Spending 3 days in Singapore after our South-east Asian trip proved to be a very interesting idea. Singapore is everything what Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are not: extremely well organized, clean, modern and expensive.
First of all, let us establish that we did like Singapore. We did not like it in a way we liked the breathtaking Angkor temples in Cambodia, or the colorful underwater world around Bali or the Gili islands, not even the way we were enchanted by Bagan in Myanmar nor the way we fell in love with Hoi An in Vietnam. But Singapore is still an extremely interesting enclave in the Southeast Asian region, which makes the picture complete by being a total contrast to all the surrounding countries.
Colorful spots within a futuristic scenery
While the most prominent landmark of Singapore is its super-modern skyline in the bay area there are districts in the middle of the city, like Little India, Chinatown or the Muslim Quarter that are really charming and vivid. Vendors sell their goods on the markets, traditionally dressed people are filling the streets and the nice smell of typical food is tickling your nose. The buildings are 1- or 2-storey high, colorful and light, beautiful temples and mosques are to be found all around – and all this at the foot of the full glass and concrete sky scrapers: an amazing combination.
But even the modern part of the city is very green. There are numerous parks, trees line up on most of the major streets and many buildings are covered with plants and have spacious park-terraces or hanging gardens on them. Moreover, Singapore is one of the few places where you can walk through a real jungle in the city area, which gives this extreme modernity at least a human touch.
Focus on money
What surprised us most here was the approach of the Singaporeans to money. During the 15-minute taxi drive from the airport to our hotel, we quickly found out how many million Singapore Dollars it had cost the country to expand the island, how much (very much!!!) it costs to rent or buy a flat in the different districts, and how rich you have to be to own and use a car in Singapore. Our driver was quite glad he could impress us with the extremely high figures, and he was not the only one measuring the world in $$$-s, wherever we went within a very short period of time the prices were proudly explained, the higher the better… Well, interesting attitude to say the least.
Country of regulations, fines and surcharges
The third peculiarity of Singapore is the number of activities you can get fined for, and what makes it even odder is how often and prominently your attention is being drawn to that. Just to enlist some, there is a fine for smoking if there is anything above you (even a branch of a tree or a canopy); you have to pay if you cross the street at the wrong place or if you litter; taking durian into your hotel room, feeding fish or monkeys and chewing a gum is also on the long list of penalty reasons. And our favorite: spitting on the street costs you 500$ (but this one we were rather happy about, as this is a common habit in the rest of the region).
And as people are meanwhile super disciplined and stick to the rules, now there are fees and surcharges that can be collected for the most amazing reasons. The taxi is a good example. Here you pay a surcharge for rush hour, for entering downtown, if you get in the cab on the weekend, on a public holiday or in the night. Calling a cab by phone or paying by credit card is also not a good idea, as both incredibly extravagant activities increase the total amount of your bill. And all this adds up, so just imagine calling a cab on a Friday night in downtown and using your Visa card: you might need a microcredit…
These were the things that were the most stunning and the funniest for us in Singapore. But as our conclusion: in the previous 3 months we had met so many friendly and kind people who seemed to be satisfied and happy despite their poverty and their chaotic environments, whereas in Singapore we did not feel too much of such positive energy. This just proved again that neither money nor regulations are the key to happiness… :)
All in all, we enjoyed our stay here as it was so different from the rest of the countries we had seen before.