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  • i'm in southeast asia with my 1913 bradshaw's  handbook published at the height of european  

  • imperialism my 100 year old guy book will  leave me on a railway adventure through  

  • archipelagos and peninsulas dotted  with hills forests and paddy fields  

  • i'll tour towering mega cities and magnificent  mosques i'll encounter golden buddhas and jewelled  

  • temples and experience some of the world's most  spectacular and notorious railways as i travel  

  • through the diverse nations of this vast region  i'll learn how they asserted their independence  

  • against the british french and dutch empires to  become the economic tigers and dragons of today

  • my two and a half thousand mile journey  through southeast asia concludes in singapore  

  • the only sovereign island city-state once  britain's most successful colonial invention  

  • and today one of the world's  most prosperous countries

  • i began in the central business district  before exploring the port of tuas  

  • the historic neighborhood  of chinatown and marina bay  

  • on this leg i'll travel to the district of  little india and visit the southern island of  

  • sentosa before returning to the city centre and  boat key on my travels i'll explore the world's  

  • biggest subterranean train depot this looks  like an underground city of skyscrapers enjoy  

  • the latest developments in urban farming  here's to singapore's food self-sufficiency  

  • relationship and revisit one of britain's most  humiliating military defeats they were very very  

  • experienced in jungle warfare people were called  unawares and so the city fell in just one week

  • please do not mean against this morning i'm  heading six miles northeast of the center  

  • to the district of taisen i want to get the  inside track on the train network that's  

  • carried me around the island the singapore  mass rapid transit is a very extensive system  

  • i was astonished to discover that it began  operations only in 1987 that's more than 120  

  • years later the my city london it runs partly over  ground partly underground no surprise there but  

  • in a crowded and environmentally conscious island  there's no limit to the subterranean possibilities  

  • at this vast nerve center i'm meeting group  director yi boon chao good morning michael buncha  

  • welcome to the world's largest underground  depot thank you very much see you please  

  • thank you this massive operation supporting  three of the network's main lines lies 75 feet  

  • below street level why did you feel you needed  to build the world's largest underground depot  

  • we are a small country land is scarce so we have  to find innovative ways of making full use of  

  • our land that we have so one way is to build  infrastructure underground so that we can free  

  • up space above ground for future development  what sort of operations do you do with the  

  • trains here the size of this deadpool is about 17  football fields we have 10 maintenance tracks we  

  • do maintenance on the trains and we also check the  planes every day here before we launch the trains  

  • out and these trains are fully automated they  do not require a driver these trains are fully  

  • automated we just need to send a command from the  control center to the train remotely the train  

  • will wake up by itself check itself and uh prepare  yourself for the launching and why did you move  

  • to automated trains since 2003 we started this  journey to having fully automated lines because  

  • we anticipated there will be a manpower crunch  in singapore and we are thinking of how how to  

  • operate and martin lights with black manpower  we also know that most of the incidents that  

  • happens on the metros is because of human errors  so by having fully automated lines it's so safer  

  • for the operations so would you intend to have  uh fully automated trains all over the system  

  • one day in fact all alliance after 2003 is fully  automated only two lines that were still men with  

  • drivers are the north south and east west line but  actually the drivers are there more to recover the  

  • trains if there's a problem they actually  don't operate the trains anymore when it's  

  • running normally the network is already extensive  stretching for 142 miles around the island with  

  • 139 stations and it continues to expand with  a further 80 miles of track planned by 2030.  

  • you want to get people out of cars onto trains  yes because in singapore we started to notice  

  • the roads are getting more congested and so by  expanding our real network we can encourage people  

  • to take the trains to go to the places they  want to go instead of driving their cars this  

  • depot's driverless trains are serviced by a giant  computerized warehouse towering 75 feet above us  

  • it holds around 000 boxes of parts and spares  which are this looks like an underground city of  

  • skyscrapers what is this thing this is  our automatic storage and retrieval system  

  • is the largest underground system that we have  in singapore i can believe that hello my name's  

  • michael great pleasure to see you you just dial up  here and you get whichever part you want yes yes  

  • so now the machine is starting to  retrieve and the retriever is way up high  

  • and this rushes towards us on a kind  of monorail it's very fast isn't it

  • and here's your box say yeshope it's the one you wanted

  • traveling back towards the city center the  next stop on my tour will be a district known  

  • as little india bradshaw's tells me  that in 1911 the population of singapore  

  • included 220 000 chinese 40 000 malays  and more surprisingly 27 500 indians  

  • the british monarch styled himself the emperor  of india and whether his imperial subjects were  

  • flattered or not quite a large number of them  have pitched up here by one means or another

  • this neighborhood which fans out from  the main serangoon road with its temples  

  • markets and traditional craft businesses is  strongly evocative of india colours to die for

  • mr jaya selvam has been making flower garlands  here for over 30 years hello silvadon my name  

  • is michael may i join you for a moment sure  definitely that's beautiful work you're doing  

  • there what are these garlands used for normally  to honor people and special guests to welcome them  

  • weddings even like going to prayers in  temple everything you need flowers and  

  • at the moment you're working with orchids  yeah this is orchid our national flowers  

  • and let me see how you do your knots just one  loop on the down and the other two on the top  

  • just pull the string you got a knot once  you master the skill you are the king of it  

  • thank you very much the national flower of  singapore sure thank you sir thank you very much

  • i'd like to hear more about the history of this  community from professor brian farrell brian  

  • was a quarter within singapore for the indians  planned by the british they didn't set aside a  

  • specific community for south asians because in the  earliest years in the 1820s they were a negligible  

  • community the old guidebook tells me that in  1911 there were 27 and a half thousand indians  

  • in singapore quite a high number why were there  so many where did they come from well i think  

  • the big influx was in the middle of the 19th  century when a lot of them were brought over  

  • as convict laborers to literally build the place  i didn't know that singapore had been used as a  

  • penal colony how did it compare for columbus with  australia these were people who were serving out  

  • sentences of finite terms so they weren't sent  here to settle in most cases it seems as if no  

  • one could be bothered to ship them home but  singapore's booming freeport attracted many  

  • more from diverse regions of india there wasfairly steady trickle all along the way from the  

  • regions that are now bangladesh and east india the  punjabi muslim community in there as well people  

  • who came here to do business those who had already  established money lending networks international  

  • financing shipping serangoon road is one of  the major roads leading out of town along which  

  • development tended to grow and there was a drift  of the south asian community in this direction  

  • today indians are the third biggest ethnic group  here after the chinese and the indigenous malays  

  • making up nine percent of the population they  are among the most singaporean of singaporeans  

  • they remain diverse within themselves a healthy  tamil a majority to be sure but there are also  

  • muslim and sikh punjabi contingents and they've  made a disproportionate contribution in many many  

  • ways in the police and the armed forces  in government in the business community  

  • i would say that they have done very  well here and are well at home here

  • at the far south of singapore  i'm taking to the skies

  • this cable car is carrying me across the island of  sentosa which is now noted for its amusement parks  

  • but all the light at celoso which at the time of  my guidebook was of great strategic importance

  • fort siloso was built in the 1880s  

  • and sits on sentosa's northwestern  tip overlooking the singapore strait

  • the harbour works says bradshaw's are defended  by several forts with some powerful guns  

  • and submarine mines although japan had been  britain's ally during the first world war  

  • defending the indian and pacific oceans  against germany when he invaded manchuria  

  • in 1931 singapore feared the worst  and built bigger guns but they faced  

  • towards the sea and were of limited value  when japan overran malaya and invaded  

  • from the north singapore fell in february 1942  one of britain's worst ever military disasters

  • to understand how events unfolded here i'm meeting  author karen hoisington karen how do the japanese  

  • forces succeed in reaching singapore i think  there's only one word for the strategy which  

  • is surprise yeah four o'clock in the morning  the japanese bombers came through to malaya and  

  • came into a brightly lit singapore bombing was so  easy and they'd catch the singaporeans unprepared

  • britain believed that her strategic possession  and foremost naval base singapore was impregnable  

  • the british of course had all the guns facing  this side but they actually were coming in from  

  • the mangrove swamps on the north west one  of the things that is hard for me to grasp  

  • is that in those days a good chunk of singapore  was actually jungle then yes it was very much so  

  • they were very very experienced in jungle warfare  people were called unawares and so the city fell  

  • in just one week what did the japanese forces do  to the population when they took over there was a  

  • tremendous massacre they were targeting mostly the  chinese people because of the animosity with china  

  • the chinese were put in concentration  camps to be massacred in mass graves  

  • karen's relative elizabeth choi was working in  a hospital along with her husband she risked her  

  • life to help the allied troops incarcerated in  singapore's changi prison she helped those pows  

  • in changi with medicines they were starving a lot  of tropical diseases every time an ambulance would  

  • come with an ailing pow when the ambulance went  back she would put a little package of medicines  

  • tucked into the ambulance later on it was  discovered that they could send cash and letters  

  • any parcels from loved ones out  there or people wanting to help them  

  • but elizabeth was arrested by japanese military  police in 1943 she was incarcerated for 193 days  

  • there were 20 of them in one small  cell and she was the only woman there  

  • during her imprisonment was she mistreated she  was electrocuted several times she was had the  

  • water treatment she was slapped and beaten  but every time when they had finished with  

  • her she would go back to the cell with her  head held high you know keeping her dignity  

  • it's estimated that up to 50  000 singaporeans were killed  

  • during the occupation following japan surrender  in 1945 elizabeth received an obe for her bravery  

  • when singapore was given back to the british  she was invited by lady mountbatten to come  

  • and witness the surrender she was invited to  recuperate in london and she was even invited  

  • to the coronation of queen letters both in 1953  so i think the british showed immense gratitude  

  • it's a it's a wonderful story  thank you she's a wonderful lady

  • it's my last day in singapore and  in the heart of the financial center  

  • i'm intrigued to discover  a splendid old market hall

  • my brothers refers to perambulating restaurants  and talks about an excellent market daily for  

  • tropical fruit strange fish and green turtle  and those two ideas come together in this place  

  • which is known as a hawker center or a food  port this one actually dates from the 19th  

  • century there are lots in singapore  there's common seating in the middle  

  • and all the way around the perimeter there  are competing food outlets selling singaporean  

  • favorite dishes at modest prices is popular  with everyone including city bosses i'm meeting  

  • up with regular diner tan boon jin who's chief  executive of singapore's stock exchange regulator  

  • brunjie and i'm thinking amongst all these  towering skyscrapers it is amazing that this  

  • victorian hawker center has survived yes this  place is called laupassad which means uh old  

  • market it's an amazing juxtaposition as well  because here you have the old physical market  

  • and just next door is the singapore exchange  where i work which is the financial marketplace  

  • um tell me about the singapore exchange you're  listing singapore equities but also forum ones  

  • that's right so we are the most international  exchange in the world 40 of our listings are  

  • actually international listings i'm usingskype which is 100 years old and at this time  

  • the port was the source of singapore's wealth yes  indeed so we have been busy reinventing ourselves  

  • from a free port to a manufacturing hub and  today a financial services center today our  

  • assets under management here in singapore is  2 trillion u.s dollars and our gdp per capita  

  • back in 1965 when we were first independent was  500 us dollars and today it is 55 000 us dollars  

  • 55 000 percent 5 000 yes that is impressive and  yet despite the giddy heights to which you have  

  • risen you still pop in some time to the old  hawker center nothing beats the coffee here just

  • i'm traveling eight miles north to  the residential area of angmo kyo  

  • in this country which is less than half the size  of greater london space is at a premium could  

  • the island's future growth be up in the air  i'm visiting one of a new generation of urban  

  • farms part of a government-backed drive to feed  the nation go we ho is director of food supply  

  • strategies at the singapore food agency we have  the fact that singapore imports the vast majority  

  • of its food is that a problem um we import more  than 90 percent of our food but going forward we  

  • want to try to raise our local production very  substantially recently we announced that we're  

  • going to try to grow as much as 30 percent of  our nutritional needs locally by the year 2030.  

  • how are you going to do that you don't have much  land exactly so in singapore we're a very small  

  • country so the land that we have available  set aside for agriculture is actually only  

  • less than one percent but we think it is possible  using technology this being singapore i knew that  

  • technology would come into it somewhere technology  already enables us to produce 10 to 15 times more  

  • compared to traditional farms today so you have  indoor led lighting type vegetable farms you have  

  • recirculating aquaculture systems top fish farms  all of these can produce 10 to 15 more compared  

  • to conventional vegetables and vegetables and  fish farms today the government is spending  

  • 63 million singaporean dollars on advanced  farming systems danielle chan of city ponix  

  • is the co-founder of this one on a carpark  roof danielle this is the strangest thing  

  • i ever saw lettuce is growing in what look like  drain pipes filled with pellets what's going on  

  • this brewing system here is actually our aqua  organic system using vertical growing tubings  

  • to grow up to 25 different types of vegetable  species so currently what you see here is our  

  • geogeneal lattices now you talked about aqua  so does that mean that water is moving through  

  • these tubes yes it's actually able to filtrate the  water as well as provide nutrients this moving of  

  • water actually has one very good effect for our  growing system you want to take a guess at that  

  • you tell me okay so this actually prevents  mosquito from breeding which is very very crucial  

  • when you're growing uh vegetables in an urban  area like this oh yeah absolutely now presumably  

  • this is much more efficient than sticking them in  the ground the amount of produce and harvest we  

  • had is actually up to 70 more than uh traditional  methods of growing we have the capacity to grow up  

  • to about four tons every month four tons yes four  tons of vegetables every month that is extreme yes  

  • and why would you do it on a car park roof if you  look at singapore we are actually going car light  

  • a lot of the multi-story cars in singapore all  these are underutilized well i'm very impressed  

  • by the technology does it taste any good how  about you try it wow what a beautiful display  

  • okay you take a piece of green and then you take  a scoop of all this berries whatever you like  

  • a bit of yeah this is honey honey dressing wrap  it up here's to singapore's food self-sufficiency

  • delicious fresh from the farm  yes oh i'm having another

  • at the time of my guidebook just over a century  ago singapore was still a colonial outpost  

  • run for the benefit of britain its journey  to independence was both rapid and remarkable

  • in 1959 singapore had a population of about one  and a half million it was largely swamp and jungle  

  • it was plagued by poverty unemployment slums  gangs opium and racial tensions but in that  

  • year a singaporean who graduated brilliantly in  law from cambridge became prime minister his name  

  • was lee kuan yew today singapore is one of the  world's wealthiest and most orderly countries

  • to understand how this man credited as the  founder of modern singapore shaped the nation  

  • i'm meeting associate professor alan chong alan  what an enormous pleasure thank you thank you um  

  • lee kuan yew given his age must have experienced  the japanese occupation of singapore what impact  

  • did that have on him if you read his memoirs  it was a life-changing experience you might  

  • say it was even an era in which he came of age  lee kuan yew was among the privileged few with  

  • enough finance from the family office to be sent  to the uk he ended up in cambridge that's where  

  • you know his political sensitivities are further  honed in terms of his networking with like-minded  

  • fellow colonial subjects or nationalist leaders  to be you start developing your ideas as to how  

  • colonialism needs to be pushed back as singapore  with malaya is moving towards independence what  

  • role does lee kuan yew play lee kuan yew was  the agitator extraordinaire he was a first-class  

  • one-man propagandist he knew how to cut his  sentences to grab people by the college in 1954  

  • lee founded the people's action party and five  years later when the british granted singapore a  

  • large degree of self-rule he was elected its first  prime minister with a landslide victory when he  

  • became prime minister in 1959 what ideas did he  have to push the british out you have to preach  

  • some kind of gospel of equality you have to  mobilize not only different ethnicities who  

  • are pitted against one another by the japanese  but also tuned to the nationalist propaganda from  

  • their respective mother countries and lee kuan  yew it had to maneuver to patch all this together  

  • into a viable notion of nationhood the idea of one  people regardless of wasteland religion singapore  

  • became an independent sovereign state in 1965. lee  began an ambitious program of industrialization  

  • offering incentives to foreign companies  and providing government subsidised housing