It’s true. I tried to put a little heart symbol in the title, you know, so it doesn’t look so feminine. Couldn’t find one and really, that kind of magic exceeds my computer skills. I’m sure my roommate Helmet could manage it, but it would just be another thing for that crazy ghost to lord over me. Heart or no heart in the title, I loved my time in Singapore enough to risk what ridicule may come…and that’s assuming you’re willing to risk what might come if you do ridicule me. But enough about you.
Back to my affection for Singapore. If I told you how I came to go there last year, you might not believe me. Of course, we’re past the secret regarding my suffering from the chronic disease called vampirism, so why shouldn’t I expect you to believe that the cannibal pygmy vampire Bernard Shanghaied me away from my bagging job at the Wiesbaden Commissary and put me on an airliner to Singapore two hours after we had lunch together?
Now, I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy. You know, tolerant, respectful, a celebrant of alternate lifestyles and all that load of chest-beating, self-serving, and totally lying crap people always say about themselves. Yeah, I’m a quivering mass of humanity all right. Despite all that, I don’t often go to lunch with cannibal pygmy vampires, so I felt like we stood out at the German Gasthaus near the commissary. Lucky for us, Bernard and I were the only customers, and I think the old German Frau that ran the place hated everyone. Now that’s true egalitarianism.
Bernard had already arranged things with my lunatic boss Captain Tickles–told him I was on a special ops mission of some sort–so he’d cleared my calendar for a few days. And he had the Singapore Airlines tickets in this man-bag looking Euro-purse. So I hopped the fourteen-hour flight. First class, no less…infinite movies and a leather seat that laid all the way flat. I found out later I had only myself to thank as Bernard had somehow charged the tickets to me. We arrived at the Singapore Changi Airport in the morning and took a taxi to Bernard’s flat.
You can spend a lifetime on the East Coast Parkway–the road out of the airport–and it will not have been wasted. I think a character in the movie The Last Samurai said something like that. I mean, you’ll know you’ve hit the equatorial tropics by the miles lined with bougainvillea, primeval-looking angsana trees, and other tropical rain plants. There’s also East Coast Park, a conglomeration of seafood restaurants and other local shops. And you get nice views of the water and the countless ships bringing stuff to the island. That’s just the taxi ride in…a better impression that I could ever make after the first ten minutes of a blind date.
Once you’ve had some time to decompress–and Bernard had one heck of a penthouse flat in the Simei area, complete with a Chinese hopping zombie vampire butler–it’s time to explore. Seeing as how I was on a business trip–something mundane like saving the world from one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse–I didn’t spend much tourist time. The business aspect of my trip is covered in the third volume of my autobiography: Singapore Bling. I get shot in the head, ordered around by the Hungarian Assassin-chick Soyla, become friends with the pastor of a Singapore mega-church–really, I’m not kidding–and do what I can to block the end times from kicking off early. All with a new cast of knuckleheads to assist. Oh, and I get called a metaphorical jackass more than once.
So no, it didn’t leave much time for touristy stuff. Turns out it doesn’t matter when you’re in Singapore. Why? Because the culture envelops you like the sudden Pacific rain showers that appear without warning and then politely recede to visit Malaysia or one of the Indonesian Islands a few miles away. You can’t help but live and breathe Singaporean culture from the first step out of the boarding gate. And yes, Singapore does have a single culture…made of many components that blend together. People of Chinese descent are preeminent, I think they make up 70% of the population. Malaysians, people from the India, and expats make up the lion’s share of everyone else. Of course there are exceptions, like maybe a vampire or two, but those exceptions also blend into the whole.
Singapore is a food culture…it’s everywhere. It doesn’t matter if Singaporeans invented the concept of hawker centers because they’ve refined and extended it into perfection. What’s a hawker center? A mishmash of stalls serving the food of distinct peoples from the broader Asian region. Tables in the middle, food options all around. A gourmet ethnic meal for less than five dollars. The hawker centers are everywhere, you can’t walk a hundred meters without running into one. Cleanliness is closely monitored by the government, so I’m surprised they let me in.
Singapore is a modern culture. True enough, ancient and discrete customs make up the whole. As I’ve already said, it’s the way they blend together. English is the national language, but Singaporeans are comfortable hearing or speaking the various Chinese dialects, the languages of Malaysia, Indonesia, or the the Philippines, the Indian tongues–Tamil being the most prevalent–or any other language from any continent. I didn’t hear any ancient Latin, but I might have missed it while concentrating on pushing that bullet out of my head. All of it comes together in Singapore not as walls to separate, but as a universal wave the people ride atop as they move forward to claim their ever-increasing place among the most important nations of the world.
Singapore is culture of hope. The people are friendly and welcoming. They lend a hand when visitors are confused, and aren’t shy with opinions. Take the Dragon Granny that lived next door to Bernard. She didn’t speak much English but got her messages across by smacking my head. The city is connected with cheap, modern public transportation, and is well-planned for the next fifty years. Singapore sticks to lasting value over short-term expediencies. It’s a new city of glass rising out of the Pacific Ocean while at the same time it’s city that embraces the best of what ancient and established people bequeathed in terms of knowledge and culture.
Singapore is a culture of hot chicks…but I’ll leave that for later.
Bottom-lining this, I love Singapore…and it only took a few hours there for me to realize it.