Bus driver is also an ambassador of Singapore

On Day 2, after a nice lunch, I returned to the hotel and went to sleep. I had got up early and there was some catching up to do. Once I had caught up, I started out for Queensway Shopping Centre around 6.30 PM.

I knew it was a long way away — about 7.5 kilometres. But the footpaths, like I said earlier, are meant for enjoying walking. It took me up to 45 minutes to cross the boundary of the Central Business District. Most of this part of the walk was along the Singapore river.

Once I moved away from the river, the residential areas began. The roads continued to be broad and the traffic rules were followed diligently. I don’t recollect seeing anyone break traffic rules. If it comes to that, every motorist gives preference to pedestrians.

I saw two school-going children, aged less than 10, crossing a road. They waited for the green light for pedestrians to cross. Once the light turned green, they crossed the road, busy in their conversation, not even finding it necessary to check for some wayward motorist.

There are no roadside shops. The residential complexes have their own shops and restaurants. Hence, you won’t see too many people walking on the streets carrying shopping bags or eating out of takeaway packs. Possibly the reason for there being no litter or plastic on the streets.

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There is a continuous stream of buses even though not all of them are packed. The continuous stream ensures people are not rushed. They don’t need personal vehicles to travel comfortably at a time of their choice.

I walked into the compound of one residential complex. The place was clean. There were play areas for children and a walkway for those who wished to walk.

I reached Queensway Shopping Centre around 9 PM. But, by the time I found 328 Katong Laksa, they had shut down for the day. I looked for my second option: Janggut Laksa. I got some good news and some bad news. The good news was they were open. The bad news was they had run out of Laksa. The helpful lady, a member of the staff, seemed sad to disappoint me. She asked if I wanted something else. After a bit of looking at the menu, I settled for chicken rice. I got a bowl of chicken curry and a small plate of rice. It was tasty. After walking close to 8 kilometres, I would have eaten anything, but, even then, this chicken rice was real tasty.

Most shopkeepers were shutting down for the day when I asked how I could get back to my hotel. I had decided that I would take the bus. All I needed was the number and a bus stop. The shopkeepers gave both.

The bus stop was across the road, but there was no question of crossing the road at random. I walked till I came to an overhead pedestrian crossing.

After crossing the road, I walked around the place for a bit before I went to the bus stop to catch my ride. I was told that the last bus was at 11.30 PM.

When I got into the bus, I told the driver — there is no conductor — that I did not have a smart card and offered to pay the fare in cash. He waved me towards the back of the bus. Once we got close to my hotel, I went up to him and asked him the fare. He asked me where I wanted to get off. At the destination, he opened the door even as I again asked him the fare. He just waved me off and told me to get down. He was serious throughout the conversation, but I think I caught a slight smile before he went back to his sombre self. Smile or no smile, I was bowled over by the gesture.

As I walked back towards my hotel, I picked up a souvenir for a colleague. Then, instead of the hotel, I went towards the bay. I had to pass by Makansutra Gluttons Bay. It had 11 stalls. And, these are called hawkers! There was seating in a common area. The place was not packed, but there was a good crowd.

I went to the promenade and sat there for a while, just soaking in the sight. The Marina Bay Sands was right in front and Merlion was to my right. What a sight! What a night!

As I walked back to my hotel, I stopped at the Makansutra. I got a beer and something else: lychee on ice. I didn’t like the lychee on ice. But it was good to just sit there and relax with a beer in hand.

Merlion seemed to be telling me gently that this was one day I should have taken more photographs.

Dhiraj Shetty

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