Published: July 4th 2008June 26th 2008
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this don't do that can't you read the sign???
Our knowledge of Singapore consisted of no gum, no litter, great zoo and something about an American teenager getting caned in the 90's because he was bad.
Singapore is a world class city! It is truely the first taste of "home" that we've had in 8 months! (Not that we've travelling looking for home, but we're sure missing the conveniences of Canada!!). Our first impression was "Wow, this place is clean!" and "Holy, they have money!!". Everything is set up sooo ... Canadian? Not hockey and mounties and maple syrup Canadian, but just in the way that the infrastructure is awesome! Streets are big and clean! It's true that they don't litter (and that you get a big fine if you do)! Cars drive in lanes again, in one direction (as opposed to randomlly and all over the road). No incessant honking! There are parks and trees and flowers everywhere. Everything is organized and groomed, and things work. Nothing smells funny (like uh, fish sauce or sewage or mounds of garbage). No sellers or swindlers or crazy people following
us or yelling at us or trying to take our money!
It's also incredibly culturally diverse. It was hard to tell who were locals and who were travellers. Many different people and many different cultures! We noticed there wasn't such a thing as "Singapore food", it was all a jumble of many cultures (Thai, Chinese, Indian, Malay, etc). The food was delicious, but it wasn't really anything we haven't had at home before. As we've travelled this year, we've really realized how diverse Canada is and how lucky we are that we can pretty much get any ethnic food we want!
Our reason for heading to Singapore was that we wanted to see the zoo. We've heard it's the top zoo in the world and ... it was impressive! The animals are not caged into tiny pens (for the most part - the polar bear and cheetah looked a little cramped), but get large areas to roam around in. It's not a "zoo" like we have at home ... it's a big park area, and they have made a good effort to create a "natural habitat". In most cases, animals are seperated from the public by natural barriers,
The city/country is covered in these!
such as rocks or water. And there were many interactive opportunities with the animals, that we haven't had before (things like feeding or pictures - kinda touristy, but whatever). They've done a really good job of creating an enviroment for the animals that is comfortable but that still allows for viewing and observation. Highlights for us were the orang utans, baboons (since South Africa we're intrigued by them) and the white tigers.
A bit of a surprise was how expensive Singapore is! We'd heard that it's expensive compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, but we haven't heard anyone compare it to Europe! We went from staying in hotel rooms with private bathroom and satellite TV for $8/night back to dorm rooms in hostels ... this time for $32/night! Beer went from less than $1/can to about $10/can! The city/country is trying to market themselves as a shopping mecca, and there were shopping malls everywhere. High end stuff (too high end for us!) and some normal every day stuff, but everywhere! It's an incredibly wealthy city. In a parking lot no bigger than say, a Tim Hortons parking lot, outside of a mall, we saw 2 Ferrarris, a Lambourgini,
an Acura NSX, a Porche and more BMW's than we could count. Everyone dresses well, we felt like bums. In some ways it seemed like people had more money than brains, like the "Gold Class" movie theatre ... tickets cost about $30 each, and include a butler and a menu to order from and fully reclining chairs. They've also created "Snow City", which is basically a tobogan hill indoors. We were going to give it a shot, but at $20 for 2 hours, we figured we could just wait until we get home!
The other big thing about Singapore are the "rules". EVERYTHING is a law resulting in a fine. We knew that much coming in, but didn't really know to what extent. No littering, no spitting, no gum, no public nudity (if you're changing in front of an open window and someone see and calls the police, you get a fine), no jaywalking, no durians (on public transportation), no leaving a bathroom dirty (big fine if you don't flush or uh, make a mess), and no urinating in the lifts (elevators). If you smuggle drugs, you get the death penalty. There are signs everywhere, telling you what you
No, No, No, No and No
... seems to be a trend in these parts, No?
can and cannot do. At first it was funny, but then we started to get annoyed ... it began to feel like we were children being told what to do. We also noticed a wierd sense of paranoia ... about terrorism and diseases. In the train stations they have TV's playing dramatic videos about unattended luggage, and posters telling people to empty undrained water from flower pots so as to avoid dengue fever (untold amounts of agony, as they say). There are posters reminding shop keepers of how to avoid attracting rats, and on the streets against shoplifting and sexual harrassment. Mind numbing reminders aside though, the feeling of safety and security in the city was awesome. It's perfectlly safe to take the subway late at night or walk in the streets. We didn't worry AT ALL about being mugged or taken advantage of.
All in all, we had a good time in Singapore and would like to go back ... but maybe in a few years when we have money (and can afford that movie butler)!
There are more photos below