Posted by: Anna | May 4, 2011

Singapore Wrap-up

Singapore served as a great introduction to *real* Asia, not counting India as Asia (it’s really like its own continent). Singapore is easily the most American-style place we have been, followed closely by Doha, Qatar (surprising!). Singapore is full of American chain restaurants, like Popeye’s, Chili’s. and Church’s Chicken (called Texas Chicken here).

Yum...biscuit anyone?

In Singapore, everyone speaks excellent English, signs are in English, and announcements on the subway are in clearly intelligible English. The roads are incredibly clean. The driving is orderly. The subway is efficient and quick, as is the bus system. Prices are fixed – no negotiating. Basically, it’s like a very orderly America, full of Asian people, with hawker markets.

Highlights of our tourist time, but not interesting enough to merit an entire blog post were the orchid garden and the night safari. Truly the orchid garden and surrounding botanical gardens are the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen – lushly vegetated, beautifully landscaped, and interspersed with attractive statues. Particularly interesting were the orchids cross-bred for VIPs (heads of state, etc), displayed in the special VIP garden, with a small sign signifying who they were created for. The orchid garden did make me wish I had an orchid…perhaps when I get home, although I think it might be cruel to the orchid as I kill every plant I’ve ever had.

One of the orchids from the VIP garden - can't remember whose?

Tommy and Emily went to the night safari.  I don’t particularly like zoos, so I saved the $30 and stayed home.  The Night Safari is a cool idea – it’s located next to the zoo, but is filled with nocturnal animals.  There are walking trails and a tram ride that runs through the entire park.  It’s open from 7:30 to midnight and allows you to see animals being active that you normally don’t see in a zoo.  The lions were roaring, the leopard was pacing in front of the window to its area and the tapirs (Tommy’s favorite zoo animal) were all over the road.

The best experience at the zoo came in the flying squirrel aviary.  After crossing through 3 gates, each of which won’t open until the previous gate closes, you end up in a large, enclosed jungle.  Filled with flying squirrels.  They saw at least 4, but there may have been more.  The squirrels were very active, climbing trees and jumping from tree to tree.  One squirrel climbed to the tallest point of the enclosure, all the way at one end of the pen.  And leapt off, spreading its wings and gliding rapidly – straight for Tommy’s head.  It pulled up at the last minute, coming to rest directly above him in another tree.  He says that was worth the $30 right there.

I think for Tommy, it was a reintroduction to modern, developed society after his time in Nepal. For me, it was a chance to transition from being home to being on the road again, gently. For our friend Emily, who is joining us for a month of Asia, it was a shift from fully Western Australia (where she has been for 5 months) to Asia. You may notice I don’t identify Singapore as an amazing tourist destination, praise the sights or culture, or encourage you to visit as soon as possible.

To be sure, there are a lot of things that are easy to like about Singapore. The food, the polite culture, the organization, the sheer modernity – are easy to like. Unfortunately, they are not the things that make for love. It is easier to love a place with visible flaws and fabulous high points, a place that is more of a journey than Singapore. Singapore has few surprises – because it is so organized, it is not surprising.You know what you will get. What you will get is good, not the sometimes crappy experiences we have had in less developed places, but you also don’t get the same high when things are great. It’s a place to live, not a place to visit if you really want to be enchanted. Singapore is everything India is not, in a lot of ways, making it a striking shift for us. The things that are irritating about India are great in Singapore, but the things that make you fall in love with India are gone.

Singapore has a short history – essentially a figment of the colonizers imagination, created to serve the purposes of shipping routes. The Singapore Sling, invented at the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, is the signature libation. It’s delicious, rather like a hurricane. However, to get an original one, it’s $30. That’s right – for one…drink. We were shocked. And that’s really Singapore – a few good things, incredibly overpriced compared to the rest of the world. Perhaps I’ve been around Tommy too long, but that does impact my perception of a place…feeling like it is or is not a good value. Singapore is not a good value.

Singapore does have a lot of rules. No gum – anywhere, at all. If they find it at the airport, they confiscate it. There are (we’ve been told) plain clothes police everywhere, just waiting for you to break one of the many, many laws. The fines for common offences are published everywhere – fine for littering, for drinking or eating on the subway, etc. Unpublished is the fine for bringing a durian (spiky fruit that smells like stinky feet) on the train. You are warned at the airport that the penalty for drug usage or trafficking can be death. They really do still cane people (again, we were told).

Don't do this .. notice there is no fine for durians. What does that mean?

On the up side, Singapore is one of the most attractive cities in which to do business. Stuff works like it should. You don’t get sick. The shopping is amazing, and the food is great. It’s expensive. That’s pretty much Singapore.

Clean, safe, delicious –
Quite liveable but boring
Asia for novices.
– Anna

Severe penalties;
Lead to a spotless city;
But is it worth it?



  1. Durians=caning haha

  2. Sanitized Asia. I agree — a place to live or relax but not to visit for an experience. But don’t forget the Blizzards! It will be a long time I bet before you get another one.

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