Something you quickly discover after you head off on an elongated tour of the globe is that so many times places you have very little enthusiasm for turn out to be trip highlights and places that you had high hopes for often fail to live up to your expectations. This may have something to do with the former catergory having nothing to live up to, but nonetheless it never fails to be surprising when it occurs.
When discussing the potential highlights of our world trip I was often heard saying 'a city is a city is a city' in an attempt to sum up my lack of enthusiasm for city hopping. Such places as Sydney and LA are on my list as pretty uninspiring places to visit, offering little beyond run of the mill shopping precincts and skylines, that don't get better the more times you see them. Althouugh you can spend time walking around such places for a short while, more often than not it is the things outside of the cities that truely interest me.
As the plane touched down in Singapore I assumed that it would simply be a gateway to the rest of Asia, merely a stop over to purchase some cheap electronics at the world famous and utterly crazy discount electronic mecca that is 'Sim Lim Square'. It is a mad, five level shopping mall that is completely dedicated to selling electronics . As you walk around you are constantly harrassed by merchants promising you 'the best price' or 'good price for special customer'-all the while doing their damndest to rip you off the best they can.
So you can imagine my suprise when I was smacked clean between the eyes by Singapore and by the fact that this island melting pot could be more appropriately named Singarich as it is rich in culture, religion and ethnicity. It is an insane microcosm where religions peacefully coexist side by side, East effortlessly meets West and the ancient appears to embrace the 21st century with open arms.
In this place that is a city, a country and an island all rolled into one, you can be nonchalantly walking down a nondescript side street and suddenly stumble across a huge Hindu temple overwhelmingly adorned with multicoloured figureens, with the sounds of drums eminating from within providing a melodic rhythm to those prostrate individuals deep in worship.
The smells of burning jostics, spice and citrus are everywhere and it seems that at every turn a different street vendor is attempting to sell a local delicacy leaving you in a perminant state of salivation. Everywhere you go there is something happening to distract you. BMX stunt riders and break dancers jostle for space in underpasses and bizarre, apparently spontaneous mass line dances breaking out on the sidewalk, where young and old alike, with no apparent lead line up, start dancing, all knowing every intricate step as if they were born with the right moves.
For all the temples and architecture that echo back to times past, the skyline is dominated by the glass and steal gorges of the downtown metropolis. The multitude of modern skyscrapers hints at the cities affluence. It is not unusual to see Ferraris and Porches tearing up the streets and the $600 million arts complex has the look of a giant armadillo. There are more shopping malls, restaurants and coffee shops that you could shake a stick at and it seems anyone who lives here enjoys a very social existance.
It is safe to say that we had a great, if not short time here and the appeal of living here could be very strong. However, in a place where you can buy dinner for $4 but a beer will cost you 14 I can honestly say i'm real happy living in Denver and paying $2.50 for buy one get one free of the best watered down beer you'll ever drink. Thank god for the Park Tavern!