Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tour of 4 South East Asian countries - Singapore

Before I went to Singapore, I thought it won’t be very interesting, but my idea changed when I actually visited the place. I reached KL on 30/4/2011 around 12.30 pm. On the Air Asia Flight, I met Dr Arun Mukherjee who has been teaching Science group - possibly Physics, in an International School in Penang,Malaysia for the past 2 years. He is originally from Shantiniketan, but lives in Penang now. He told me rather sadly that there is no job left for him in Calcutta. He told me that Penang is a very interesting place to stay. In fact I knew that Penang is THE place to visit in Malaysia apart from Malacca. I got to know some facts from him. According to him, prices in Malaysia are quite cheap. Some ready reckoner :

In Penang, Malaysia (1 MYR = Rs 15 as on 30.4.11.)

Cost of Petrol is 1.7 MYR
Cost of CHICKEN is 7 MYR
Cost of Rahu is 6 MYR
Cost of Ilish is 12 MYR
Cost of Potato is 4 MYR for 5 kg
Cost of M water is 2 MYR for 1 litre in train
Cost of chowmein for lunch in train is 4 MYR
In the plane, potato chips cost 5 MYR and Pao bhaji 8 MYR.


After reaching LCCT of Air Asia (Low Cost terminal of Air Asia) at 12 30 am, I understood the concept of Aerotropolis. It is a huge airport. It is almost an hour's distance from Kuala Lumpur city. There is a regular bus service from the airport. If you reach LCCT late, then it is better to stay back at the airport. In fact I spent the night in LCCT airport and took the “Aerobus” only in the morning. That is what most travelers do. Mr. Mukherjee went to stay in a Tune hotel (owned by Air Asia), since he had to catch an early morning flight to Penang. He bought two tickets - one in the morning and other, a few hours later, just in case he misses the plane. The plane fare to Penang is so cheap !!!

There are many Bangladeshi sweepers working in LCCT. They are paid 820 MYR per month. In fact all the sweepers are from Bangladesh. They were of great help to me in the airport. They stay in a company accommodation.

After spending the night at the airport (talking to a co-passenger (known to Mr. Mukherjee) who was also waiting for the early morning flight to Penang) , I took the 7 am bus to go to KL Sentral, to catch a train to go to Singapore. I intentionally wanted to travel by Train to understand the city/country better. But I ended up sleeping most of the journey! The Malaysian use Roman script. But in a phonetic way. So if you see their spelling for few years, you will forget correct English spelling.

To go to KL Sentral (Central KL), either take Aerobus (last bus leaves at 1.30 am - time taken is 1 hour) for MYR 8 ( ) or Skybus (last bus leaves at 3.30 am - time taken is 1.15 hour) for MYR 9. Since I was very tired, I was sleeping, even when the bus reached KL Sentral. When I woke up, everybody had got down and a sweeper was cleaning the bus. My baggage was not there. I was really scared !!! Nobody knew where my bag was. Then somebody directed me to the office of the Transport service company. There was no bag! When I explained this fact, the attendant (Tamil), reluctantly called someone, a bit angrily, and in no time my bag was back!

I was a bit scared of Tamils born in Malaysia, after what Mr. Mukherjee told me and was almost sure my bag has gone! Interestingly, the train station and bus depot are in the same place - one on the ground floor and the other (train station) on the top floor! Both in KL and Singapore, it is very difficult to keep track of the floor you are standing . Everything is so seamless. My train left at 9 am. It took almost 7 hours to reach Singapore. There was some initial checking at Johor Bahru (I reached at 4 pm), before entering Singapore. 

Johor-Singapore Causeway (causeway is a road or railway crossing a broad body of water), built in 1923, is a 1,056 metre causeway that links Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia to Woodlands, Singapore. This link, across the Straits of Johor serves as a road, rail and pedestrian link, and also carries water line into Singapore. There is some water sharing problem between Singapore and Malaysia. Over 60,000 vehicles cross the causeway daily. Beware of massive traffic jams at this causeway during the holiday season and weekends. Thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans cross the Singapore-Malaysia border daily, so be prepared for long queues and crowds during public holidays, school holidays and even at the beginning (early morning) and end of working hours (7-8 pm) daily. Local buses (SBS and Causeway link bus) use this route.

If you come by Railways then you have to get down at - Woodlands (Singapore) for Singapore immigration and at Tanjong Pagar (Singapore) for Malaysian Immigration. At Tanjong Pagar station, we all got down with our luggage for immigration. I was taken for special checking and frisking. They must have thought a young Indian travelling by train to be quite unusual. So after standing in the usual line, I was taken to their office. Only then I was allowed to board the train once again. In fact the train was waiting ONLY for me and they initially told me to catch the next train. Luckily, good sense prevailed and they let me free! Didi told me not to argue with authorities in Singapore, else you will be in trouble. So I did not lose my cool.

I met an elderly Singaporean couple in the train. Andy Lin, was of great help to me. I called Didi from his mobile. We got down at Tanjong Pagar Heritage Railway station. From there he took me to Tanjong Pagor Metro Railway station or Tube rail or MRT, which was a 4-5 minute walk from the station. Before crossing the road, he taught me how to press a button, to indicate to the traffic signal system that somebody is waiting to cross. Sometimes, in the non-main roads, the lights do not change at all, if you do not press the button!

At the MRT station I saw no tracks, only some closed doors. They told me that the door will open only when the train comes, this will prevent accidents and suicides!!! After 3 or 4 stations, we got down at Tiong Bahru station. There they helped me to get the MRT pass or smart card for 13 Singaporean dollars (SGD). Then we went to the bus stop and took bus no 14 or 65 to reach Lower Delta Road/Jervois Close. While boarding the bus, I had to swipe the smart card. But while getting down I forgot to swipe it and without knowing, the highest fare was debited from my account!! Here the same smart card is used both for MRT and buses.

All buses are AC and you cannot eat or drink inside the bus. After getting down from the bus I saw the gas station (Esso Petrol pump station) in front of didi’s house. I could easily recognize it because Didi had sent me the picture before. When I reached didi’s flat, Baba Phul Pishi and Pranab Kaku were waiting for me. You cannot chew chewing gum in singapore !

After taking some snacks, we left for Clarke Quay by Bus no. 32 (Minimum bus fare is around 1/3 of a dollar) . It is like Park Street of Kolkata. We walked along Clarke Quay for a while and came back by the same bus. Some people were taking the river cruise along Singapore River, beside Clarke Quay.


Visit to Universal studio

We four (Didi did not go with us) went to Universal Studio by Taxi by paying 6.60 SGD. It is in Sentosa Island. The entry fee is 67 SGD But there is a 20% discount, if you use visa card and on the top of that if you are above 65, then you get a further discount of 25%!

Universal Studios Singapore is divided into 7 areas, each with its own theme and distinct rides – Far Far Away with the Shrek theme, The Lost World – Jurassic Park theme, Madagascar, Ancient Egypt, Sci-Fi City, New York and Hollywood.

Our first stop was Madagascar. We saw the huge Boabab tree, you see in that part of the world.

There are two attractions – Madagascar: A Crate Adventure and King Julian’s Beach Party-Go-Round which is a carousel. We rode on King Julian’s Beach Party-Go-Round.

Our next stop – Far Far Away.

Four of us experienced the 4D effect for the first time in our life, when we watched Shrek 4-D Adventure. The only part I did not like about the show, was the long introduction. We were made to stand outside the theatre for a long time before entering. However, the water spraying 3D show was an amazing experience for us. My sister had recommended this show to us.

We walked down New York Street and Ancient Egypt without taking any more rides. We took a quick walk down Hollywood Street. I visited the merchandise store, but did not buy anything, since it is very expensive.

Then we went to The Lost World and checked out the attractions. There are 5 attractions in this section. I didn’t take the ride because of my neck problem.

Then we decided to have lunch. We found the food to be very expensive. We went to an Egyptian theme restaurant. One chicken curry and three lachcha Parota cost two of us S$ 13.90! Phul Pishi had something else, which was even more expensive. Since this was our 1st day, we were not sure about the prices. But I had a hunch that it was way too expensive. Didi told us about a cheaper Indian stall, but we could not find it initially.

We moved on to the Water World. The thrilling “live” water show was simply mind blowing. This show is my brother in law's favourite but Didi "hates", it because it is filled with very dirty looking characters who seem to have taken a bath 10 months ago!

Then we went for Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure (Lost World) - the fun is mostly about getting wet, as the sudden drop at the end of the ride wasn’t that exciting.

There is another very interesting ride - Revenge of the Mummy (Ancient Egypt) - I did not do it since there is a warning that people suffering from back or neck problem should avoid it. But it is definitely a MUST ride attraction. But Didi said it is also very scary.

At this time PP and Baba left for Didi’s house and I stayed back for the fireworks show. I made a few rounds around the Universal studio and tried a few more rides. I went to watch Donkey Live, but I was late and the last show was over.

There is a concept about waiting time. They display outside each show how much time it will take to enter the auditorium or how much time it will take for the show to start. I found it very useful and interesting.

After the fireworks show is over, I left the studio. There is a casino world just beside the universal studio. It is free for foreigners if you show your passport, but for Singaporeans it is very expensive, I think 100 SGD. Since I did not bring my passport, I could not enter it.

From Sentosa Island I took a monorail (free) to Vivocity and then get take MRT from that place for Harbour point. The Harbour point station is an MRT station cum food court cum shopping mall like many MRT stations in Singapore. From Harbour point station I went to MRT station Dhobi Ghaut [actually “Dhoby Ghat”!!]. Any ways from Dhobi Ghaut station there is either Bus number 14 or 65 to go to Didi’s house. I took the bus to reach Didi’s house. They already had their dinner.

[Dhobi Ghaut and Outram Park - are the most two most MRTs in Singapore. There is an interconnection here with other routes i.e. East West Metro. When I reached Singapore, I was bit overwhelmed on the first two days. In the station they give you an MRT route map. With road map in one hand and MRT map in another hand, actually you can go to any place in Singapore, without asking anybody. In the first two days I asked for directions. After that I decided, that since I aim to be a globe trotter, if I ask people I cannot find places in other parts of the world (where language is a problem ). So I decided not to ask people and start following directions given in MRT stations and other places. In the MRT almost every second person is using Blackberry type of mobile and constantly busy with their mobile. And how successful I was! Pranab Kaku and Baba were however asking questions, since that is the norm in Calcutta, as there is no system in the madness. I told them there is no need to ask for directions and just follow me! ]


Today we went for City tour through Duck & Hippo tour company ( First we went to ticket booking centre to buy the ticket for 23 SGD (or 18 SGD if you opt for one route - there are many routes). Didi was with us, so it was not a problem. Duck tours are primarily offered as tourist attractions in many places of the world, such as Halifax, Albany, Austin, Baltimore, Chattanooga, Pittsburgh, Belfast, Washington, DC, Boston, Dublin, Arkansas, Miami, Seattle, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Liverpool, London, Osaka, Toronto, Massachusetts and the latest in Malacca, Malaysia. The hop on and hop off is a new concept for me!

First bus leaves around 9 am and last bus is around 5.30pm. Buses run around every 30 mins at each stop so you don't ever have a long wait (note: generally no buses between 1-2pm as this is their lunch break). All buses are air-conditioned or you can choose to sit in the open-top.
This company offers several different packages, so don't rush in, consider what you want to do before purchasing your tickets (they have combined packages for the Singapore Wheel, duck tours etc). You can also buy the tickets from Suntec City Mall.

In fact we had our lunch at the Suntec city Mall where the food is very good and it is a real value for money even by Indian standard. It is a food court. Considering the environment food is actually cheap. At least in few restaurants it is very cheap.

Restaurant at Suntec city

We took the one day trip package; it covers many sightseeing areas on the move--like--Sentosa, Heritage, and City. If you want to get down in that particular spot, you can do so, and then they inform you the next time the bus comes through that area, so that you are ready by that time. Like, we got down at Little India, China Town and near Arab Street for 1 .5 hr in total and then took the next bus that came to that stop.

Little India
It was exciting seeing the city in the cool breeze. You can use it for 24 hrs, if u took up the bus at 10.30am on 3rd May, you can use it till 4th May up to 10.30am. (Same is there in KL also). So don’t get disappointed, if you had missed some spots, the first day. Or else take the 2 day travel ticket. We bought some souvenirs from Little India and China Town ( .

Waiting at the bus stop

Then we left for Night Safari ( We bought the combined ticket for Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo for 58 SGD. It is cheaper if you buy all of them together, instead of buying it in piece meal. Night safari is very interesting to say the least. Somebody can think like this, what struck me the most. The Night Safari is the world's first nocturnal zoo and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore. The Night Safari was officially opened on 26 May 1994 and occupies 40 hectares of secondary rain-forest adjacent to the Zoo. The Night Safari currently houses a total of 1040 animals of 120 species of which 29% are threatened species. There is a tram, which takes you around the Park for safari. There are various trails in the Zoo like leopard trail, which I found very interesting. In one of the enclosures there is bat flying around. It creates a real life experience. Unlike normal Zoo there is a huge cage and you are inside that cage along with the bats. Pranab Pisho was for some reason very upset and did not enjoy the Zoo. After the show is over we came home back by Taxi.


Today being their last day, Pranab Pisho and Phul Pishi went for shopping. In the morning Baba and I went to Jurong Bird Park ( by Taxi (fare 16.6 SGD). The Park was an eye opener for me. There are many interesting “shows” throughout the day at the amphitheatre. They are definitely the highlight of the Park. I took some very interesting video of one of the shows. There is one particular bird, singing in various languages and sing for more than 2 minute at a stretch. They have combined the Zoo and circus in the Jurong Bird Park, which makes it enjoyable for everybody.

From there we went to Sentosa Island ( for Water world ( and song of sea. On the way, we saw the Merlion, the mascot of Singapore. Before entering the Underwater World I went to the loo, by mistake, by paying 0.25 SGD! There is a loo inside which is free. First we went to the Underwater World (25.9 SGD). They way they have done - stands out. There is an area where there is Shark all around the place and you are walking inside a tunnel. We met Didi and Pranab Pishi there.

After that we went to see the Song of Sea ( The entry fee is 10 SGD. But Didi bought it for all of us. It is basically a Laser and fireworks show. I have never seen such a high quality laser show in my life. We took the combo of monorail, MRT and bus to go back to Lower Delta Road.

We decided to have food from Zion Hawkers corner near Didi’s house. It is Singaporean version of street food, you can say. We ate Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Singaporean stir-fried rice noodles with shrimp) recommended by my friend May.

Pastas | Char Kway Teow

Pranab Pisho would have loved home cooked Bengali food though. Since today is there last day, so they gave it a try. It was around 3.5 SGD per head.


Early in the morning Pranab Pisho and Phul Pishi left for Calcutta. We had two choices either to go to Botanical garden or Pulau Ubin. Ultimately we decided to go to Pulau Ubin. There are more than 60 Islands around Singapore. Pulau Ubin is one of them. If you want to see how Singapore was before 50 years back, then it is the place to go. I watched it in Discovery channel. People go there during weekends. We went there by taking MRT and bus. It is quite far. The ferry service leaves when 12 passengers are assembled and it takes less than 20 minutes (?) to reach that place. You have to pay 5 SGD to go to Pulau Ubin by ferry.

Pulau Ubin is a small island (10.19 km²) situated in the north east of Singapore. Granite quarrying supported a few thousand settlers on Pulau Ubin in the 1960s, but only about a hundred villagers live there today. It is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna. The name Pulau Ubin literally means "Granite Island" in Malay, which explains the many abandoned granite quarries there. The word Ubin is said to be a Javanese term for "squared stone". We walked for few hours in the Island. The best to travel in Pulau Ubin is by hiring a bicycle. I did not take the risk because of my groin pain. We trekked up to a small hill. Baba accompanied me to the hill top. I was bit surprised by his energy level at the age of 79. It was not easy even for me. We chatted with a group of youngsters, who were fishing in one of the ponds. We saw a group of school children visiting the Island.
We planned to come back by 6 pm and go to a shopping mall. But we reached home after 7.30 pm and dropped the plan.


In the morning we went to Singapore General Hospital ( for taking second opinion from the Doctors in Singapore Govt. hospital. The hospital looked like a 5 star hotel to me! I had to pay 89.8 SGD to consult the Rheumatologist. I was going through an article in Singapore - which says Medical treatment is very expensive. (Since this is election time in Singapore, I came across many interesting articles in Singapore newspaper. There is practically one newspaper in Singapore and practically one news channel. This is definitely poor human rights for the citizens of this country. That is why my friend from Singapore is for change of Govt. In spite of the autocracy, the level of efficiency in Singapore is amazing) . I was wondering if the maid - Nani, in Didi’s house, who is paid 400 SGD, falls ill , what will happen to her ? She is from Surabaya of Indonesia (Java). In fact in Singapore to be a maid you have to pass some test like English proficiency, washing machine operation etc. Most of the maids are either from Philippines or Indonesia. Slowly and slowly and I am getting to know how to distinguish between a Malay and Indonesian and a Chinese. As I understood, it is something like this - a person who is similar to simian variety is an Indonesian. In the hospital we were all given an apple. Our next appointment with a Physiotherapist has been fixed on 14.05.2011.


These are some facts which I think is interesting and important to understand the city of Singapore. If you don't have time skip these 55 points and go to our visit to Bali, Java and Cambodia

1. Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is an island country made up of 63 islands; it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor. The country is highly urbanized with very little primary rainforest remaining, although more land is being created for development through land reclamation.
2. The English name of Singapore is derived from its Malay name, Singapura (Sanskrit "Lion City"), thus the customary reference to the nation as the Lion City. Lions probably never lived there; the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama, founder of ancient Singapore, who gave the city its name, was most likely a tiger.
3. The earliest known settlement in Singapore was in the second century AD. It was an outpost of the Sumatran Hindu Srivijaya Empire, named Temasek ('sea town').
4. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, it was part of the Sultanate of Johor. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burnt down the settlement and the island sank into obscurity for the next two centuries.
5. In 1819, Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived and signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on behalf of the British East India Company to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. In 1824 the entire island became a British possession under a further treaty whereby the sultan and the Temenggong transferred it to the British East India Company.
6. In 1826 it became part of the Straits Settlements, a British colony. By 1869, 100,000 people lived on the island.
7. In World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The British were defeated, and surrendered on 15 February 1942. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history" The Japanese occupied Singapore until the British repossessed it in September 1945 after the Japanese surrender.
8. Singapore's first general election, in 1955, was won by the pro-independence David Marshall, leader of the Labour Front. Demanding complete self-rule, he led a delegation to London but was turned down by the British. He resigned on return and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.
9. In elections in May 1959 the People's Action Party won a landslide victory and immediately made Singapore a self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with Lee Kuan Yew as the first prime minister.
10. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959, and governs on the basis of a strong state and prioritizing collective welfare over individual rights such as freedom of assembly, an approach that has attracted criticism from organizations such as Freedom House.
11. Singapore declared independence declared independence from Britain on 31 August 1963, uniting with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963, although it was separated from Malaysia two years later after heated ideological conflict between the ruling parties of Malaya and Singapore.
12. Since then it has had a massive increase in wealth, and is one of the Four Asian Tigers. Singapore is the world's fourth leading financial centre, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world.
13. The economy depends on the industry sector and the service sector heavily, which constituted 27.2% and 72.8% respectively of Singapore's GDP in 2010.
14. Some 5 million people live in Singapore, of whom 2.91 million were born locally. Most are of Chinese, Malay or Indian descent. There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.
15. Singapore is consistently rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.
16. Although Singapore's laws are inherited from English and British Indian legislation, in some ways they have departed from that tradition since independence. Singapore has penalties that include caning for rape, violence, rioting, drug use, vandalism, and some immigration offences. There is a mandatory death penalty for first-degree murder, drug-trafficking, and firearms offences.
17. Amnesty International has said that some legal provisions conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and that Singapore has "possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population". The government has disputed Amnesty's claims. In a 2008 survey, international business executives believed Singapore, along with Hong Kong, had the best judicial system in Asia.
18. Of Singapore’s 63 islands, Pulau Ujong. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 166 m (545 ft).
19. There are ongoing land reclamation projects, which have increased its land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 704 km2 (272 sq mi) today; it may grow by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi) by 2030.Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as with Jurong Island.
20. About 23% of Singapore's land area consists of forest and nature reserves. Urbanization has eliminated most primary rainforest, with Bukit Timah Nature Reserve the only significant remaining forest.
21. Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 23 to 32 °C (73 to 90 °F). April and May are the hottest months, with the wetter monsoon season from November to January. Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time, it follows time zone GMT+8, one hour ahead of its geographical location.
22. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers.
23. The country is the world's fourth leading financial centre Singapore has one of the busiest ports in the world and is the world's fourth largest foreign-exchange trading centre after London, New York and Tokyo.
24. The World Bank ranks Singapore as the world's top logistics hub.
25. Before independence in 1965, Singapore had a GDP per capita of $511, then the third highest in East Asia.
26. Singapore possesses the world's tenth largest foreign reserves.
27. Singapore's economy was ranked the worlds most open in 2009, competitive and innovative.
28. Singapore is rated the most business-friendly economy in the world.
29. The percentage of unemployed economically active people above age 15 is about 2%.Poverty levels are low compared to other countries in the region.
30. The government provides cheap housing and financial assistance to poorer people.
31. Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaire households, with 15.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars.
32. Tourism forms a large part of the economy, and 10.2 million tourists visited the country in 2007.To attract more tourists, in 2005 the government legalized gambling and allowed two casino resorts at Sentosa to be developed.
33. Singapore is promoting itself as a medical tourism hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care there each year, and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue.[73]
34. Malaysia has often come into conflict with Singapore over the delivery of fresh water to Singapore, and the access of Malaysian airspace to the Singapore Armed Forces, among others. Border issues exist with both Malaysia and Indonesia. Some previous disputes have been solved by the International Court of Justice.
35. As of 2010, 5.1 million people live in Singapore, of whom 3.2 million (64%) are Singapore citizens while the rest (36%) are permanent residents or foreign workers. 2.9 million people (57%) were born in Singapore while the rest are foreign-born. The average household size is 3.5 persons. In 2010, the total fertility rate was 1.1 children per woman, the third lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population. To overcome this problem, the Singapore government is encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore's population from declining. About 40 per cent of the populations are foreigners, the sixth-highest percentage in the world. The government is considering capping these workers, although it is recognized that they play a large role in the country's economy. Foreign workers make up 80% of the construction industry and up to 50% in the service industry.
36. In 2009, 74.2% of residents were of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, and 9.2% of Indian descent.

37. There are monasteries and Dharma centres from all three major traditions of Buddhism in Singapore: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Most Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and are of the Mahayana tradition.[104] However, Thailand's Theravada Buddhism has seen growing popularity amongst the people (not only the Chinese) in the past decade. Tibetan Buddhism has also made slow inroads into the country in recent years.
38. Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. English is the first language of the nation and is the language of business, government and medium of instruction in schools. Singaporean English is based on British English and forms of English spoken range from Standard English to a pidgin known as Singlish. Singlish is heavily discouraged by the government.According to the 2010 official census, nearly one in three Singaporeans speak English as their home language.
39. The state of health in Singapore is internationally regarded and consistently ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be among the world's best. In its last World Health Report on health systems, Singapore was ranked 6th out of 191 countries and top in Asia for our health system. There are fewer than 10 annual deaths from HIV per 100,000 people, and high levels of immunization. Adult obesity is below 10%.4141
40. Due to the many races and cultures in the country, there is no single set of culturally acceptable behaviors. Foreigners also make up 42% of the population and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture.
41. A.T. Kearney named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2006 in its Globalization Index.
42. 43. The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia.
43. The Singapore dream is often satirically and light-heartedly portrayed as the "5 Cs" of Singapore - cash, credit cards, car, condominium and country club membership.
44. Dining, along with shopping, is said to be the country's national pastime. The diversity of food is touted as a reason to visit the country, and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism. The "national fruit" of Singapore is the Durian. In popular culture, food items belong to a particular ethnicity, with Chinese, Indian, and Malay food clearly defined. The diversity of cuisine has been increased further by the "hybridization" of different styles, e.g. the Peranakan style, a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine.
45. Popular sports include football, basketball, cricket, swimming, sailing, table tennis and badminton. Most Singaporeans live in public residential areas near amenities such as public swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. Water sports are popular. Scuba diving is another recreation, particularly around the southern island of Pulau Hantu, known for its rich coral reefs. Singapore's football (soccer) league, the S-League, formed in 1994, currently comprises 12 clubs including foreign teams. Singapore began hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship in 2008. The race was staged at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and became the first night race on the F1 circuit and the first street circuit in Asia.
46. Media in Singapore is tightly controlled, and strong action is taken against media that criticize government officials, thus promoting an atmosphere of self-censorship. The government strictly restricts freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and companies linked to the government control the domestic media.
47. The state-owned MediaCorp operates television channels and radio stations in Singapore. Singapore Press Holdings, a body with close links to the government, controls most of the newspaper industry.
48. In 2010, Reporters without Borders ranked Singapore 136 out of 178 in the Press Freedom Index.
49. The Media Development Authority regulates Singaporean media. Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is banned.
50. There are 3.4 million users of the internet in Singapore, one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world.
51. Although the government has not engaged in widespread censoring of internet sites, websites featuring "pornography, violence and incitement of racial or religious hatred" are blocked. Government censorship policies have not hindered economic growth. In the 1990s the media sector grew 7.7%, and by 2001 produced $10 billion and contributed 1.56% of Singapore's GDP.
52. Singapore is a major international transportation hub in Asia, positioned on many sea and air trade routes. The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, was the world's second busiest port in 2010 in terms of shipping tonnage handled. It is also the world's second busiest in terms of cargo tonnage, coming behind Shanghai. In addition, the port is the worlds busiest for transshipment traffic and the world's biggest ship refueling centre.
53. Singapore is an aviation hub for the Southeast Asian region. There are 8 total airports in the country, and Singapore Changi Airport hosts a network of 80 airlines connecting Singapore to 200 cities in 68 countries. It has been rated one of the best international airports by international travel magazines, including being rated as the world's best airport for the first time in 2006by Skytrax.
54. The public road system is served by the many bus services and a number of licensed taxi-operating companies, and thousands of people use these services everyday. Since 1987, the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system has been in operation.
55. As per gross domestic product per capita at nominal values, Singapore stands 15th at $ 43,117 (Luxembourg - 108,832, Norway- 84,444 being first and second and India is 138th at $ 1265 as on 2010.) and 3rd as per gross domestic product per capita at Purchasing power parity at 52,839 after Qatar and Luxemburg.

The excerpts of a very interesting article published in May 29, 2010 in The Telegraph

GET SET, GOH - India’s role in Singapore’s modernization is a forgotten truth – SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

Had he been aware of it, Goh Keng Swee, who was cremated last Sunday, would have been delighted when Singapore made Ratan Tata an honorary citizen and President S.R. Nathan paid handsome tribute to a senior Tata executive, Syamal Gupta, with the gift of a book on Indian culture in which he had inscribed, “With much appreciation for your abiding interest in Singapore and all that you have done over the years to promote Singapore as a place of business opportunity beyond the Tata family.” Both gestures handsomely, if belatedly, acknowledged the Singapore miracle’s forgotten debt to India………way back in the 1960s J.R.D. Tata and Gupta laid the foundations of Singapore’s industrialization ...……..Goh, a former deputy prime minister who was 91 when he died earlier this month ….whom many Singaporeans revere as the architect of modernization, whose detailed knowledge of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat “amazed” Manoj Das, whom he recruited from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry to work on a new school textbook on HinduismBut I gathered that as finance minister, defence minister and education minister, Goh left his imprint on every aspect of life before quitting politics and retreating into a shell in 1984..….Possibly because of his London School of Economics background, Goh was much taken initially with our(India) five-year plans. His 1960 budget statement lauded India’s efforts “to lift her citizens from age-old and dire poverty”. Indians would have been gratified to know that the architect of Singapore’s growth held up their five-year plans, financial allocations, large new industries and extensive community development schemes as the model for Asia. ……the success in planning and execution that India has.” The speech makes ironic reading today.
Happy when J.R.D. Tata went to see him with an investment proposal, Goh astonished his guest by saying that he wanted Tata to make as much money as possible in Singapore. “No, I’m not joking,” he explained. “I am serious. We are starting from zero at Jurong. The place is a swamp. ……” Tata had earlier submitted his plan to the Indian government which had lost it. Adding insult to injury, Jagjivan Ram asked Tata why he wanted to make more money. “India’s loss was Singapore’s gain,” Goh confided in a friend. Sceptics called Jurong in west Singapore “Goh’s folly” until it developed into a booming industrial hub when it became “Goh’s Glory”.
Calcutta-born Gupta, who trained as an engineer at Jadavpur University, says it took an hour-and-a-half to get to the Jurong marshes in those days. It was a different Singapore altogether buzzing with mosquitoes and with “teem teem
— Gupta lapses into colloquial Bengali — electricity. Paya Lebar airport was “only an airstrip with sheds”. The place was worse than Calcutta! But as managing director of the new Tata enterprises, he bought land in Jurong, engaged an architect and brought some 60 technicians and a supervisor from India. The Tata Precision Industries and Tata Training Institute he set up were both firsts for Tata’s as well as Singapore…………..Singaporeans knew nothing about Tata. “India was not known for precision instruments either,” Ng says. “It’s impossible, some thought”. But Goh Keng Swee was one of the few who had confidence in India. Gupta’s standard reply to the many others who did not and asked why they should buy from an unknown seller was that import substitution was India’s culture. Indians were constantly innovating.
Tata Precision made semi-conductors, computer peripherals and sophisticated tools and precision components in Singapore that it did not in India. The world was its market. Tata Training Institute produced experts who shaped Singapore’s future. But like so many Indian enterprises, Tata faded out after that glorious beginning. “The quality of people who came afterwards was not the same as Syamal!” Ng laments. …….. Ratan Tata’s much later (2005) acquisition of NatSteel was a separate operation though it may not have been possible without the pioneering Gupta and that early beginning.
Goh demonstrated his knowledge of and interest in India in many small ways. He asked Singapore’s high commissioner in Delhi for birds for the Jurong Bird Park he established. He ordered regimental colours for the Singapore army from India’s military tailors. He commissioned a paper on security in the Indian Ocean, and invited Sam Manekshaw to advise on “training facilities… which took many years to materialize”, Goh also quickly brought in Israel when Lal Bahadur Shastri ignored the letter Lee wrote to him within moments of Singapore becoming independent on August 9, 1965 seeking military advisers, training and a defence pact.
In retrospect, knowledgeable Singaporeans feel it was a good thing Shastri did not respond because only Israel could create an effective and informal citizens’ army. Though Lee Kuan Yew wanted India, Goh probably knew India and Indians too well …

For full story read

After returning home, we quickly had our lunch and left (on 6/5/2011) for airport to go to Denpasar (DPS), Bali. Indonesia. Our Plane is at 4 pm.

To know more about Indonesia go to


After coming back to Singapore (8.55 am) , we took some rest and had our breakfast. Tomorrow I have my appointment scheduled in Singapore General Hospital - Govt. Hospital with a Physiotherapist. I had to pay a fee of 79 SGD or Rs 2939 for the check up! I was told my Physiotherapist in Calcutta had given more or less correct exercises. They added two more exercises. Whatever he said was recorded in computer for future reference. So even if I do not come with my prescription there won’t be any problem and all the measurements noted in a human model. The hospital looked like a 5 star to me. From the hospital there is free ride to the MRT or metro rail or tube rail !

Since I did not visit the Zoo before leaving for Indonesia, we left for world famous Singapore Zoo.

We had a feeling that we are sitting on the forest itself...there is no barrier !

Bird show in progress

Showing different growling or moaning or mating sounds of Tiger by pressing!

The food inside the zoo is very expensive. But since we did not have not any option , we took our lunch there. In India we should learn from the Singapore Zoo - how to maintain a Zoo. There is a marriage between zoo, circus and education - all rolled into one in the zoo. The shows are fascinating and educative. In one particular show with sea lion - we were taught how to distinguish between bio degradable waste and non-bio degradable waste. And the teacher? Sea horse! What a beautiful presentation. In many cases there are no fences - e.g. the place where they keep the kangaroo. You will feel you are in a reserve forest and not in a zoo in many places. You can see the orangutan moving along the rope over the trees, in open, above you and there is no fence of course! They way they kept the hippo, I like it a lot. In the African section they teach you the various tribes of Africa - Masai and there are some models too. The concept they have followed in Bird Park is similar here too. At the tiger enclosure there is a button where you can press and listen to different types of growling of tigers - e.g. when they are hungry or when they want to mate...simply amazing. The elephant show also very very good indeed. The presenter were well trained and knows how to talk and how to make the show the lively. All of them are like that. It is too much of a co-incident, if they are not specially trained. It shows the mind behind all these shows.

Baba left the zoo little early, as he was tired. I was one of the last to leave the zoo. After coming to Didi’s house, we took our dinner early, since tomorrow we are leaving or Cambodia.


We left for Cambodia.....for details see Cambodia -


I reached Singapore from Cambodia yesterday and left for Singapore airport to go to Kuala Lumpur.

I paid Rs 1138 (by taxi ) to reach airport ! While the plane fare was Rs 1280 in Tiger Airways!! My mistake, never book an early morning flight. At night or early morning there is no Metro or bus service. I reached KL at 7.25 am. From LCCT - airport I took an Aerobus to reach (MYR 8: 1 MYR = Rs 15.5) to reach KL Sentral. Since I will spend just one night in KL, so I booked a backpacker hotel . I took a metro - LRT to get down at Pasar Seni.

From there my hotel is 3 minutes walk at Jalan (means road) Sultan. This is a very good location. I paid less than 6 USD to book this hotel. After taking a quick shower, I booked a KL Hop on Hop off city tour for 38 MYR just in front of my hotel. Considering the fact the bus is AC, double Decker (guide with a mike), I would say it is cheap (In Calcutta WBTDC for a lousy service charges Rs 400 these days). In fact the bus stops EXACTLY opposite to my hotel. The China Town is just beside my hotel. In the night the main china town is closed to the public - so that there is a fare everyday and you buy all the souvenirs you want to buy. Unlike India, you can get all types of souvenirs at a surprisingly cheap price. One cannot ask for a better location, considering the fact that I have only one day in hand.

This city tour is exactly like Singapore city tour. So after buying something for breakfast, I got up in front of my hotel, when the bus came. My hotel is one of its scheduled stops. After every announcement they say Terima Kasih - thank you. However his Malaysian accented English was very quite difficult for me to understand. The bus moves around the central district of KL. I decided not to go down from the bus initially and take at least 2 rounds and only then I will decide where to go down. Since I was tired I slept for quite some time.

Anyways after more than two circles around the scheduled route I got down at Petronas Tower. I spent some time there and took many photos and walked around that location for quite some time. I even met a Nepalese security guard while going to an art centre. I saw all the landmark of KL e.g. KL tower - but did not get down for want time. After spending some time I again got up in the bus and finally got down in front of my hotel. In the evening I bought many souvenirs for my friends from China Town. Petronas Tower is one of the underlying / recurring features in many souvenirs. Then I went to have souvenirs in a hawker’s corner - like Singapore. Surprise, surprise I saw one Bangladeshi stall - where the Bangladeshis (semi literate) are selling Biryani.

I saw many Bangladeshi stalls in the China Town selling their wares too. Today I decided to splurge and had different types of food. Pork and beef skewer (bit sweet), one type of drink and others and paid only Rs 10.5 MYR. After spending some time and buying the souvenirs it was time to go to the hotel (around 11 am); it is only 1.5 minutes walk from the Chinatown.


I got up bit late and after having some breakfast took the city tour bus (it is valid for 24 hours). Today my aim was to go to Little India. After reaching there I bought a Dosa from a shop in Little India by paying 1.25 MYR or Rs 19! Mind it, it is not a footpath stall. In Prema Vilas, Kolkata a similar Dosa would cost Rs 50. I was quite impressed and it is quite a big shop. Then I met a middle aged Tamilian at the little India - his forefathers had to come to Malaysia at least 150 years back! They learn Tamil in School and it is still taught. They speak Tamil among themselves. I was really surprised to know this fact. Then I was getting late and was advised to catch a monorail to go to Pasar Seni. On the way I saw a Vivekananda Ashram! But I could not see anybody there. I was really surprised to see that.

After taking the monorail I reached my hotel and it was time to check out and took the LRT to go to KL Sentral. From KL Sentral I took Aerobus to go to LCCT. There I met a young newly wed Bengali - he is a marine engineer. My flight - Air Asia is at 2 30 pm and reached just in time to go back home, sweet home!

No comments:

Chronological order