This is our final post about our trip to Singapore in December 2013.
We stayed in a vacation apartment just outside the Little India neighborhood, off of Jalan Besar. It was a colorful, interesting place that felt extremely real — as opposed to the parts of town with the hotels we didn’t stay in. There were some rickety-looking hotels and hostels in our neighborhood, but although we were intially skeptical, our tiny vacation apartment turned out to be the right choice for our budget and our preferences. The daily walk to the bus and/or metro station got a little shorter each day and helped us develop a feel for our part of town.
Our favorite part of this shopping district was the people watching on Christmas Day and evening. Music, dancing, with anyone and everyone out to have a look at the lights and stroll — well, drift, really — up and down the main drag. Normally it’s a very posh shopping district, with many more brands in big, glittery lights than I have ever heard of.
We held off on China Town until our very last day. That was probably wise. China Town was getting ready to start celebrating the Chinese New Year and we could feel it ramping up while we were there for the afternoon. It was crowded with stalls hawking cheap crap and also expensive decorative items. Not really our scene, but if you’re into that, go nuts.
So what’s not to like?
On the surface, nothing we could find. But Singapore has some civil liberty issues lurking under that pristine exterior. The harshest of penalties await anyone caught smuggling drugs: capital punishment. When you enter the country, you are advised about what is permissible and what is not. “Obscene materials” sounds pretty subjective to us, and we’d hate to be caught on the wrong side of a philosophical debate with the justice system in Singapore. And we are firm believers in chewing gum for fresh-breath purposes while traveling. But that’s a S$500 infraction in Singapore. 1
The density of population may offend your sense of personal space. Wikipedia informs us that it’s the third densest sovereign state or dependent territory in the world (higher even than Hong Kong), so it can be pretty difficult to stock up on quiet time. That might explain the dedication to parks and preserves there.
It seemed awfully commercial by nature. The stores we saw in the malls and advertising all over everything outside them overloaded us with brand names and fashiony media. It was kind of cute at first, but nauseating by the third day. At least for us visitors. Presumably it doesn’t faze the natives.
The high temperature never dipped below the 30°C mark while we were there in the last week of December and the relative humidity was a number we never wanted to see. When you step off plane into the airport, you think “hmm, A/C must be on the fritz.” Then when you step outside the airport building, you realize it wasn’t. Sarah described it like walking into a gigantic human mouth. If you like seasonal variation, Singapore’s not for you. Even Germans2 warned us we’d appreciate the air conditioning (ahem…we’ve never stopped).
Final note about the language
If you can do English, you’ll be fine. It’s the language of the government. It’s the language of education in Singapore. It’s not everyone’s mother tongue, necessarily,3 and even if it is, it might sound kind of exotic. But no matter whom you speak to (under say about 60)4, you can’t go wrong with English. And they’re always trying to improve, too.