Challenge Accepted [Daily Prompt: Progress]

Welcome to my Singapore!

The word Progress is one of the Daily Prompt Challenges that found its way into my mailbox, and the first thing that came to mind was my country Singapore. This is why…

Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore in 1819. Back then; it was just a fishing village. Now look at how far we’ve come…

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We are a city-state of 5.40 million people as of June 2013! We gained independence on 9 August 1965 and since then this is how much we’ve grown.

In 1966 Singapore Airlines was still known as Malaysia-Singapore Airlines. Now known as Singapore Airlines, it’s one of the top airlines around the world. But over the years, one thing has never changed – The Singapore Girl and her iconic sarong kebaya uniform created by Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain. The design was first introduced in 1968 and is universally recognised as that of the iconic Singapore Girl.

In 1972, the original Merlion statue created by Singaporean sculptor Mr Lim Nang Seng was located at the mouth of the Singapore River, at the tip of the current The Fullerton Waterboat House Garden. Now, it has been relocated to Merlion Park facing Marina Bay. This was because the Esplanade Bridge, completed in 1997, was blocking the views of the Merlion from the Marina Bay waterfront.

Photo Source: NAS and http://www.filmapia.com

In 1981, Changi Airport was officially opened on 29th December. Now, we have 3 international airports with a fourth one on it’s way. There are also plans to create a mixed-use complex linking Terminals 1, 2 and 3 titled “Project Jewel”.

In 2002, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was opened. Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Durian’, it has become and iconic Singapore landmark. But before it became a performing arts centre, it was where Singaporeans would go to for satay. In 1994, the stallholders of the Satay Club were told that they had to vacate as the site was needed for two projects; Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay and the Nicoll Highway extension.

In 2008, at 165m, the world’s largest Observation Wheel was completed and launched in Singapore. Known as the Singapore Flyer, it overlooks Singapore’s city centre. When it first opened, the Flyer gave you a  view of the business district first then went down overlooking the sea. Now, it rises to give you a view of eastern Singapore “overlooking landmarks like Changi Airport, public housing estates and historical quarters Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India” then on the descent, you see the beautiful city skyline of Singapore.

The recent years saw a very big change for Singapore. We now have 2 casinos, one in Marina Bay Sands and the other in Resorts World Sentosa. We even have a Universal Studios Theme Park on our sunny little island now and Marine Life Park, the largest oceanarium in the world. There’s also the Gardens by the Bay right across from the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. And of course, there’s the ArtScience Museum, which I nicknamed ‘Marvin’s hand’. (For those of you who don’t know The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, Marvin the paranoid Android is a fictional character in the series.)

Singapore has definitely changed.

The free online dictionary defines ‘Progress’ as:

1. advancement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.
2. the development of an individual or society in a direction considered superior to the previous level.
3. growth or development; continuous improvement: to show progress in muscular coordination.
4. forward or onward movement: the progress of the planets.

Look at number 2. Have we progressed to a stage considered superior to the previous level? I’d say so.

Looking at Singapore from the viewpoint of a tourist, in the past, a visitor could visit the Singapore Zoo (opened in 1973) or Jurong Bird Park (opened in 1971), Botanic Gardens, Singapore Crocodile Farm (closed), Jurong Reptile Park (closed) Sentosa (renamed Sentosa in 1970) and of course Orchard Road.

Now, there are so many other things to do besides those mentioned and then some. Even Orchard Road has changed so much. It’s fast becoming the Las Vegas Strip of South East Asia.

If you haven’t been to Singapore in the last 5 years, you really should come and visit again. Singapore is a vastly different place now. In fact, I recently went around Singapore like a tourist and I will post some photos soon, so be sure to look out for it.

*UPDATED* March 29, 2015

The past week has been an educational and humbling one. I learnt a lot about a very impressive man and his legacy.

On Monday, March 23, 2015, at 3.18pm, Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away.

He is quoted by many as the founder or father of modern Singapore. And while he was not the sole person responsible for the progress Singapore has made since our independence in 1965, if he were not the man he was, Singapore would most definitely be a very different Singapore.

I went across the Causeway for the weekend to spend some time with my boyfriend’s family. Why this weekend of all weekends you ask? Well, I had not been to Johor Bahru in months and even missed his grandfather’s birthday. My trip into JB with the boyfriend was long overdue.

But truth be told, my short 2 night stay in JB has all but made me realise even more how pivotal Mr Lee Kuan Yew was to the development and progress of this tiny island nation I call home.

While doing my Masters in Australia, I had classmates from all over the world. One of them, a Chinese national, once said to me, “You’re so lucky to be a Singaporean. It’s so easy for you to travel to anywhere in the world.” He proceeded to ask me if it was easy to become a Permanent Resident in Singapore. Looking back now, I understand why he wanted to be a Singaporean and envied me.

The above mentioned tourist attractions and growth aside, in just 50 years, Mr Lee Kuan Yew helped build a nation that is envied, successful, and still improving. He helped us progress from a third to first world country. And the amount of time he and his successors took to get us to where we are today is really quite impressive.

I suppose if Herb Brooks was the man responsible for USA’s Miracle On Ice, then Mr Lee Kuan Yew is Singapore’s Miracle Man. He defied expectations of Singapore’s failure and played a key role in making us what we are today.

And for that, thank you.

What do you think?
What is your take on the word ‘progress’? Have you been to Singapore before? If you’ve visited Singapore again recently, what is the biggest change here that impressed you or shocked you? What are you thoughts about the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew? How has his passing affected you? Did you ever meet him in person? What was he like? What are your thoughts about his role in shaping Singapore? Share with us your stories and experiences with him.

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