Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Singapore: The Lion City

In Singapore many people speak English because years ago, like the United States, Singapore was ruled by the English. Singapore is called the Lion City. According to a local legend in the 14th century a Malay prince landed safely on the island of Singapore after a thunderstorm and saw a beast on the shore. His chief minister said it was a lion. However, lions never lived in the area so they think what they saw was really a tiger.

Today Singapore is a model city. It is extremely clean. Chewing gum is illegal. We asked why? A guide told us. “When the new transportation system was first built people were sticking gum in the doors to keep them from closing. Since gum isn’t necessary and people were not using it properly they outlawed it.” The city has so many trees that another name for Singapore is “The Garden City.”

After World War II Singapore was not a beautiful place. It has taken many years to turn it from a dirty war-torn country into a model one. Singapore has always been an important trading port because it is in the middle of the trade routes between Asia and the rest of the world. We took a ride on the Singapore River which runs through the city and has been a busy river for years. Now it is mainly used for tourist boat rides. The guide on the boat ride told us, “It took 10 years to clean up the river. They removed 15 feet of sludge from the bottom of the river.” People often used the rivers as a place to throw their garbage and in many places they still do.

Singapore has no natural resources so they depend on tourism to earn money. They are always thinking of wonderful things for tourists to do. The Singapore Zoo was the first to have night safaris where open buses take visitors from one part of the zoo to see the animals at night. Many wild animals are more active at night. They even have trails people can walk. They must have a special way to keep the animals in their own area but we didn’t see any fences.

Their newest tourist attraction is the Singapore Flyer. It is the world’s largest observation wheel. The Flyer is 541 feet high and takes about 30 minutes to make one complete circuit. Each capsule holds 28 people. A narration along with a map details the sites we could see from the Flyer. The Flyer is located in a new area of Singapore. The country is small but they are making it bigger by adding “reclaimed land.” They build new land but dumping rocks and dirt along the edge of the land. Many cities like New York and Boston have gotten bigger by adding more land along the waterfront. From the Flyer we saw the newest development. Sometime this year, Singapore will open the world’s largest hotel with over 2000 rooms. There will be three 55-story towers connected at the top with a unique sky garden.

We love the Flyer but we also liked the Yakult Rainforest built beneath the Flyer. We think it is very clever because it hides the foundation and supporting structure of the Flyer. The Yakult Rainforest has tropical trees, waterfalls, and pools with koi fish. Koi fish are like large gold fish. In the Asian way of thinking the area blends the basic elements of water, earth, and sky. We wonder what they will think of next.