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Published: April 13th 2008
013 - Singapore
03/26/08 - 03/31/08
The Gateway to Asia
Singapore is the gateway to Asia for the Western world. There are skyscrapers and shopping malls mixed in with Chinese temples and Indian hawkers. One of the main observations we made was that Singapore doesn't have any natural resources (for its use or to trade), and yet, it is a very rich country. Like Melaka (in Malaysia), Singapore is conveniently located between India and China making it a major port town for international trade. However, major corporations from around the world have chosen Singapore as a hub for the Asian Market. We heard this country has a larger number of offshore banks than anywhere in the world. So, Singaporeans are smart, technologically savvy, and used to money and a fast paced lifestyle. Quite the difference from Thailand and Malaysia (although one could argue that Kuala Lumpur comes close).
Our hostel was one of the cheapest places in town to sleep at only S$20/person (about $15 USD). Unfortunately, we had to share a room with 3 - 5 other people, so this was the first time Hannah and I didn't really have any privacy. Although it was somewhat
neat to meet new people every night, I'd much prefer to have our own room and be able to talk freely or turn the lights when I want to, not at 11pm on the dot ... anyways, we sucked it up for 6 days since it was so cheap! Our hostel was located in Little India and that allowed us to eat some of the best Indian food we've had on this trip.
One day we went to Raffles Hotel to have the ultra-touristy drink of Singapore, the Singapore Sling. Raffles was an English general that landed in Singapore and eventually agreed to colinize it from the Dutch in the 19th century. The name Raffles is all over town, and the hotel is one of the only places that allows you to throw peanut shells on the grounds of the bar (littering is against the law and highly frowned upon in Singapore). The drink was a rip-off at $25 each so we split one and ate our weight in peanuts to make up for it!
One of the days we went to the Esplenade, a cool performing arts center right on the waterfront. The views of the Singapore
skyline reminded me of the San Diego skyline from the SD Harbor. We also saw a solid rock band named Draven at a free independent music concert at night.
We also took a free walking tour with one of the employees of our hostel and learned a little about the Indian and Chinese influence in Singapore. One interesting fact is that the Chinese burn this fake money called 'hell notes' so that their dead ancestors can get rich in the afterlife. They have stores that are dedicated to selling this burnable merchandise, including fake cars and fake Luis Vuitton bags... crazy, huh?!? We still haven't figured out all the religious intracacies, you will see chinese worshiping at the Hindu temples, and we thought (based on Thai buddism) that buddists don't worship anything - it is meant to be a path of self-discovery. Oh well, its all part of learning about these other cultures.
A suprising highlight was the Singapore Art Museum. Upon entering the foryay an enormous pink statue of David greets you. He is covered in vibrant pink batik and stands around 20 ft (7m) tall. The Museums exhibits showed the history of Singapore through photography, clothing,
Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel: $25
A tourist trap but we had to do it at least once.
and old memorabilia. They also had a smell chamber in the food exhibit that allowed us to smell different spices and flavors of Singapore.
There is an amazing display of orchids at the Botanical Gardens of Singapore. Many of the exotic hybrids are named after famous people like Margaret Thatcher, Kofi Anan, Princess Di, etc. There are whole areas dedicated to warm and cool temperature orchids, including carnivorous varieties!.
After 6 days of Singapore and trying not to blow our entire budget, we're heading south to Indonesia in search of some surfable waves. Next stop: Lombok, Indonesia.
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Did you try the stinky feet durian?