Friday, March 09, 2007

Singapore Sightseeing

While in Singapore I had a short time for sightseeing and shopping. I loved the markets there, very vibrant and much more 'alive' than the many shopping malls. I did enjoy visiting Sim Lim Square where every imaginable piece of technology was available. The prices seemed to get cheaper the higher we went in the building.

We were in Singapore during Chinese new year celebrations and were fortunate to see one the major parades down Orchard Road. This was truly a spectacular event. People were sitting 3 deep on the road and had paid for this privilege. Those of us who had not paid got to stand at the back but still got a great view, if a little hot and crowded. The crowd was very well behaved but considering the armed police doing crowd-control this was not surprising.

We took a tour of the sites in a double decker bus which gave us a good view. The tour guides spent a lot of time telling us about how Singaporeans believe in racial harmony. Got to see the famous Raffles hotel but decided against a Raffles gin-sling for $21.

There were some real contrasts between the old and new parts of Singapore, the skyscrapers with the older buildings. Also between the markets and the huge shopping malls. Certainly an interesting place to visit.

Cambodia was a land of great contrasts. The divide between the haves and have-nots was very visible. We visited Siem Reap and though we were only there for a few days we were able to visit quite a few places. Tuk tuk was the preferred method of transport and the drivers were incredibly friendly and helpful, as were all the Cambodians we had contact with. The tuk tuk were powered by motorcycles and bicycles and motorcycles were the main mode of transport.

The markets were incredible places. We first visited the tourist market where bargaining was definitely the order of the day, I'm sure they artificially inflate the cost just so they can make the tourists feel like they have a bargain. Things were incredibly cheap with silk ties for $US1 and $US2 and t-shirts around $US2. Silk was sold for $USA4 a huge piece and silver jewellery sold by weight.

The markets where the locals shopped were an experience not to be missed. The smells are something I'm in no hurry to repeat. You could buy anything there, including petrol in whisky bottles, motorbikes alongside the fruit, cigarettes that were being made on the stall and cockroaches and grasshoppers by the basketful.

The sight of the meat and chicken lying in the hot sun, covered in flies was hard to take (and smell) as was the sight of live chickens tied together in bunches of four waiting to have their heads chopped off in the street. There were also large containers of fish flapping around in containers with little or no water. All in all an unforgettable experience.
I recently had the good fortune to be selected to attend the Microsoft Regional Innovative Teachers' Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia. On the way to Cambodia I went to Singapore visiting two schools there: Xingnan Primary and River Valley High. Xingnan Primary is experimenting with new modes of delivery for effective and engaged learning. They include the use of podcasts, video broadcasts, real-time or pre-recorded interviews/ programmes, and movie-making. They have a room permanently set up for blue-screen photography and broadcasting.
River Valley High is a school where the students are using laptops and tablet computers to improve outcomes for students. The picture on the left shows a Chinese language class where the tablets were being used for calligraphy. The students worked together in pairs on their tasks.
The school was conducting a lot of research into whether the use of ICT was having an effect on outcomes for students.
More photos from Singapore can be found on Flickr using the keywords Singapore, Xingnan and Rivervalley.