I recently visited a country that has meant a lot to my family, Singapore. When my grandmother moved to Singapore almost 40 years ago her drive mirrored that of her new home.
She had to establish herself and find her way in a new world. Now, after her passing, the memory of her is so woven with that of Singapore I cannot separate them in my mind.
It has been almost 10 years since I last visited Singapore. On one hand it felt familiar and comfortable but on the other it revealed a new austerity. Each time I rode the metro, took a Grab, or walked its streets I learned a little more about what it means to live there in its golden ago. What is now a modern metropolis was once a simple island with big dreams and a determination to succeed.
Where was the Singapore my grandmother met in the 1970's? Was it still there? What moments could I capture that reflected its heritage and simultaneous heightened position in the world?
Nothing to me says Singapore quite like durian. This hard, sharp, and notoriously stinky fruit carries itself against all odds in the new world. Even McDonald's wants to be in on the game with its Durian McFlurry. It was terrible, just in case you are wondering.
What can I say about F1: its fast, loud, and honestly much better watched on TV. That being said, the experience of going to a race and seeing downtown being converted into a complex maze of twists and turns was something to behold. As is the thunderous roar of the engines as they zoom past. In many ways F! reflects the new ways the Singapore plays host to the world. It is not longer just for shipping or oil but has expanded into entertainment.
Old & New Architecture
To say that the old and new of Singapore are battling it out is melodramatic. The reality is that the country is not even 60 years old and the Pioneer Generation is still alive with some 450,000 strong. However, to say their is no division wouldn't be accurate either. This precarious balance is most evident in the architecture of the city.
Skyscrapers now come with trees on them or literally woven into them. The Pinnacle (left) is an amazing development of condos with a massive sky bridge that connects the different buildings. At first glance this may seem like a gimmick but it is in fact a clever way to introduce public/private space into a dense urban environment. It creates space for conversation, parties, and otherwise unifies tower blocks that can inevitably feel isolating.
The view from the top of the Pinnacle isn't bad either. The red Oasia Hotel stands out among the crowd as its unique growing facade fills in with vines.
But really, durian.
Perhaps I am reading a little too into it but the durian stood out to me as a very simple example of how the new and old world are conversing. This funny little fruit isn't allowed on buses or trains and yet its aesthetic and cultural relevance seems to be something everyone wants to cash in on.
Planning a trip to Singapore?
Consider taking along a Singapore World Notebook! This compact notebook will hold your thoughts and adventures for the week.