One of the great things about Singapore is that it never does anything by halves. The same super obsessed dedication it applies to its education system shows up in just about every other aspect of life on this 50-year old island.
The other day, as we were zooming down Bukit Timah Road in a taxi towards Violet Oon’s restaurant, my friend Sasha who is visiting from London said, “I love Singapore. I can’t remember the last time I took a taxi in London. It’s so expensive there!”
“They’re building a string of MRT stations along this road,” I told her.
“I know! In London, they’ve closed Bond Street Station for a year because they have to replace one escalator! Replace. An existing escalator,” Sasha was at pains to emphasise. “They’re not digging a new hole. It’s so sad that I’m not even joking!”
“This whole line will all be done by lunchtime!”
Sasah glowed with pride. “Did you know that I landed at Changi, went through immigration, collected my bags, got into a taxi and was sitting down to dinner at home in forty minutes? How amazing is that? In London, I’d still be in the immigration queue! I don’t know why my friends are always whingeing on Facebook about how bad Singapore is. I wish I could move back here!”
“So why don’t you?” I asked.
“Aiyoh, my stupid ang-moh husband and children, lah!” Sasha sighed.
Later at Violet’s restaurant, Sharyn pointed a fork heavy with beef rendang at Sasha and said, “Who ask you to mare-ly ang-moh?”
“That’s what happens when you fall in love, Sharyn! You marry!” Saffy said.
“What love! I mare-ly my husband because we want to get a flat and get away from my siow mudder-in-law!”
“Really?” Sasha asked.
“Abuden? You think, what?”
Later, after lunch, as we were waiting in line to get into the S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa, Sasha said she loved how practical Sharyn was. “She’s a classic example of how this country has become what it has!”
“I hope we stay ahead of that busload of Mainland Chinese tourists that just showed up!” Saffy murmured.
“You are such a drama queen!” Amanda said, applying a fresh coat of lipstick to her already impeccably defined lips.
Saffy’s chest puffed up to a dangerous volume. “Seriously, if I get shoved one more time like when we went to the Night Safari, there will be a major international incident in front of the shark tank! I’m not kidding!” Over the top of her sunglasses, she glared at the approaching gaggle of enthusiastic tourists following the tour leader who was holding up a ragged folded umbrella and urging them all, according to my rusty Mandarin, to stay close.
Inside the comforting gloom of the aquarium, the spectacle of gloriously coloured fish unfolded in one sensational burst after another.
“This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” Sasha said, standing in front of a vitrine crowded with bobbing jellyfish that changed colour.
“This is the world’s biggest aquarium!” I was quick to point out.
“Why are there so many hot ang-mohs in here today?” Saffy said.
“Don’t you just love Singapore?” Sasha sighed, though no one was quite sure whether she was referring to the multi-million dollar aqua complex or the tousled blonde hunk currently posing for a selfie in front of the coral reef exhibit.
“Don’t push!” Saffy told a ten-year old boy who was trying to elbow his way in front of her to get to the clown fish display. “Wait your turn!”
Out of the soft blaze of shifting colours, Amanda emerged like a vision. “Where are the dugongs?” she asked. “I thought there’d be dugongs here!”
Saffy’s stare cut right through Amanda’s radiance. “Seriously?”
Amanda blinked. “What?”
“Dugongs aren’t fish!”
“This is an aquarium!”
Amanda paused. “Oh.” She regrouped quickly. “So where are the dugongs then?”
“They’re at the River Safari!”
“God, I knew we should have gotten the multi-venue pass!” Amanda sighed. She cast her eye around the water tanks and caught the attention of the blonde guy. Amanda turned on her best smize before drifting over towards him on an apparently random course to inspect the Alaskan King Crab.
“If she comes back with his phone number, I am going to be violently ill!” Saffy threatened.
“Don’t you have a boyfriend?” Sasha asked.
“Yes, but I’m allowed to be petty!” Saffy said, her eyes still narrowed. By now, Amanda had started chatting to Blondie. “Honestly, where did he come from? I never see men like that in Toa Payoh! He looks like an Abercrombie model!”
“I miss being single,” Sasha murmured.
“Oh my God, are they exchanging phone numbers?”