Singapore Wrap-Up

This is our final post about our trip to Singapore in December 2013.

Neighborhoods

Little India

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.

Orchard Road

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.

China Town

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?

customs_warnings_sOn 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

PC297528_sIf 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.

  1. We wonder if there’s an underground chewing gum market — which only sells Clove brand gum. []
  2. Yeah, we couldn’t believe it either! []
  3. Tamil, Mandarin and Malay are the other official languages []
  4. Singapore has a serious aging population problem. []

What to eat in Singapore?

ZOMG EVERYTHING.

Seriously, if you can’t find something to nom on in Singapore, you probably shouldn’t leave your house. We are somewhat adventurous eaters with a few broad restrictions:

  • no raw onions
  • no fish or seafood
  • no raw, unseasoned tomatoes

…but they didn’t slow us down one bit. The food in Singapore was one of our favorite aspects of the whole trip. Continue reading What to eat in Singapore?

What to do in Singapore?

We only had about 6 whole days in Singapore, so we had to choose how to spend our time carefully. There is a lot to choose from. In the end, we opted for the

  • Botanic Gardens
  • Gardens by the Bay
  • Marina Bay Sands Skypark

and a whole lot of time tromping around various neighborhoods like Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Rd, and Raffles City, just taking it all in visually. More on that later. Continue reading What to do in Singapore?

Singapore — Getting There and Getting Around

We got as far south on this old planet as we’ve ever been for the week of Christmas 2013.

muc-fra-sin-fra-muc

Why Singapore?

We had a few days to kill, workwise, the week of Christmas 2013, and needed a break from the (admittedly mild, but ugly) German winter. So, thinking fondly of our trip to Hong Kong in 2012, we thought we’d give another English-speaking region of Asia a try. Singapore did not disappoint! It’s the right distance away in terms of climate and geography. Continue reading Singapore — Getting There and Getting Around