Singapore in one sense is one big shopping mall. It is astonishing the number of retail shops there are on this island. I kind of feel that the one of the results of Lee Kwan Yew’s economic miracle is that everyone can buy a top at H&M, eat nachos at Chilis and ride a roller coaster at Universal Studios. Being an American, I would be a hypocrite to criticize Singapore’s devotion to consumerism, coming from a family that at one time when my brothers and I were in high school and university, having five cars. It must be that being confined to an island, you can’t get away from it like in the USA with much more space.
Yesterday we went to Sentosa Island, a small island just off the southern coast of Singapore. Getting out at Harbour Front Station, the final stop of the North East Line of Singapore’s excellent Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), we walked into another massive commercial mall. It seems like there is a mall above every station in the MRT! We walked along the boardwalk, also dotted with restaurants and shops, so the island. Once there, it turned into another huge mall with Universal Studios, an aquarium and “luge” hill among the numerous attractions. We finally got through the capitalist morass to Siloso Beach. The imported white sand and beach bar made for a pleasant afternoon and we really enjoyed ourselves, despite the crowds to get to the beach. Relatively few people were swimming compared to the numbers on the island. I liked watching all of the big cargo ships hauling thousands of containers entering and leaving the nearby port as we were swimming. We didn’t get back to our apartment until 8:00 PM. We had a nice late dinner on the rooftop terrace and watched the fireworks in the distance.
I don’t want to sound like I am against high standards of living and people trying to make money, but there is no escape from people on Singapore. It is a very well manicured city with parks and gardens, but with over 8,000 people per kilometer, it is really densely populated. I live in one of the largest urban areas in the world in Kobe/Osaka/Kyoto metropolis, but within 10 minutes, I can be in the middle of a forest all by myself. There is not that option here. The housing is surprisingly spacious, more so than Japan, but what is lacking here is an escape to the countryside, unless one drives into peninsular Malaysia, which is not that far away, but probably still a couple hours.