05/26/2014 - 06/02/2014
Cue the heavenly angel voices, we are in Singapore!! Several single word descriptions of this city/country come to mind. CLEAN. Diverse. Orderly. Stress-free. Innovative. Conscientious. Expensive.
It is illegal to push your services on people, haggle, litter, pollute, or try to dupe foreigners. Basically the opposite of Indonesia. You can't smoke in public places except designated areas, can't drink in public, you can't even buy chewing gum because they don't want it stuck to sidewalks or under tables. The number of cars permitted on the streets is limited, resulting in little to no traffic, even at rush hour. The public transportation is efficient, eco-friendly, cheap, and easy to navigate. Signs are well marked and (gasp) point to things that actually exist. English is widely spoken, as one of the four official languages (along with Malay, Chinese, and Tamil), and people give correct information when you ask them. No one stares at the white people, we are just another shade in the extensive spectrum of skin colors here. It seems every skin shade, every language, every religion is represented in this one city. How is it that this incredibly first world country has managed to emerge from the sea of third world countries surrounding it? And what's more amazing, people follow the rules. Most people here are not Singaporeans. Are the laws really that strict that no one - not even visitors from non-environmentally-friendly countries - litters, spits, smokes where they shouldn't, jaywalks, or breaks the rules? Law enforcement officers are not prevalent. Is it pride or fear that keeps the peace?
Whatever it is, we love it. If only it weren't so expensive, we could live here. All indoor (and even a few outdoor) spaces are intensely air-conditioned, the waterfront with its skyscrapers and Ferris wheel was almost a breath of fresh Chicago air, and the charming neighborhoods of Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street are all friendly places full of culture, good food, and cute two-story buildings with wooden shutters. The city has many green spaces, nice gardens, a world class zoo where we got up close and personal with many exotic animals in a cage-free setting (the animals are kept in by hidden drop-offs, like moats, and most of the harmless animals are free-range), and a bustling nightlife whether you're into bars and clubs, middle of the night dim sum, or 24-hour shopping malls.
What we meant to be three or four days turned into six, partly because it's just so easy to exist here (and we need a little of that), partly because we were able to meet up with our German friend, Daniel, who we met in Venezuela almost a year ago. Singapore was a nice breather, but it's time to cross into Malaysia.
Skyscrapers along the bay, joggers along the path, feels almost like home
Marina Bay Sands - that's a really expensive hotel up there, looking like a boat that flew up and landed on top of some buildings
Gardens at the Bay, a really neat eco project:
Tooth Relic Temple, a very ornate Buddhist temple with Buddha's tooth and hundreds of thousands of individual tiny Buddhas on the walls:
Having fun in the Arab village:
This is one of many indoor food courts full of food stalls and tables. Difficult to decide? Singaporeans love waiting in line, just find the line, and you know that food is good. The previous photo is the outdoor Chinatown Food Street - it's covered from the rain and air conditioned