When you arrive in Singapore, there's no question you're in Singapore.
It's like seeing a future vision of New York, London and Los Angeles all in one city -- but with a lot more English spoken.
What is overwhelming -- particularly after Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand -- is that it is so clean. Uncommonly clean. Spanky clean.
It's as if someone has swept all the cobwebs from your brain and given you a Xanax at the same time. Clean is restful. There's no doubt about it. To go from places that make you weep for the earth like this:
is very comforting.
Respect for public property and public space is taken very seriously in Singapore. Vandalism is abhorred. Litter is almost nonexistent.
There are rules; lots of rules and most of them seem to be followed.
You must not chew or possess gum without a doctor's prescription. It used to be outlawed altogether, but Wrigley persuaded the government to allow medicinal gum. The result is sidewalks are not pock marked with black and white spots like the ones you see in London and New York.
You must not leave a public toilet without flushing. Common sense, right? But here the toilets are checked and fines are imposed on those who forget. I've been told that there are urine detection devices in many of the public elevators. Who among us hasn't wished for that at times?
You must not litter. This is a big one. A first time offender can now be fined up to $2,000; $4,000 for a second-time offender with required public service. If you are caught a third time, you are to wear a sign saying, "I am a litter lout."
You must not spit or throw cigarette butts in the street. This comes as a huge relief after traveling among throngs of Chinese tourists in Vietnam and Cambodia.
This is a photo of mine taken in the Singapore subway.
This is an old New York subway car:
I'm not making a statement about wildly rich benign dictatorships here. I'm only reporting what we saw. I'd be very sad if Bansky had never existed. And there are some very bad laws in Singapore. For example, nudity (which includes walking naked in front of your own bedroom window) and gay sex are illegal (though gay friends of ours said that these laws were not enforced).
I'm just saying there is something really nice about cleanliness. I grew up in a house where my mother had painted "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" on our laundry room wall. What I think she wanted to write was in this house "cleanliness is next to impossible."
She would have loved Singapore.