Some Hongkongers regard Singapore as a regional rival. They tend to judge how we fare as a city by comparing our standing with theirs in regional or global rankings.
In my case, I went to Singapore over the weekend just for a change of scenery. What can I say? Well, sometimes you just have to love the place. It looks like a better-managed city, it’s green and it’s smart.
Nowadays, we rarely see old folks taking their birds to dim sum restaurants – much of that tradition has gone after the bird flu. In Singapore, however, that practice is still very much alive at the Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club.
On a bright weekend morning, people take their birdcages to the park and send them up on poles as one would raise the national colors during a flag-raising ceremony.
We saw more than 100 seniors doing this morning ritual in An Mo Kio, Singapore’s answer to Li Cheng Uk Estate in Sham Shui Po.
After raising the birdcages up on the poles, they would sit on benches and wait for their songbirds to serenade them in the sky. It’s a quiet and cheerful way to start the day.
Then we went to a restaurant nearby to break our evening fast. Our waitress was an 80-year-old lady who was still sprightly for her age, although we had to raise our voice when giving our orders because she was a bit hard of hearing. I ordered a mug of coffee, two eggs and a toast, all for S$2.5 (HK$14.25, US$1.82).
For a more swanky atmosphere – and much better service – you can go to Galettes, a new Lady M-like café run by a group of millennial entrepreneurs. We had coffee and crepe cakes, and spent the entire afternoon chatting with friends.
We missed those days when conversations occupied our moments with family and friends. That was before smartphones and electronic games took over our lives.
You’ve also got to love Singapore for its traffic management efficiency. The electronic road pricing system, the digital signage along Orchard Road that tells motorists the number of vacant car spaces in shopping malls, and Grab (which took over Uber in this part of the world earlier this year) are reminders that Singapore is riding the crest of the tech revolution.
One retail outlet that I wish we have in Hong Kong is Honestbee, a homegrown startup which opened a multi-sensory grocery and dining destination in a 60,000 square foot warehouse in Pasir Panjang.
We checked in with a barcode, ordered beer through the app, and checked out without passing through a cashier. There’s a glimpse of the supermarket of the future.
Shops with no cashier or service staff are getting quite common in mainland China, but we still have to have a single outlet with that capability.
Our officials are now talking a lot about technology and innovation. We hope that would lead to something more concrete.
A visit to Singapore will tell us that we need to double our efforts, or we will be left behind.
– Contact us at [email protected]