I like Singapore. I like the city, I like the people, I even like the steamy heat. When Lee Kuan Yew was asked to name the greatest invention of the 20th century he nominated air conditioning, and I’ll admit that it’s only the chill relief of stepping into a building or hotel that makes the heat enjoyable. Our travel agent cut an amazing deal so we’re staying at the Ritz Carlton. Luxury, silence and a wonderful view from our room. Who can ask for more? Singapore is always building. Illuminated cranes etch the night sky, the new casino is set to bleed the locals dry in a few months, but there’s another botanical garden being built with as much enthusiasm and as many investment dollars. Singaporeans live to eat and shop. They’re well-catered for. Brilliant food is everywhere and cheap as chips – even the famous Blue Ginger fails to dent the credit card.
Orchard Road slides from Armani to Prada to Louis Vuitton.
Chinatown is preparing for Chinese New Year, and there is slightly less subtlety – garish reds and golds, accompanied by a joyous sense of expectation. The Year of the Tiger is on the way; good times are coming. Brian has a love/hate relationship with the city. Everyone’s too happy for his comfort. Gaggles of young people crowd the malls, the waterfront and the restaurants, laughing and chatting with an innocence that belongs in an earlier decade; the already spotless streets are swept nightly by nanny-state machines; there’s a touch of the British Raj in the discipline and scrupulous politeness. It’s Happy Days, Brave New World, and it makes him uneasy. Me, I lap up the ease and security of the place, I applaud the pride the people have in their island state – until it slips into jingoism, but that generally belongs in the public sphere, not on the streets where we prowl, eating and shopping with the locals. I try not to think about legal system and its style of justice.