Asia | South East Asia | Singapore – Chickens
I am looking at what I believe to be a chicken as it pecks at the lawn. I move in for a closer look, but the chicken disappears. I am caught in magic for a moment as the tree above me rains purple-pink flower petals all around me while a gentle breeze filters through its branches. I ask my hosts if the neighbour keeps chickens. The answer is yes. Here in suburban Singapore many families still keep chickens. Technically they are not allowed, but generally it is ignored. I have seen them in the neighbourhood, pecking at the sides of the roads and wandering about like stray dogs. Yes, here in the Singapore that is thought of as a huge technologic and commercial metropolis, people still keep chickens.
This is just one of the surprising things about Singapore. If you can force yourself out of the neon of the massive shopping districts, you can find immense diversity and beauty. Situated just north of the equator, Singapore is intensely tropical. Orchids, bougainvillea, lilies and hibiscus flower freely. Palms, ficus and beautiful trees flowering in a rainbow of colours are growing everywhere. Ferns and bromeliads bring new life to old dying trees by growing and feeding on the decaying trunks. Coulourful birds and butterflies, too many to count, fly through the air. All of this wonderful scenery can be found throughout Singapore, but for a large dose of it people can visit Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The reserve offers 164 hectares of fairly pristine jungle to wander through. Yes, there is more to Singapore than the concrete jungle that lies at its heart blasting cold air-conditioned wind onto the sidewalks with every opening door.
Another surprising thing here are the fierce and fleeting storms. They begin with the darkening of the sky and a far off rumble. The rumble slowly get closer and louder, like the low growl of a wild cat on the prowl. Suddenly, with a loud crack, the storm is upon you. Raindrops fall hard and heavy. Lightning streaks across the sky like electric lace. It seems so close you could swear the hairs on your arms stand on end toward the current. The thunder becomes deafening and the rain falls even heavier. In the city streets, most everyone dashes into the shops for cover. At home we sit safe and dry beneath the over hanging roof watching the wonder of it all. Usually, sooner than later, the storm moves on its way leaving everything moist and lush. The intense greenery begins to glisten in the returning sunshine.
Singapore’s surprising diversity does not end with the flora, fauna and weather. It continues with the people as well. The ethnic make-up of Singapore is Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and others (Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc ). There are also 4 official languages. They are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Singapore is the most ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse nation, short of the USA, that I have ever visited. The difference from the USA, and other places, is that here people respect each other’s customs and beliefs. Colourful Hindu temples sit beside equally impressive Buddhist temples. Various Christian churches are scattered throughout the city and a Jewish synagogue sits just one street over from an Islamic mosque.
To the east of the city centre lie various ethnic quarters. Arab street offers a vast array of colourful silk materials and products. Chinatown has pagodas, temples and excellent food. There is also Little India which is swimming in the scent of aromatic spices as vendors sell everything from trinket boxes to tasty curry dishes. Visitors should obtain a free copy of Singapore’s Official Guide, available in the airport. The guide includes all the information and maps one needs to navigate successfully through this grand city.