Squeaky Clean Singapore

Trip Start Dec 25, 2005
Trip End Apr 28, 2006

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Friday, March 10, 2006


Singapore cannot be compared to any city that we have visited thus far in Asia. It is meticulously clean, modern and devoid of poverty. We had been told that it lacked the culture of other places, which perhaps is true, but it does not lack character. It is billed as Southeast Asia's most important seaport, financial center and manufacturing hub and its citizens enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living.

They also must abide by some of the most restrictive laws in the world. Anyone caught dealing in drugs is hanged. Period. Chewing gum is strictly forbidden. We were told that this law was created when the subway system was built because people would stick their gum on the automatic doors, causing them to stay open and preventing the train from moving. The Singaporian solution? Eliminate chewing gum!

Residents cannot take the 10-minute drive over to Malaysia to top off their gas tanks with the much cheaper fuel. Inspectors stand at the border and check gas gauges. There is a $500.00 fine for littering. Smoking is frowned upon and cigarettes are heavily taxed. A pack of cigarettes can cost $18.00. Although not strictly enforced these days, there is a law on the books that includes a $250 fine for not flushing a public toilet- really!

There are no police anywhere to be seen because they are not needed. The tax on cars is 110% (no typo). In fact, before a car can be bought, citizens must file a formal request for acceptance by the government. If approved, it is only valid for 10 years. If the government decides not to renew your approval and you own car, too bad, you have to sell it. We had two guides while we were there, and both felt that these strict regulations were necessary in order to build a strong foundation for this newly (1965) independent country. The thinking was that they could not afford to take 100 years and multiple generations to become competitive with their neighboring states.

We arrived in Singapore in the early afternoon and were able to do some shopping at the mall at the World Trade Center where we were docked. That evening we visited the Singapore Zoo and its famous "night safari." It felt a little like Disneyworld's Animal Kingdom but it was fun. You board a tram and travel through the grounds seeing the nocturnal animals in an open setting with only a small moat as a separation. There are said to be over 1,000 animals from Asia, Africa and South America. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed and, even if it had been, it was so dark that it was often difficult to clearly see the animals.

The next day we had one of the most fun and interesting tours of our whole trip. It was essentially a walking tour of the city. We were in a small group of 10 with Dino, our wonderful guide. We started by taking the subway to Chinatown. There is no doubt that this is the cleanest subway in the world. The ticketing system is also very unique and user friendly. We had been given sufficient coins to buy our tickets. In addition to the cost of the ticket, there is a small "security deposit" which is refunded to you if you return the ticket to a kiosk when you are finished traveling. In this way, littering of tickets is eliminated. Also, if you don't fully use your pass, you can turn it in and get a refund for the unused portion.

In Chinatown, we visited the largest Hindu temple in Singapore (see picture with all of our shoes outside). We also visited the "wet market," where the locals purchase their daily food items (See pics of delightful delicacies including frogs and turtles.). We then had some time for shopping before heading out on a trishaw to the river walk and city center. It's one thing if there is only one trishaw, but we were five all trying to stay together. It was a little hairy crossing some of the roads with the traffic whizzing by in both directions. As long as you look straight ahead, it is lots of fun.

The most famous site in Singapore is the statue of the "merlion," (half mermaid, half lion) situated on the banks of the Singapore River. There we took a short boat tour up and down the river and saw the beautiful and colorful architecture, both new and old. Many of the buildings are very British and reflect the colonial history of the city.

When we disembarked the boat there were two snake charmers in the square offering any takers to cozy up to the snakes. One was an albino python and, as you can see, two members of our group were eager to partake.

Our last stop was to the famous Raffles Hotel where we were treated to a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar where this drink was first created. It is said they serve 2,000 per day (at $17.00 per pop).
It is an absolutely beautiful hotel and also has strict regulations regarding dress. We were stopped at the entry to the main lobby and told that non-guests wearing shorts were not allowed in, thus, we only got a quick peak.

We wish we had the time to explore further, but we'll have to save that for another time. It is one place that we hope to be able to come back to.

Next stop, Penang, Malaysia
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