By Yoeh Siew Hoon
Let me tell you about my Singapore.
My Singapore is a bit like everyone’s. Clean, green, safe – the three most common adjectives used to describe it by residents, visitors and those who haven’t visited but have heard about it.
But to just describe it as clean, green and safe would be like saying it’s just a sterilized, well-washed vegetable (safe, healthy but rather unexciting) and that would be doing it a big disservice.
Truth is, my Singapore is a bit like a woman on the verge of turning 40. Which she is, by the way. This August 9, the nation celebrates its 40th year of independence.
Like a woman on the threshold of turning 40, Singapore is filled with all the fears and insecurities of ageing – will people still love me when I am all wrinkly and old – yet full of promise and possibilities – look at how far I have come and I have so much further to go.
And so you find Singapore today, caught between paranoia and promise.
At 40 years old, Singapore has built up a wonderful legacy.
Its infrastructure is world class. Its airport is talked about, admired and envied by everyone. Its hotels are second to none except in average rates where they are definitely down the table – which is good news for travellers.
Its mix of cultures – Indian, Malay and Chinese – has had time to simmer and stew into a seamless brew of scents and spices that is, forgive the pun, Uniquely Singapore.
And even though some travellers may complain about the price of beer here, this is one brew they love and travel miles for.
Over the last few years, like a more confident and matured woman, Singapore has also been lifting up its skirt a little. It’s cut loose on nightlife, entertainment and the arts scene.
The bar and club scene is vibrant, dynamic and fun, even non-stop. Now Singapore parties all night while cities like Bangkok go to sleep early.
Why, it even dared to strip down to bra and panties to dance on bar tops.
It tried a few daring moves. Hip, funky hotels (Scarlet), theme bars (Eski) and beach parties appeared. It skydived, reverse bungy-jumped and raced its way into the media spotlight.
But like all women, it can be fickle, maybe a little unsure about how far she should go before she is judged by a jury of her peers. A gay party, the Nation Party, was refused a licence and thus it moved its merry way to Phuket.
But one cancellation does not a nation make. And Singapore forges ahead. She knows she’s got 40 good years behind her, and a lot more years ahead.
But she should also know that heck, at 40, a woman had better stop flirting and teasing with change and instead, embrace it firmly and desperately, and go where no woman has dared to tread.
For the official guide to Singapore, visit www.visitsingapore.com