Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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I've heard Singapore described as a "mall culture" before, but I didn't really understand what that meant until I went there. This picture is taken in one of the innumerable halls of Suntec City - an incredibly huge mall built by combining five very large malls around a huge fountain (which is, of course, the largest fountain in the world). Suntec City is across the street from another gigantic mall, perhaps as big as any I've seen in the US (excepting the Mall of America, perhaps, though I haven't seen it). And as if this wasn't enough, they've just built another large mall, which is also home to an opera house and theatre complex. But wait, there's more! That's right, for the price of three malls we'll toss in a fourth mall *free*. Because these three malls are all surrounding a major intersection, of course spanning the malls underneath the roadbed is a fourth mall (Citylink) that is again, as big as any other mall I've seen but snaking out in a winding path that is disconcerting to the extreme. All in all, once you enter one mall you can walk for literally hours, up and down escalators, sometimes high above the roadbed and other times far below, but always surrounded by expensive clothing and convenient cafes. Naturally, I opted for the cafes.
Oh, and in case you're still not convinced of the "mall culture", don't forget that the rest of the city is filled with literally dozens, maybe even hundreds of mall complexes, each perhaps the size of a city block and three to five stories tall. It's simply incredible how much shopping can in the constrained area of downtown Singapore.

Gracing the atrium of the newly-commissioned mall/opera-house/theatre is a collection of all the flags of the world. But this collection isn't quite like any other. Indeed, what's special about this one is that it's constructed entirely out of human hair. That's right, hair salons from all over the world contributed their discarded split ends to this monument to creative deficiencies.
Though it seems like a strange addition to a shopping mall, in the middle of a courtyard was a fun fountain set flush with the ground, welcoming kids into the mix. Four high-precision spigots played out a choreographed water dance, colliding in mid-air in an impressive spectacle. However, the real fun was watching the very wet children who invented a hundred games to exploit the cool streams and hot humidity.
Because you can never have enough, even if you're a tiny island nation, Singapore opened a huge new mall while I was in town. This mall, which also has an opera house and theatre, houses a large and modern public library, adjoining which is a nice cafe called Art Digest. I'd come there a few times to enjoy their comfortable seating and nice atmosphere, and when I finally decided to take some pictures I was watched carefully by the man in the foreground. After I sat back down we struck up a nice conversation about modern Singapore, and he started talking about how he though Singapore was really doing very well and how the stereotype of Singapore being a politically repressed country were overblown. Though there is only one real political party, he said that anybody is free to talk about politics and criticize however they like. He did admit that things were much more strict back in the day, but that over time control over the press has loosened and that now it's really pretty good. I don't have any way... [more]

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