Jaywalking and chewing gum in the Lion City (Singapore)

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Asia » Singapore
April 10th 2009
Published: April 10th 2009
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(Day 371 on the road)I am on the move again, and it feels great! From Port Dickson, where I spent the last six weeks, I backtracked to Kuala Lumpur to pick up my new passport which I had applied for a few weeks ago, as the old one was almost full. Now I have a virgin, brand new passport, which is a bit of shame really, as I have grown quite fond of my old, battered one with all the stamps and visas. Also, the new passport states it was issued in Kuala Lumpur, and gives my residency as Port Dickson, Malaysia. Let's see into how much trouble that is going to get me in the many border crossings yet to come.

From KL I took a bus down to Singapore, the Lion City. According to legend it got its name in the 13th century by a visiting prince, who was shipwrecked on the island and saw a creature that he believed to be a a lion. But the city really took off in 1819, when Thomas Raffles established a trading port here for the British East India Company.

I have been to Singapore before, pretty much ten years ago. All I remember about that visit was that it was super hot and that I had terrible toothache at the time and spent two days at the dentist. So this time I was determined to spend less time with doctors, but as it turns out I went to the hospital every single day of my stay here. As I have had neck pains for the last three months I finally needed to check it out in earnest, and they diagnosed me with chronic neck pain (surprise!) and put me on intensive physiotherapy. Let's hope that helped and that my insurance covers the hefty bills I received.

Apart from that, I was surprised how much I enjoyed Singapore. Much of that was attributable to two woman there, Suzanne and Endah. Suzanne is an old French friend from university, who is currently working in Beijing, and who came down to Singapore for the weekend. We met up twice for dinner, the first time at a very fancy restaurant called Indochine right by the riverfront. It was by far the poshest place I have eaten in since I tarted my travels, and the total bill (it was eight people in total including other friends of Suzanne and their respective friends) was considerably higher than my total expenses last month. Suzanne had invited me though, so I didn't have to blow my budget and live on banana leafs and white rice for the next two weeks (love you Suz!).

The other woman was Endah from Indonesia, who was in Singapore on holiday and to attend a wedding. We stayed at the same hostel (cool place called Home@158) and spent a great day exploring Sentosa Island, the area around the Merlion statue and the esplanade. Endah lives in Jakarta, so I am planning to meet up with her again once I get there.

Other than that, and after quite some time in some of the more chaotic countries of Asia, Singapore was like walk in a park, very much different from all other countries. Public transport is fantastic, as is the food and the cleanliness of the place. I also bought (another) new camera, as the Olympus 1040 I had bought in Malaysia proved to very disappointing in terms of picture quality. Now I have done some research and went for the Canon Ixus 100 IS, which came out first in many reviews and also features HD movies, which are just awesome. I got a very good deal on the camera in the famous Sim Lim Square (THE place to shop for electronics in Singapore), and am really happy. I managed to sell my Olympus on ebay Singapore, which worked out nicely, even though I lost quite a bit of money on this. But better to lose a bit of money now than to always regret later not being able to take decent pictures.

Singapore is, however, also a very restrictive city, with a lot of things which are considered normal in other countries forbidden and punished by very heavy fines. Riding your bike in the park for instance will set you back 500 EUR, and for spitting your chewing gum on the street I have been told I could be caned. There is even a popular website called STOMP where people post pictures and videos of behaviour that they deem inappropriate. It is a bit like Orwell 2.0; I find it pretty scary actually, and it reminds me of the cultural revolution in China in a way, when people were also reporting on their friends and neighbours (of course, the penalties back then were much harsher than in Singapore today). In any case, I like my freedom and made damn sure to misbehave a little every now and then, chewing gum (you can't purchase it here at all) and crossing streets on a red light as much as possible. :-)

Next stop: Medan (Sumatra, Indonesia).

To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


23rd July 2009

Hi, I was reading your blog and observed you stayed at Home@158 Singapore. by chance do you have the Email of this Hostel. Ratna Prasad India

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