Singapore, Day Two

Day two was for the Botanic Gardens and Little India, and a little shopping to fill in between.

We didn’t really enjoy Little India but it was an experience; maybe like a little like being in India, (a safe, clean part of India.) The first street we encountered was entirely shops selling groceries and, in the late afternoon, people shopping for groceries. With fruits and vegetables extending out into the sidewalk, the people inspecting and/or buying, and streets filled with cars, there was very limited space left for pedestrians.

And very little regard for little old ladies with canes. That really didn’t fit with our other experiences here. We never have to stand on the subway; there is always someone to help with doors; but acceptable behavior on the streets seems to have a different standard.

In our travels, I frequently have cause to ponder the English language and how a non-native speaker could ever hope to learn it. Why do we say, “Chinatown” and “Little India” but “Indiatown” or “Little China” sound funny? Singapore, by the way, is an English-speaking town. We have encountered very few people who didn’t speak it, most fluently; signs are first in English and second in, I assume, Mandarin, and perhaps a couple more Asian-looking languages.

The Botanic Gardens were spectacular perhaps competing with the Garden by the Bay but very different. They were much older, early 19th Century. Now they are free, public grounds with trees, flowers, ponds, rain forests, and open space for sitting, gathering, and picnicking, although not with the tables and grills that we would demand. The locals were quite happy sitting on the grass where anything offered a little shade. There was also a band shell on the edge of a small lake with a series of, we think, ‘high school’ bands that filled the park with music much of the afternoon.

There were a couple of special areas (two or three others under development.) One was a mountain rain forest that was enclosed and air conditioned to the point of being chilly with piped-in cold water. This simulated the climate at a high elevation for plants that like that. It was a very pleasant break from the heat for us too.

The other special area was the Orchid Garden. We didn’t see any Lady Slippers but colors and variety of flowers unimaginable. They charged $1 SG for seniors to see the orchids.DSCN0074

Doré among a few orchids. The chair is because we needed to cover nearly 50 acres of winding paths; she normally doesn’t use it. According to the pedometer in my phone, I walked 13 miles including the garden; Doré did at least a third of that on that on foot.

The Gardens are a World Heritage Site and date back to the development of rubber plantations, which eventually made some (Englishmen) very wealthy and provided work for lots of others. Rubber trees are native to Brazil; an Englishman tried taking them to England, but they didn’t like the climate; they loved the climate in Malaysia. Everything was fine for the next hundred years until World War II, which cut the rubber growers off from their markets in the US and Europe. The US, according to our British port lecturer, launched a research project that rivaled the Manhattan Project to develop a replacement for natural rubber. That may have won the war but it almost, but not quite destroyed the local economy. There are still some things that need the real rubber. (The war certainly didn’t help in many other ways as well; the fall of Singapore to the Japanese is still considered a major defeat for the British and disaster for the locals.)

The subways are a fantastic way to get around the city; it always nice to be somewhere that has a viable transit system. Even on Sunday, it seemed the whole city was down there until you tried to get somewhere on the surface; there are plenty of people there as well. The problem with subways is they are underground. On Singapore, Day Three, we intend to stay above ground to get a better look at the architecture that was so impressive as we sailed in.

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