Travel stories: Singapore

I went to Singapore for the holidays. It was the first time I’d spent the Christmas season outside of the US, and my first time visiting the island city-state with the benevolent dictatorship disguised as a democracy. I wouldn’t say it was a life-changing trip, but it did give me some new perspective, and writers love perspective like a cat loves nip.

If there’s one thing that stood out to me most about Singapore it was this odd sense of juxtaposition. Duality. Contrast. Yin and Yang (which is appropriate given the country’s heavy Chinese influence).

Singapore has bountiful natural beauty, and yet so much of it is artificial. Fake smiles, fake neighborhoods, even fake trees in the Gardens by the Bay.

Singapore has a thriving tourist trade, with over 3 million visitors a year, but the place is often (though not always) rather unfriendly to strangers. And when there is friendliness, it feels belabored and…wrong. I felt this most strongly at the airport, where there were staff who actually checked in for me at what would be considered a “self-service” kiosk nearly everywhere else in the world. I suppose they were trying to make it feel convenient, but it ended up being awkward and kind of belittling.

The country prides itself on education, but so many of its best and brightest who have the means to study abroad, prefer to do so.

Singapore is clean, and free of graffiti and litter, but only through imposing harsh fines for everything from eating on the train to chewing gum (which is actually even illegal to possess in the country).

It’s a land of dichotomies; neither good nor bad, but many varying shades of gray. It’s a perfect little micro-nation to study the dynamics of people and nature. In many ways, I found inspiration there. My Ninth Order series of books takes place on a group of small islands. I was struggling to find the inspiration to finish the sequel, but now I think I have it.

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