Last night I realized that a decade ago, nearly to the day, I changed my life drastically. In January 2000 I decided to forge ahead with the idea of writing a book about botanical gardens even though I didn't have a contract in hand. This would mean, I knew, trying to finance the necessary international travel out of travel writing and other bits and pieces, and traveling by myself to some far off countries. (Lee hates airplanes and it took much persuading to get him to join me in France eventually. His reluctance was part of the reason why until 2000 I had never ventured off the North American continent, besides a week trip to Haiti with my sister and her husband in 1973.)
So I began making plans to visit Singapore, Kew and the Jardin des plantes in Paris during the spring of 2000. Luckily, my adventures began at a time when e-mail was common, so I was able to arrange appointments and make reservations before I left. I also decided that a woman traveling alone mustn't be afraid: I'd try to go out by myself every morning when the place was waking up in order to talk to all women who looked friendly, as well as to take up all the invitations that were offered by my contacts.
The result has been a wealth of wonderful experiences all over the world--in the last ten years, I've been to Europe five times, Singapore three times and Brazil, China, India, Tanzania, Burundi and Kenya one time each, not to mention shorter visits to less exotic places in North America.
These are pictures are took on that first trip in March 2000. I didn't know what I was getting into--a young Australian had just been whipped for marijuana possession--but I ended up being very favourably impressed by Singapore. People bitched to me about the goverment the way they do most places, and I was there three days before I saw a police officer in uniform doing anything other than direct traffic. And when I saw the way that the City of London was locked down for May Day celebrations (Red Ken had just been elected mayor) and the gendarmes with machine guns in the Paris Métro, I realized that there are all kinds of ways to control people, and let he without sin cast the first stone.
At this point I have no idea what the next decade will hold for me, but I can't help thinking that I was extraordinarily lucky with the last one.
BTW, if you're interested, here's a link to the books that have grown out of that travel.
Downgrading it two notches as the place got so crowded these days that it's no longer a nice city to hang around, not to mention the prices of most things are at least 20% higher than in Hong Kong. In fact, some essentials like shampoos and toothpastes are almost double the price of those in Hong Kong. This is NOT "progress"!!!
It's a love-hate relationship for me, this island of 45 year old. For one thing, it boosted a GDP of some 15% in 2010 and its currency is at the strongest against the HK$ (& US$). For another, it's a place which I had called home for majority of my life. How this country will advance in a world of uncertainty is beyond anyone's guess. It has done better than any Asian country (other than China) and it's expected to still perform. Nonetheless, there's always a BUT... I don't think I can put it into … more
Singapore is an island nation state, has a population of 4.8 m. Being a relatively young nation (Singapore celebrated its 44 years of independence last August) has translated it into modern living & a very cosmopolitan country under systematic planning. What is unique about Singapore is its integration of 3 different major races into its predominantly Chinese society. Education Singapore is a country I'm extremely familiar … more
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 710.2 km2 (274.2 sq mi), Singapore is a microstate and the smallest nation in Southeast Asia. It is substantially larger than Monaco and Vatican City, the only other surviving sovereign city-states.
Before European settlement, the island now known as Singapore was the site of a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived along the nearby coast, rivers and on smaller islands. In 1819, the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route. Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia.
During the Second World War, the British colony was occupied by the Japanese after the Battle of Singapore, which Winston Churchill called "Britain's greatest defeat". Singapore reverted to British rule in 1945, immediately after the war. Eighteen years later, in 1963, the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, Singapore's merger proved unsuccessful, and, less than two years later, it seceded from ...