From ‘Pavilion a let-down for Garden City’, 3 Dec 2010, ST Forum
(Yeo Chee Kean): LAST month, I visited Taiwan with my family and went to the Taipei International Flora Exposition which has a section for individual country pavilions, very much like the World Expo, albeit on a smaller scale. Being a proud Singaporean, I looked around for the Singapore pavilion but could not find it.
So I checked the site map to locate it. That is when I realised we were standing right in front of it without even recognising it as it looked more like an empty garden with a few palm trees.
While the other pavilions had lots of visitors taking pictures, no one seemed to be interested in the Singapore garden. As I was taking a picture of my son in front of the Singapore pavilion, we were approached by an elderly Taiwanese visitor who asked whether we were from Singapore as we were the only ones taking pictures there.
We replied yes and added that we were disappointed with the pavilion. It was embarrassing when he said the word to describe it was ‘hopeless’.
I don’t understand why such a half-hearted effort was put into this project. Were there fund constraints or was it simple incompetence?
We pride ourselves as a Garden City and yet we cannot put up a decent display at an international floral expo. Even the flowers we are most famous for, the orchids, were nowhere to be found.
In fact, the best display of orchids was found in the Taiwan pavilion.
If this writer hadn’t first made a fuss about Singapore’s contribution to the Flora Expo, no one would have known such an event even exists. Although such patriotic gestures do serve to knock the complacency out of world exhibition organisers, it says a lot about the Singaporean tendency of playing ambassadorial inspectors and complaining about home affairs even when they’re on vacation and are supposed to be ‘away from it all’. It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant in New York, sampling ‘Singapore Hokkien Mee’, hating it for tasting nothing like the Hokkien Mee you know, and feeling like someone just burned the Singapore flag in your face. In any case, one does wonder if the jaded ‘Garden City’ epithet still holds these days (nobody comes here for ‘eco-tours’, think about it), the authenticity of which has been questioned in the Dr-Seus-ish alliterative letter below dated 10 April 1989, ST Forum. Looking at the strained attempts these days of even setting aside space for token, sanitised greenery, I figure it would be more appropriate to call Singapore a sprawling, constipated topiary rather than a title which stirs the illusionary image of ‘beautiful fluttering butterflies’ in a lush, fertile sun-kissed land of milk and honey.