Geneva of Asia

Trip Start Aug 01, 2010
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Flag of Singapore  ,
Monday, December 27, 2010

It is like a dream city, oops sorry dream country. It's really small but so wealthy. If Disneyland is for children then Singapore is for grown-ups. There are no poor areas or homeless people. People are well dressed and their manners are polite. Apparently, the unemployment rate is only 2%. The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-Of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world. Singapore claimed the title of fastest-growing economy in the world, with GDP growth of 17.9% in the first half of 2010.

Don’t even dream coming here without a loaded wallet. Even with quite a fair budget that we had allocated for the Singapore visit, we swallowed our 8 pound pints with careful passion. It is possible to find decently priced food though, mainly in Chinese and Indian food courts (from 4 to 10). It is still a bit of a shock after the 'real’ South East Asia’s happy prices.

We do not include Singapore in South East Asia. It is way too developed and perfect. Even more enhanced than London. Anywhere we go we find beautiful city or park or island views. There is no dirty or dark corner. We even allow ourselves for the first time in our trip to return to our hostel after 1am. It feels really safe in Singapore. That’s probably due to the strict law system.

If police catches you feeding monkeys you will pay 250 first time, 20,500 second time and third – a prison sentence if you still haven’t had enough. Other overly strict rules are the ban on chewing gums in the country. Guess what? The penalty for smuggling gum into the country is one year in jail, and a 5,000 fine. Littering is extremely embarrassing if you’re caught. Anyone caught littering in Singapore’s streets will be issued a Corrective Work Order (CWO). That means having to wear a CWO jacket and being made to sweep public roads or clean up litter as a form of community service.

We are staying in a newly open hostel that has the comfiest mattresses ever! It is called Pillows and Toast. Their pillows are amazing too. Although in 10 bed dorm we slept really well. All the usual traveller frills and the fresh and spotless facilities really make us feel like posh backpackers.

Our hostel is located very conveniently in the centre of China town and not far from Little India and Kampong Glam (Muslim quarter), so we get to explore those first. Beautiful architecture, very clean buildings, and tidy and well presented eateries make Singapore a perfect place for tourists to enjoy the cultural cocktail of Asia. Not big fans of Indian food we decide to be adventurous and try out local Indian specialities. To our surprise we totally love it! Many other dishes we try later are truthfully tasty and we hardly see any western eateries. We are proud to mention we did not have any western meal during our stay in Singapore (well, apart from one naughty hiccup when Rudi had to say hello to Ronald).

One thing to mention about food court – there are no napkins/serviettes. We don’t understand why! You can get them normally in the fruit and desert stall but you have to pay 0.40 cents. That’s not nice! And also quite often the advertised meal on the picture does not reflect the exact ingredients that we find in our plate.

A very elegant area is the riverside of the Singapore River, it is the commercial and nightlife centre. Unfortunately, due to lack of time we shortly visit this area during one evening. We see a huge pub that brews the beer literarily behind the bar. Their pricing system is amusing, if you come during the day a pint of beer will cost you only 2.5, then every hour it will increase to finally being 8. Of course we paid the highest.

The cultural hub of the city is Marina Bay. It is surrounded with many artistic venues and then toped up with a bunch of skyscrapers that decorate this cosmopolitan country. One astonishing building at the Marina Bay that stands out in any modern architectural design is the Sands Sky Park. It floats atop the three soaring Marina Bay Sands hotel towers 200m in the sky. The complex is topped by a 340m-long sky park with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m infinity swimming pool (vanishing edge pool), set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67m. The swimming is only for the hotel’s guests but we are free to wander around and feel like in a movie. Judge yourself from the pictures. Totally unreal!!

Marina Bay is also the place where we celebrate the New Year 2011. There is a live concert in the esplanade and gorgeous light projections on the wish balls. Wish ball is every Singaporean opportunity to write their New Year wish on a white plastic ball filled with air and later attached to a net that is floating above Marina Bay waters. The colourful lights make the 1000s of wishes bring a really magical New Year atmosphere.

It is interesting how in Europe New Years eve is not imaginable without Champagne or at least some sort of alcoholic beverage. Here Rudi and Agi were the only freaks that have brought a whole bar with them. The bar consists of various layers of plastic bags filled with a lot of ice and booze (beers and one bottle of Champagne). We do get a few looks but overall it’s fine. At least we didn’t get arrested.

The New Years evening was well organised, not too crowded. Although, the 8 minute firework display was wrapped up in smoke after the first few shots. It was actually nice to have civilised crowed that (not like in London) tries to hurt you or prove who is the coolest hoody in the town.

To get around the city we mainly use metro which is fast and well planned. We hardly see any adverts in the metro unlike other cities we’ve visited. The single journey ticket is a bit of a pain. Every time we purchase it we have to refund the card’s value back at the end of the journey. We have to go to the ticket machines and once we have inserted our magnetic ticket we get $1 refund.

We see very few adverts and almost no graffiti on the streets. No offence to graffiti artists but it makes such a difference when your art works are absent from the public areas.

The weather is steadily hot. We have used to it now so much that when it gets below +25 C we feel a bit chilly. Crazy! There are no seasons in Singapore but at the time of our visit it is a bit rainier than other month. So we often are surprised by sudden tropical storms that change skies in few minutes from blue to black. And it rains like mad. Umbrellas feel powerless.

One entire day we decide to admire Asia’s animals during the day in Singapore Zoo and at night in the Night Safari. The Zoo is the best zoo we have ever been. It has mainly natural barriers, for example, water or deep hollows that divide people with animals. Some animals are able to wander around completely freely. It is really amazing how they have arranged this place. We found 4 hours not enough to explore the quite fluffy creatures. The zoo also puts on some super shows with animals showing up on stage from all sides of the amphitheatre. They come freely, no one is pushing them with chains or sticks. For example, a wolf comes on the stage does its specific wolf cry and goes away, then otters arrive and start sorting out rubbish into appropriate recycling bins. At some point the show man and some animal trainers make a little panic that ‘Jamie’ has escaped. ‘Everybody keep calm, don’t move and lift up your feet!’ We really believed them. After a thorough search under the spectator seats, they finally ‘find’ a huge python! Ha, ha, ha!

Although very tired after the Zoo we continue our animal expedition in the Night Safari that is only 5 minutes away from the zoo. It is open 7.30pm – midnight. We do a few walking trails where we are able to see animals under dimmed lights. Then we join the tram ride that takes us to places that are not accessible by feet. We see, hyenas, tigers, lions, hippos, flying squirrel etc. It is really amazing as animals seam to be very interested in the passing by tram and they actually watch you. It all ends really late and we find ourselves in between many confused people queuing after a poorly organised express bus that eventually takes us to the city centre.

Another day we blow our budget on Sentosa Island where we experience different new activities. We ride on the Gogreen segway that is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle; watch 4D Magix (four dimensions movie that combines a 3-D film with physical effects which are synchronised with the film), experience 3D visual, physical and surround-sound effect cinema, have a nice view on the Tiger Sky Tower that is Asia's tallest free-standing observation tower; experience several Luge rides and Skyride on a cable car. Sentosa Island is another Disneyland. There is Universal Studios, two massive casino complexes, hotels, shopping malls and lots and lots more.

Interesting in Singaporean metro on the escalators people have to stand on the left and walk on the right. Confusing for us as in London and Paris it is the opposite.

From more practical news we have finally bought a new camera as our previous one suffered a jump on a concrete floor in Thailand and was not feeling very well. Just like in Bangkok tourists can get tax back in the airport for purchases over a certain amount.

On the way to the airport we notice that suburbs of Singapore look as posh as the city centre. All the buildings are neat and clean, parks are well maintained, and no rubbish on the streets. No wonder why – nobody wants risk to pay the harsh fees.

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Comments

Karina on

Crazy monkey fees! I would probably freak out if I would find a gum hiding at the bottom of my backpack:). would have to go during the night, tie a rock around it and throw in the pond!!! And the bay you wrote about...must see! Singapore already sounds unreal, will check out the pictures now! xxx

Mamy Babs on

Nous sommes chez Martial et Nicole et avons pu regarder le blog. Surprenant ces tours ! On dirait qu'un avion s'est posé au sommet du gratte-ciel. Les animaux du zoo ne sont pas les mêmes que chez nous. On apprend plein de choses à travers votre blog. A bientôt sur skype. Bonne continuation, toujours avec prudence, hein ? Plein de bisous à vous deux.

Liva on

did you find out why chewing gums are not allowed? i find it weird. i cant think of any reason why chewing gums would be bad.. maybe monkeys eat them and choke??

Hedonist Puncture on

The unauthorised sale of gum is banned, ie gum can be bought and used on as
restricted basis. Drug stores sell gum, where you will need to register your
name and ID.

Hedonist Puncture on

I've never had any problems bringing gum into Singapore. It's for personal
use and not for commercial gain. I also buy from the drug stores when I am
there. I act responsibly when disposing of the gum.

The problem is not with the gum, but the mindless morons who stick it on
seats, on door openings, under table edges or just gob it out on the
pavement. London is a good example of a city made filthy with such
behaviour. Walking in London is like walking on a matting of gum. There are
some places there, where they take to burning it off with torches. Thankfully
Singapore is mindful of socially irresponsible morons and puts measures in
place to help "educate" them. Long may it continue.

I find Singapore one of a few places that is not hooked on individual
freedom. Majority usually wins there. They aim for the highest numerator,
not the lowest denominator. It seems to work.

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