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Hanna Butler Journeys

The in-between

SINGAPORE | Thursday, 21 June 2012 | Views [1772]

A man stops at the Indian temple in Chinatown. Puts down his briefcase, places his palms together and bowels to an elephant headed god. It’s a moment of quiet relief from rush hour on the footpath. The gaudy old temple flanked by mirrored skyscrapers stands taller with his attention. As he turns back onto the footpath I see he is Chinese.

This is Singapore. Diverse cultures, religions and ethnic groups living side by side all retaining their history and tradition, while surrounded by impressive modernity and technology.

Colonial founder of Singapore, Stamford Raffles, designated areas of the city for the different migrant groups. Today these areas still ooze their local flavour and continue to grow as new waves of migrant labour arrive.

Under the shadow of the CBD’s high rises Chinatown’s streets were saved from becoming office block and apartments. The old buildings home to original Chinese family clans, funky advertising agencies, boutique hotels, and karaoke bars. The Sultan Mosque marks the Arab quarter.  Sheesha pipes, Persian carpets and kebabs – it is a cliché, but it is all here in South East Asia. Little India is inexplicably India. It is as only India could be, loud, pungent and colourful.  The people, mainly Tamils from South India, talk in a language that resembles shouting. The original people of the land the Peranakans, once not recognised now share an equally important place in local heritage, with proud museums and restored original homes.

Towering above the ground are Singapore’s impressive buildings.  Below the ground is an equally impressive efficient high tech subway system that links and carry’s what lies between the sky and the ground. The in-between are diverse communities and people like the Chinese man at an Indian temple. 

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