The rest of the day, I mainly stayed on the different bus routes admiring the city from different angles. In the course of which I found out the following things…
Singapore has reclaimed 8000 football pitches worth of land from the sea in the last few decades. This is how Beach Road lost its beaches. In this way, the land surface area of Singapore has increased 25% in the last thirty years or so.
In Singapore, you need a certificate of entitlement if you want to own a car. I’m not sure how you gain one (I gather it costs something like $SGD 80000, about £45449 according to Wikipedia😳) but the number of certificates issued each year is closely controlled to avoid congestion on the roads. Certificates are only valid for 10 years. (Hence there are hardly any older cars on the road and Singapore is one of the biggest exporters of used cars.) And the tax on the purchase of cars is more than 100%! The more you drive, the bigger your engine and the more congested it is on the routes you drive on, the more tax you pay. All these are measures to deter car ownership and prevent congestion on what is after all a fairly small island. According to Wikipedia again, only 12% population own a car.
The government has also invested heavily in Singapore’s public transport system. The MRT (tube) is driverless, spotless, always punctual, rarely breaks down and remarkably easy to navigate around (even if like me you’ve very little sense of direction), and tube and bus fares are really low. Why would you bother owning a car? On the occasions when you want to go somewhere a bit off the bus or tube routes, or to get somewhere in a hurry, you can take a taxi. And there are marked and numbered pick up points all over the place for taxis, so it’s easy for them to work out where you are, even if you haven’t got a taxi app with location settings turned on.
One of the reasons why the MRT is such a pleasant experience is because you’re not allowed to eat or drink on it (and very few of the stations have food places in them), and everyone obeys the “waiting for everyone to get off before you get on” rule, and obediently stands in the correct spot. Also, the seats nearest the doors are a different colour, and “Stand up Stacey” (a cute cartoon character) encourages everyone to offer them to elderly people, pregnant women, parents with young children or anyone disabled or who looks like they really need a seat.
I must admit, I’ve had to concentrate quite hard to remind myself not to have a sip of my water while I’ve been on the tube or waiting at the station.
When I first arrived, Shiv coached me in MRT etiquette, noticing I was standing on the right of the escalator. She said in mock seriousness, “Here, we are a left standing nation”. Every time I get on an escalator, I remember her saying that! 😂
Someone posted on Facebook the other day an article about how Luxembourg is making all public transport free, in an attempt to reduce car ownership, congestion and all the associated environmental evils that come from it. I wonder if they’ll also follow some of Singapore’s other measures? And I wonder whether we will ever get a government in the UK who will be brave enough to make these sort of policy decisions in the face of climate change, and also the reality that congestion from road traffic is seriously slowing us down now.
Hospitals and “Medical tourism”
This is the Raffles private hospital (both buildings) made famous in 2003 for the first attempt to separate two adult conjoined twins joined at the head. Unfortunately the attempt failed despite the vast resources used to try and bring it off:
Apparently, about half a million foreign patients are catered for in Singapore annually. “Medical tourism” accounts for about 68% patients treated here at any given time.
How the other half live
Here’s the Park Royal hotel with much greenery:
And Marina Bay Sands Hotel (the building at the back below), replete with observation deck, huge swimming pool and garden on top (and one of the casinos inside):
The condos near Orchard Road (a road lined with very posh shops and malls like Oxford Road) apparently sell for $US6 million!!
Whereas a typical HDB (social housing) flat (lived in by about 80% of the population) will set you back $SG250000-350000. Most people get them on a 99 year lease.
Apparently (dubious honour) Singapore’s two casinos make $US 6 billion annually, making it rank among the top few countries for revenue generated by casinos. Las Vegas makes a lot more. The difference being that Singapore has only two casinos, whereas Vegas… well.
I think it’s also worth noting that Singaporeans have to pay a pretty steep fee ($SGD150 £85) to get into a casino here, whereas foreigners walk in free. The reason being that there have been so many problems with gambling historically, particularly among the Chinese population, that the government has decided to try and dissuade its own citizens from engaging in it (while encouraging foreigners to spend as much as possible, of course! Fair play to them).
Other sights of interest:
The footbridge modelled on DNA structure