The Green Dollar
Background and History of Singapore

A letter to the Editor of Frommer’s guide to SEA, 6th Edition

Dear Editor,

I am a Singaporean and I like reading about Singapore written by good writers, travel and otherwise, because for me, it is most times very amusing. I enjoyed reading Frommer’s SEA guide, 6th edition, because I realised how restricted the country sounds. I am sure there must be truth hidden in its depths somewhere, and I attempt to do an archaeologist’s job in this letter.

Singapore is a clean and green city. Travel to other SEA cities well covered in the guide and you suddenly realise keeping tropical landscape planned and beautiful is effort that has to be appreciated. Lush green is what you see every corner you turn. Climate change is catching up, and us being a low-lying island has much to fear about being swallowed up by the floods like in Noah’s time. But still we are keeping up in every way like a good global citizen and reducing carbon emissions in our small little ways. I turned to page 511, to the section on Bicycling. It starts with,”Bicycles are NOT for rent within the city limits. Traffic does NOT allow for cycling on city streets.”  By the way, bicycles are not for rent anywhere on the island which is not unusual by standards, and traffic does allow for cycling on city streets if only you can see the number of hobby cyclists on weekend mornings soaking in the sun. The third NOT is found in just the second line, ”Sightseeing by bicycle is NOT recommended for city touring.” You are right in that with the complimentary sightseeing tours on good coaches offered by Singapore Airlines, we are definitely giving tourists who pay the deserved royal treatment. The only two places mentioned suited for cycling is Sentosa and East Coast Park. Right now, there are park connectors linking up areas in Singapore used regularly by cyclists, so that you might want to add. There are also bicycle racks at every MRT station making it every bit a cycle-able city though maybe currently not for the tourist. The last NOT closes the paragraph,” Helmets are NOT available for rental.” I wonder what Singapore tourism promoters have to say about having 4 NOTs in one short paragraph in the book.

Then there is an element of masked security in the descriptions of the two places recommended for cycling. Both makes it a point that identification is required. Applause for the reputation of kiasi-ism . which is uniquely Singapore. Also alarming is the publicity of telephone numbers of the bicycle kiosks. It is a great opportunity to throw tourists off with our “Sorry, can you repeat?” because I can imagine the kiosk owners hardly having long conversations on the phone other than with family and friends. If you know people working in Singapore, you might have come across the interesting fact that for some, communication is by email only. Great apologies even if you are sitting just a desk apart in the office.

We continue to sound like a firewall for tourists as we move on to the paragraph on Golf. “ Golf is big in Singapore, ALTHOUGH there are quite a few clubs, many are FOR MEMBERS ONLY. However, many places are open for LIMITED play by non-members…..Also, it’s really popular for Singaporeans to go on day trips to Malaysia for the best courses.” More on  Singaporeans liking to tour Malaysia comes up in the Scuba Diving section,” The locals are crazy about scuba diving but are more likely to travel to Malaysia and other southeast Asian destinations for good underwater adventures. I would like to suggest you edit the whole outdoor activity section of Singapore to exclude what not to do in Singapore and concentrate on what you CAN do in Singapore like go-karting, kite-flying, pony-riding, picnics at the many gardens, boat chartering to island hop and swimming. You might also want to know Singapore has the largest area of outdoor swimming pools in Singapore. Any wonder why Singaporean swimmers win at the Olympics?

I know we are not big into sport but please stating shopping is a Singaporean sport in your book does injustice to our movie going and eating, which is currently taking over shopping as the top 2 spots on the charts. Walk into one of the cinemas and you find they are some of the best you find in the world at cheap cheap. Try the love seats if you have a chance. We hope that takes the limits off romance.

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