workforce that this country needs to compete successfully with the larger countries of the Global Economy. Universal medical care is not only a quality of life issue - it makes good business sense by improving the labor force.
Guest Worker Programs - Singapore has an effective guest worker program to obtain the needed demographics for their labor force, and prevent the country from being straddled with the liabilities and disadvantages of illegal immigration. People come from all over the world to work in Singapore - to their personal advantage - and then they return home. It's called a win-win...
Border Protection - Like Israel (after which the Singapore Government has chosen to pattern their defense forces) Singapore is a thriving secular country surrounded by large Muslim theocracies. They take their defense very seriously; and in fact, as we write this post we can hear the FA-18 Hornet fighter aircraft of the Singapore Air Force overhead on training exercises. They understand that they must be strong to maintain their national security (and to keep good relations with their neighbors) in an increasingly dangerous world.
Business Policy - Singapore is home to thousands of multi-national corporations because it is stable, and it provides a healthy and vibrant environment in which businesses can thrive. Business is not a dirty word in Singapore, and importantly, the fruits of business are used to provide Singaporeans a very high standard of living. It is all about balance in government policy...
Leadership - The vast majority of the Singaporeans we talked to are very proud of their country, and they all expressed a belief in the strength of character and the morality of their leadership. They did not all agree with all of the Government's policies, but there is a strong consensus endorsing the quality and the honesty of their leaders. It was refreshing for us to hear this confidence voiced by the citizens of Singapore.
WHAT's NEXT for the crew of TIGER LILLY?
The Sail Malaysia Rally is coming together to cruise up the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, and based on our very positive experience with the Sail Indonesia Rally we have decided to participate. We intend to settle-down for a year or so on the Malaysian island of Langkawi; this island, just south of the Thai-Malay border, is an international resort area, and a Duty Free Zone. We plan to do some much-needed boat maintenance, and to tour parts of Southeast Asia. Well, that's the plan, Stan!
Since our private helicopter is currently grounded for routine maintenance, we hooked some pics off Google Images and included them in this post so that you could get a bird's eye view of this spectacular place called SINGAPORE. Please don't call the Internet Police on us! Check out our Sail Blogs PHOTO GALLERY for some pictures of SPECTACULAR SINGAPORE!
Here's a thought for some of you adventurous souls: Next year, rather than visiting Disney World for the umpteenth time, or going to sit on your in-laws couch in Des Moines, why not consider an INTERNATIONAL vacation of a life time? Fly to Singapore (depressed oil prices have reduced air fares); then zip over to the Indonesian Archipelago to see the Komodo Dragons, take the ferry to the north shore of Bali to experience the Lovina Festival and their unique Hindu culture, and hop a fast-ferry to the Kumai River in southern Borneo to see the wonderful orangutans. Finally, fly back to Spectacular Singapore for a whorl-wind wind-up in a world class city. See TIGER LILLY's recent Face book posts for some unique possibilities to expand your horizons. Hey, at least think about it...
It is all part of the places we go, and the people we meet while cruising under sail in TIGER LILLY...
Tom and Lilly
S/V Tiger Lilly
Puteri Harbour, Johor Bahru, Malaysia