Many Americans will be disappointed when eating in Chinese restaurants. There are no fortune cookies and no one can break one open and pretend to read, Help, I’m being held captive in a fortune cookie factory.â
Almost everyone who visits Singapore tells tales of its cuisine, a blend of Malay and Chinese. The two are married to form nonyaâ food combining pork, coconut milk, shrimp paste, and a variety of spices, heavy on the chili. At the Raffles Hotel, probably the best known hotel in the East because of its literary heritage, a weekly buffet of nonya dishes is an experience. The Raffles figured in some of the Somerset Maugham stories and represents the old British raj way of life, pre-World War II. A number of new high rise, glamour hotels supercede the Raffles in modernity and efficiency.
Occidental visitors are taken aback at several of the foods displayed in the morning market in Chinatown. Cages of frogs, buckets of pale duck feet and century-old eggs are displayed. A python lies coiled, later to appear at someone’s table as steaks.
With so many people in such a small space there are some problems.
Taxis are scarce during rush hours. Traffic on the causeway north that leads to Malaysia can be jammed. Customs delays are common. Movies are censored. TV programs are pallid and limited; nightclubs and cabarets expensive. Most social life centers around private clubs. In other words, say expatriates who live there, life is safe and sanitary but dull.
There is no question about Singapore’s commitment to tourism. Mass air travel made Singapore in its present form possible. Singapore’s dictatorial government brooks no opposition to tourism growth. There are no riots, no picket lines allowed, as the government has set about constructing a new airport that will be capable of handling thirty million air travelers a year.
The national Singapore Airline trains its Singapore Girlsâ to be the most polite, service-oriented flight attendants in the air. The girls are selected for their beauty and the airline ads feature the real hostesses, not models. As a result, as airline unions and work rules have made courtesy a forgotten word on many airlines, Singapore Airlines business has grown rapidly.
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