Slinging around Singapore
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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A two-hour flight from Bangkok brought us back to the island nation of Singapore. Of everywhere I have ever been on this planet, including the USA, there is nowhere that is cleaner, more organized, or easy to easy to travel within than Singapore. There is virtually no violent crime, everything is spotless, intuitively designed, on time and easy to use. Now of course the catch...there is a lot of things here that are illegal and penalties are stiff! A fine the equivalent of $650 for eating on a subway train, jail time for possessing a girly magazine or making a public speech without a permit...isn't that a bit harsh? Along with all the scrubbing and law and order comes a feeling of some sterility, lack of character, and some overtones of large-scale social engineering. All that aside, if I were a parent this would be an incredibly safe and wholesome place to raise kids
Since Singapore is both a very affluent and a very small nation, without much in the way of natural or historical sights, most of their attractions are "manufactured" but they are absolutely top notch! We kept my parents on the run our three days here visiting the national Botanic Garden, the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo, and Night Safari. All of these attractions were staggeringly well done. We had become pretty tough to impress after the dozens of game drives we did on our trip through Southern Africa, but the Zoo and Night Safari thoroughly impressed us.
One place we visited that was completely unique and far different than anything else you can see in Singapore was the Haw Par Villa. The place was the result of the "vision" of the man who invented Tiger Balm (a sort of Vick's Vapo-Rub type ointment popular in Asia). Back in the 30's he felt that there wasn't enough being done to educate people in proper virtues and values, so he began using his vast fortune to build a sort of morals theme park out of concrete on his estate. The result is a wacky, at times disturbing, and unbelievably kitschy collection of statues and dioramas intended to show the perils of wrong behavior (gambling, disobeying parents, etc) and the rewards of right action. The centerpiece of the complex is a long artificial cave filled with figures showing the sufferings the ill behaving will receive in the ten levels of Hell before finally having their memories erased and being reincarnated to have another chance to redeem themselves
We bid my parents good-bye yesterday and spent our last day in Singapore eating the delicious Malay and Indian cuisine as well as getting organized for our jump to Hong Kong tomorrow.
After so many months on the road, I loved the organization of Singapore and the general feeling of being completely anonymous. We stayed in an area of town called Little India, which seemed a lot like a Disney World version of India... mostly good smells with a modern sanitation system and no livestock.
A city this clean (we even saw someone cleaning the hand rails on the subway with disinfectant) seems to have rubbed off on its inhabitants. Singaporeans for the most part are very well dressed, combed, tucked, polished, and belted. We had an interesting cultural experience on the subway that really demonstrated just how obsessed with staying clean and free of germs some people can get. Todd's mom was fighting a bit of a cold for most of her trip with us, and let out a little covered mouth cough (completely non-threatening sounding) on the subway. The extremely thin man sitting next to her promptly turned his whole body to face 180 degrees away from her. Could be a coincidence, right? Well, a few seconds later, she let out another little cough, and the man turned his completely around one millimeter from the wall and was leaning so far forward that his chest was on his knees
We really felt like sightseers in Singapore, and went to all the "must-see" attractions, which was well worth it. The Zoo and the Bird Park were my favorite attractions, and I would have bet you a million dollars before seeing these places that I wouldn't really like them. Zoos always have the potential to be really depressing, with their yucky cages and fake environments for the animals, but the Singapore Zoo was amazing and left me feeling like the animals actually had a better life there than if they were in the wild. For the most part, there are no cages, and the animals are kept in their areas with well disguised moats (that contain discrete electric fencing) that gives you the impression that most of the animals could just walk up to you at anytime. Just suffice it to say, if you find yourself in Singapore, you should make time to visit these places!