Postcard from… Singapore
11 May 2009
Once a sleepy fishing village, Singapore is today the world’s busiest port and a major commercial centre. I moved here four years ago from Mumbai, and I work at Berwin Leighton Paisner.
Given its geographical location - just one degree north of the equator - Singapore experiences uniformly high temperature and humidity. Practically everything is air-conditioned, but the absolute lack of seasons is a bit of a let-down. The year is one long hot and humid mega-season, with a cameo ‘rainy season’ of scattered showers in December-January.
Our office is located on the 37th floor of Suntec Tower Two, one of the main business districts in Singapore, the other being the eponymous Raffles Place. Designed in accordance with feng shui principles, the five towers of Suntec City form the shape of an open hand when viewed aerially.
I live in Siglap, in one of the many condominium estates hugging the eastern coast. It is green and quiet, but only a five-minute walk away is the East Coast Park - a popular hangout at the weekends. Built entirely on reclaimed land, the Park has barbecue pits, chalets, eateries and cafes, water sports facilities, plus a 20km cycling and inline skating track.
Public transport is world-class: the mass rapid transit (MRT) system and buses are efficient and unbelievably inexpensive - it costs less than two Singapore dollars for a typical ride into work and takes 20 minutes. Taxis are easily available, except during peak hours, and driving a car, while expensive, is a pleasure as traffic snarls are largely non-existent. Depending on the mode of transport, I can always see the Kallang River, Singapore’s longest river, enroute to the office.
Singapore offers a wide array of gastronomic delights: everything from local Chinese, Malay and Indian food, to Japanese, Italian and Turkish cuisine. Local specialities include the Singapore Chilli Crab and laksa (a spicy noodle soup), which is my favourite when served at Jumbo Seafood restaurant. Eating out is relatively inexpensive because most locals don’t like to cook! Clarke Quay (a refurbished waterside development) and Dempsey Hill (formerly a colonial army barrack) offer excellent wining and dining options. Boat Quay, right next to Raffles Place, is a popular watering hole for those who like their Irish pubs.
Shopping is a national pastime, and most retailers organise regular sales almost all year-round. The main shopping belts are on Orchard Road, and the Marina Bay area, though some of the suburban malls offer better value for money. I am often fascinated with the range of groceries available in this tiny city-state. Cold Storage, a leading super-market chain, also runs Jason’s Gourmet Grocer for those with more sophisticated grocery needs!
One of things I love the most is the proximity to the rest of South-East Asia, providing ample opportunity for long weekend jaunts to the many destinations that are within a four-hour flight radius from Singapore.
Singapore offers an excellent introduction to the allure of Asia and the comfort of a modern city: all packaged in a beautifully landscaped, orderly and efficient 252 square miles! I miss the hustle and bustle of heady Mumbai, but I am very glad I made the move and feel I have learnt a great deal both professionally and personally from my experience. The quality of legal work I am doing is complex and exciting and life here is invigorating.
Azmul Haque, Senior Associate, Berwin Leighton Paisner