Looks just like Germany....or not.
Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
86Trip End Jul 27, 2011
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Where I stayed
Betel Box Hostel Singapore
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Just a few more minutes to boarding my flight to Singapore. I am a little nervous, knowing that I am moving towards the less backpacker-friendly cost-bracket of SEA. Probably a smooth way of easing into pricy Oceania.
My flight is smooth and timely except for some turbulences that don’t bother me. I’ve had a bit of flight fear on some of the flights I’ve taken lately. Not sure where it came from. After many hours on buses and overnight buses, I guess I am now grateful again to be flying. Or maybe it’s my newfound addiction to the TV series 'Lost’ (which I bought MP4s of in Cambodia and keeps me up to silly wee hours every night: http://bit.ly/GwPgU). Somehow watching a bunch of plane-crashed people struggling for survival on a cursed island put me back at ease about flying. Or maybe it is that I’ve covered my top three destinations I’ve always wanted to see now (though I have added more than I took off the list as well). In any case, I feel the same I did on that nerve-wrecking flight from Rome (http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/henniterness/1/1287616365/tpod.html): If this was to be my last flight, I will go at the most fulfilled and happy time in my life to date
I only have 3 days here but manage to cover a good chunk of what I wanted to see in one day by bicycle. Here are some thoughts and impressions I had about Singapore:
- My first Singapore impression on the airport bus to Joo Chiat / Katong area where my hostel is located, is that it looks like Germany. The clean, wide streets with impeccably drawn traffic lines on them, manicured public gardening, organized traffic. Is this still South East Asia? Really? Soon, the Chinese influences become obvious and the Teutonic look softens a little. Then on the 7-minute walk from the bus station, I pass more obvious Asian looking places, including some clearly Malay-influenced (read Muslim) store fronts and faces. Though it remains untypically clean and non-chaotic.
- Katong / Joo Chiat area where my hostel is in. I spend my first afternoon in my hood and decide that THIS is the land of smiles, not Thailand. Social campaigns in the past here included promotions of smiles and friendliness towards tourists. You can tell Singaporeans know and appreciate the value of tourism. Lovely! What it leaves me wondering is if all the government campaigns to train people to behave in certain ways is good or bad
- Loved Kompong Glam, the Malay Historic district and hub of the Muslim community. Great foods bringing back memories of the Middle East. Turkish lunch of Saksuka, a dish someone even wrote a song about once. Enjoying the vibe of Arab worlds minus the hassling. Clearly, the Islamic faith is much more liberal towards other behavioural standards here than elsewhere in the Muslim world
- Little India: I was considering to skip a Hindu temple. Glad I didn’t as I ran into some sort of ceremony or mass that was very goose-bumpy to watch. Plus some Halloween-like religious architecture and sculptures of Hindu gods and stories. Very cool :)
- Orchard Road: This is supposed to be the local Times Square equivalent. I didn’t quite get that same vibe. I did enjoy the well designed street and traffic flow, despite my challenges of biking on the mostly one-way streets and in left-hand traffic. One thing I found gross was the chill I got from riding past the stores here. They are so over-air conditioned that I feel a meat-cooler blast just passing by on the road, even though I am at least 10-15 meters away from the store entrances. Where is the ‘green and clean’ campaign here? Seems like a massive waste of energy to me.
- Chinatown: I just wanted to peek into a couple of temples (yes, I am surprised too that I still have capacity for those)
- Marina and Raffles Quay: Nice ride along the water checking out the modern buildings' architecture at night and challenging the local traffic order as I go against traffic on one-way streets and on the wrong side of the road, trying to find my ways.
- Thanks to facebook I realized that Clement, a friend/salsa mate from years ago lives here. Thanks to his work schedule (one that I am all too familiar with myself, I have not forgotten), we never manage to meet.
- Singapore conclusions: I very much enjoy it here. It is clean, friendly, organized, there are plenty of photographic opportunities, it is easy to get around. It feels like a metropolis, yet I can easily cover large parts of it by bike. Food choices are amazing. There appears to be a nice art and music scene. Different cultures live peacefully side-by-side. The climate is warm (make that hot, hot and humid). It is close to dozens of other countries easily reachable with cheap flights. My kind of place.
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