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Published: September 5th 2009
(Day 518 on the road)
"Wasn't the Airbus 320 the plane that crashed a few months ago, you know that Air France flight from Brazil to France...?" The pretty Asian girl in the seat next to me on the flight from Bali to Singapore tensed up noticeably, then she mumbled something which I didn't quite catch. With hindsight, this probably wasn't the best line to chat her up, and thus for the next two and a half hours I just kept to myself and read my book.
It had been the very last day of my Indonesian visa. In fact, it had been the last two hours
on my Indonesian visa (as I went through immigration in Bali at 2200h). Having entered the country exactly 30 days earlier just a few minutes after midnight, I thus used my visa to the absolute fullest. I was immensely happy that the flight was not cancelled, which would have put me in a precarious (visa) situation indeed.
After arriving in Singapore at 1 o'clock in the morning and spending the night at it's wonderful Changi airport to save on transport and accommodation, it was time to hit the town again. And Singapore never
ceases to amaze me. It is my third time that I am here, but coming from Indonesia, which is decidedly less developed (yet), the contrast between Singapore and the countries that surround it could not be bigger. The wealth and sophistication of this tiny island-state is just incredible.
I am not sure what exactly they are doing right here that sets them apart. Maybe it is that a small country is simply easier to govern. Or it is down to the good education system. Or the stable political environment with sound economic policies. Or the motivated English-speaking workforce. I really don't know, but whatever it is - it is working: The people here are rich by any standards, public transport is a charm, the city is clean (bordering on sterile to be precise), standards for nearly everything from hotels to restaurants are high, the people are respectful, and there are no hawkers pestering you at every turn or taxi drivers constantly honking their horns at you.
I guess what it all boils down to for me as a visitor: Things simply work here in Singapore. And that makes travelling very easy here, especially after spending extended amounts of
time in some of Singapore's more challenging neighbouring countries. The downside is that life here is a bit "un-Asian" so to speak, not downright boring but certainly lacking a bit of flair and atmosphere for my liking. I really enjoy Singapore, but because it doesn't have the excitement, the life and also the chaos that I usually enjoy about Asia, I think in the end I still have mixed feelings about this place.
I had arrived with a few days to spare before meeting my mum here who is coming over to join me on my travels for about two weeks. As I had exhausted all the major highlights of the city, I decided to do a few "science-and-nature-days". Putting that in practise meant visits to the Singapore Science Centre (absolutely fascinating with many interactive hands-on displays), the Botanical Gardens (a peaceful retreat just off busy the busy shopping temples on Orchard Road) and the Singapore Zoo. All the above were very enjoyable, but the zoo was simply amazing. I am not a big expert when it comes to zoos I have to admit, but I found this one to be just grand. Not only is it extremely well
presented and cared for, it also boasts a wide array of exotic animals - I especially enjoyed the white tigers, proboscis monkeys, giant turtles and the pygmy hippos.
I also finally managed to be (somewhat) active on couchsurfing. Though i didn't actually stay at somebody's place, I did spend two lovely evenings with local Singaporean couchsurfers (thank you Jan and Chewies!) - which made for a nice change to the mostly European travellers you tend to spend your time with when staying in hostels. I really need to use this wonderful network of like-minded people more in the future.
Then it was time to pick up my mum at the airport, and after a day and a half of sightseeing it was already time to catch our onward flight to Taipei. I am very excited!
Next stop: Taipei (Taiwan).
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).
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