Sale season in Singapore

Shopping is a national past time in Singapore. It is so popular, that the country celebrates a major sale twice a year. When June arrives, it is time for the Great Singapore Sale. Retailers from every industry will cut prices to encourage shoppers to spend. This year, sale season started with the Singapore Consumer Electronics Expo at Suntec city convention centre.

Spread out over three days, and hosted in one of the largest conferencing facilities in Singapore, this is one of the most popular major retail events in the season. By the time I arrived there at 2p.m., the floor was packed with shoppers looking for bargains.

They were a few very attractive deals going. The one that really caught my I was in Microsoft surface pro for that was fully speced out going for SG$2,458. That’s $400 below regular retail price. I didn’t see any drones on offer, which was a bit disappointing for me.

Last year, I picked up a robot vacuum there for about $300 less than retail price, and my DJI Osmo for $200 under retail price.

The Singapore Consumer Electronics Expo is a great opportunity for buyers to pick up a great deal. Your biggest challenge will be working your way through the crowds. If you’re in Singapore at this time, I highly recommend visiting.

Scenes from the Singapore MRT

Coming from Melbourne and living in the inner city, I’ve never really used the train system. I lived in the free tram zone and got around easily on trams whenever I commuted, or drove whenever it was a little farther off.

Life in Singapore is a bit different. For a start, a vehicle is ridiculously expensive, and perhaps somewhat impractical for an expat. But more to the point, unless you’re regularly ferrying children around town to extra curriculars or have a job that requires you to get around quickly, having a vehicle in this city is somewhat of a liability, especially given that they have such a super-efficient mass transit system.

Singapore’s MRT has six primary lines – an east-west line, a north-south line, a circle line, a north-east line, a downtown-line and an east-coast line. Trains here are as frequent as two or three minutes apart. They are generally automatically driven (they do not have train drivers) and are all underground in the inner city area (although they do surface in the outer suburbs). Platforms at the stations all have safety barriers (sometimes referred to as suicide stoppers in certain parts of the world).

The stations and the trains are impeccably clean. They do not permit eating and drinking on the train or on the railway premises. This includes water from your own water bottle. (I have witnessed a young man being ushered not to drink from his water bottle by a co-passenger – a conversation that ended without any drama). There is surprisingly little seating within the carriages, which allows for plenty of room for commuters to stand.

As the trains pull up into a station, an announcement can be heard over the PA system that sounds something like “Happy happy!” to the untrained ear. It threw me for a loop for the first few days until I realised that what they’re really saying is “Berhati hati di ruang platform” – Malay for “Please mind the gap between the platform”.

Singapore’s authorities do a lot to repeat a lot of messages that have a social impact on society. This set of posters is something that I have seen at a few MRT stations which I found very touching. They touch upon single fathers and children being raised by single parents. I feel that it is fair to say that single fathers rarely get much consideration when they take on the role of primary caregiver as well as being the breadwinner. This is the first campaign of this nature that I have personally seen anywhere in the world and got me thinking about how societies are adapting to the changing face of family structures.

Some of the messages inside the carriages are quite empathetic. This series of messages inside a train compartment on the north-south line brought a smile to my face, and gave me a sense that humanity still exists in the world. The messages touch upon being mindful, and not taking out frustrations on innocent strangers, colleagues or loved ones. Once again, I am yet to see similar messages like that anywhere else in the world. (The young man in the foreground was not aware that he was in this image. He appeared to have finished work on Friday and was either making his way home, or heading off to catch up with friends. He was busy looking at his phone when I took this shot).

The MRT does lead to some fun places. The Chinatown MRT leads to Pagoda Street and the Tintin shop. Tintin was a big part of my childhood and has remained a part of my adulthood too! The store has a changed a bit since my visit in 2013.

Smart City Solutions for the Aged

Singapore has ambitions of becoming the world’s first true smart city. This is evident from the things that one experiences in everyday life here. Its mass transit system operates off a single unified electronic ticketing system that provides feedback to its infrastructure planning department on how many people use a particular route at a particular time so that they can optimise services to ensure that its citizens have a comfortable ride. Its immigration system offer a seamless process of scanning your passport and fingerprint at electronic turnstiles for all Singaporean nationals, permanent residents and long term pass holders. All its residents are issued a national ID which is associated with all their government services.

A few nights ago, I ventured out and saw this at a crossing which really impressed the thought that has gone behind this. Singapore issues senior citizens with a concession card. Holders of these cards can swipe them against a scanner at pedestrian crossings on major roads when they push the button to cross. This triggers the system to allow a longer crossing time to allow the elderly and mobility restricted a little extra time to safely cross the road.

How’s that for empathy for people who really need it?

The Haze

I had heard about it. I had read about it. I had never really seen or experienced it myself. One of the reasons that I chose to move to Singapore as a destination in Asia was because it offered a generally clean and unpolluted atmosphere. Every year, that changes for a few weeks when there are crop fields set ablaze in Indonesia.

Continue reading “The Haze”