White tiger at the Singapore Zoo.
It's been said that Singapore is, indeed, a very "fine" city. This relates to the mountain of fines that an unsuspecting visitor might pay for doing something bad (or neglecting to do something good). The following is a short list of our favorites fines taken from several popular expat websites:
- Crossing a street outside of one of the designated pedestrian crosswalks. Fine: S$500. (A2 comment: multiply by 0.7 and you'll get to US dollars - so about $350 for not using the crosswalk here).
- If leaving Singapore by car, your tank must be at least 3/4 full. This rule only applies to Singapore cars. (A2 comment: we're not sure what this is meant to prevent . . . running out of gas and blocking traffic in Malaysia?)
- Failure to flush a public toilet after use can result in a S$75 fine. One website additionally commented, "Chances of getting caught are pretty slim. However, urinating in elevators can cause the doors of some to permanently close until the police squad arrives!"
- No smoking in public buses, taxis, lifts, theatres, cinemas, government offices, air-conditioned restaurants and shopping centers. First time offenders will need to cough up a maximum
Come a bit closer.....I don't bite!
fine of S$1,000 (so, $700 US). We LOVE this law and would happily advocate for its passage in the United States.
- And, of course, no drugs. Being caught with even the smallest amount of illegal drugs = death penalty. Enough said.
OK, so far, so good. We draw the line on drugs at wine and beer. We don't smoke, won't be driving a car in Singapore, and are generally fairly compliant and well-behaved. But there is one very relevant and slightly scary rule that we remembered mid-air on our flight from Burma to Singapore.
Is chewing gum illegal in Singapore?
We had heard a lot about chewing gum being outlawed in Singapore and were mildly concerned since we were carrying two packs of gum in our backpack. Should we risk bringing the gum into the country? Should we ditch the gum on the plane? Flush the gum down the toilet? How would the authorities find out about our gum? Gum-sniffing dogs?
We wanted to have gum on hand (nice to have after eating spicy food or drinking coffee) so we made the call to bring the gum into the country and fake surprise and ignorance
Orangutans at the Singapore Zoo. The reason we went to the zoo.
if it were, indeed, confiscated.
As you know if you've been following this blog, we glided through customs with no problems (apparently the dogs were trained to sniff out other contraband) but we remain prepared to send the unopened minty packs to a watery grave at the St. Regis if need be.
Surprisingly, the gum rule is not black and white. Seems to go something like this:
- Don't bring in commercial quantities of gum. A personal allotment (1-2 packs) is generally fine.
- Don't sell gum in Singapore. Big problems if you're caught.
- Chewing gum in public places is ok; however.
- Don't ever, EVER spit out your gum in a public place or stick it on any public structure (bus, bench, building, chair, tree, police car, etc). If you do you'll be fined for littering. S$500 is a typical fine for a first offense but the fine can be as much as S$1000. Get busted for gum/littering a second time: the fine is S$2000 and a "Corrective Work Order" (we're not sure what a corrective work order is but obviously a corrective work order is not as fun as relaxing in the sauna at the St. Regis).
Why the big fuss about an innocent stick of Extra? Here is what we found out after a quick trip to the business center computers this morning. It all goes back to 1992 when the brand-spanking-new MRT (metro) system was installed. In the early days of the MRT, some hooligans stuck wads of gum on the MRT door sensors, preventing the doors from closing properly and leading to delays. This prompted a strict ban on gum, which seems to have mellowed a bit over the last 15 years, including an official revision in 2004 when the import and sale of smoking-cessation gum was legalized. The nicorette type gum can be obtained at a pharmacy. Interestingly, several expat websites report that you can also buy regular chewing gum at a pharmacy - it is usually tucked safely away behind the counter.
Breakfast today was much like yesterday - coffee and pastries. After breakfast we headed to the Singapore zoo. The Singapore Zoo is in the north of the country (about 10 miles away from our hotel) and is absolutely first-class. Its delightful list of residents include a large troupe of orangutans, three polar bears, a black jaguar, giant turtles, elephants, and three strikingly beautiful white tigers (all with blue eyes).
After a few hours of wandering all over the zoo, we took a taxi to Chinatown.
San Francisco has a bustling Chinatown. To us a trip to Chinatown = great food, confusing signs, strange smells, overflowing rubbish bins, grit, trinket shops, and crowds of people shuffling down narrow streets loaded down with dozens of pink plastic bags stuffed full with fresh produce, dried fish, and dim-sum delights.
Singapore's Chinatown is a bit different. (Note we think it is strange that Singapore has a distinct Chinatown since about 75% of the local population are Chinese). It is sparkling clean with spacious streets and roads. No trash, no grit. Singapore's Chinatown is so clean/sanitary that we did not even think twice about eating food from street stalls. Fantastic!
After lunch we headed back to the hotel to escape from the boiling sun.
After resting for a few hours we took the metro down to the famous Raffles Hotel, considered to be one of the top hotels in Singapore and certainly the most historic hotel. Pretty much every guidebook will also advise you to visit the "famous" bar at Raffles (the Long Bar), where the Singapore Sling was reportedly invented. You two can imbibe the sugary-sweet concotion for the low low price of S$20 (S$25 if you'd like to keep the glass - and that doesn't include the 10% "service charge" and 7% government tax). Angelique defiantly ordered a lychee martini; Adrian also went against tradition and ordered a Manhattan. Overall the bar was very touristy. We wished we had given it a miss.
We ended the night with dinner at a Chinese restaurant tucked into a nearby mall and then carefully made our way back to the St. Regis, making sure to stick to the designated crosswalks.
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