As our short stay in Singapore ends, I must say this city / country has left me shocked and reminded me of the line from "Baker Street" when a city "has so many people, but it's got no soul." I am sure part of that shock is having just arrived from Sumatra where the differences in infrastructure and cleanliness could not be overestimated.
I am blown away by the engineering accomplishments I witnessed in Singapore. The design of multiple buildings here has to rival almost anything our species has accomplished anywhere.
I am blown away by the way the city feels like one giant system of malls. We walked 10 miles yesterday and I imagine 8 of those were through various shopping centers. If Singapore was designed to feel like you simply flowed from one place to the next without noticing - it worked.
I am blown away by the cleanliness of the city. There is literally no trash anywhere. Again, I just came from Bali and other parts of Indonesia where there is trash everywhere.
I am also blown away by what felt to me as a lack of gravitas, personality or grit in Singapore. I am used to New York, where I lived 15 years. Singapore has its Indian, Malay, Chinese and British sections (its 4 official languages) but like everything else they were nice to look at, and I felt incredibly safe walking at night, but without a whole lot of character. I did not see one homeless person or one dog the entire day.
I guess I would call it a city with no forms of noise. Each person has a different push or pull in reaction to that. I can see both sides.
I think the “Gardens by the Bay” attraction is a good metaphor for this whole experiment in urban planning: Mechanized nature and flora with big shiny lights that are hypnotic as they weave one through another system of pathways.