Singapore – a modern pearl of SE Asia

Take me down

to the paradise city,

where the grass is green

and the girls are pretty.

Take me home!!!

Hello, hello, hello!!!!!

This time reporting from futuristic Singapore!!!

I started with the course of Guns ‘n’ roses’s song “Paradise city” because that’s how Singapore looks like on the outside. The cleanest, the most futuristic and the most beautiful capital city we have visited on our trip so far. I don’t want to patronize about the city too much but in just 4 days it did manage to fascinate me. We both agreed that we could live there and I’m the one who usually hates big cities!

It’s popular to dismiss Singapore as a kind of Asia Lite – blandly efficient and safe, a boringly tasteless, disciplinarian and unadventurous place, where citizens are robbed of their cherished freedom to spit on the street and chew gum. Utter nonsense.

There’s no law that says an Asian city can’t be well run. It may have been a long and difficult haul from swampy colonial outpost and notorious den of vice to powerhouse industrial nation, but those who say that Singapore has lost its soul along the way couldn’t be more wrong. Few cities in Southeast Asia can boast Singapore’s fascinating ethnic brew. Where else in the world can you dip into the cultures of China, India and Muslim Malaysia all in one day, against a backdrop of ultra-modern Western commerce?

Singapore has topped 131 cities globally to become the world’s most expensive city to live in 2014, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. The city’s strong currency combined with the high cost of running a car and soaring utility bills contributed to Singapore topping the list. It is also the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes. Singapore replaces Tokyo, which topped the list in 2013.

We stayed in Singapore 4 days and I can confirm you that these is true. On the other hand if you know how to travel and you don’t need to shop for clothes, drink too much beer… you can manage it very cheep as well – thats what we did :). Since this time I can’t write about the road trips, trekking, beaches… as I usually do, I will divide Singapore to sections of accommodation, food & drinks, transport and sightseeing.

ACCOMMODATION

Let’s just say accommodation in Singapore is NOT cheap. If we were paying so far between min 2 – max 10 EUR per person per night in a private room, we discovered that for the same standards we would need to pay from 20 EUR on per person. Since we are true to our principals (specially me) of not paying too much, we decided for the first time to stay in a dorm. We found a Chinese run backpacker dorm Cozy Backpacker Corner – and let me just say, that there was nothing cozy in that dorm. The price was reasonable considering it was Singapore (11 EUR/person), but sleeping with 4 other Chinese that actually lived in the room, was everything but pleasure. Just imagine.. a guy snoring like  a chain saw and showing his balls all the time out of his too big underwear, a woman washing, drying and ironing her clothes on the bed all day long, another woman scared of dark who forced us to sleep with the lights on and finally another guy coming home every night at 2 in the morning wakening everybody up… And than us, 2 white people that like peace and quite and are tired of whole day walking. And lets not forget uninvited free guests in our room – bed bugs & mosquitos which pleasantly bit us all nights long :). sounds fun, doesn’t it? 🙂 Hey but what kind of backpacker would we be to complain about this minor details. We survived it and we can say now, that we did the most low standard accommodation in the most modern and expensive city in the world – talking about irony :).

FOOD & DRINKS

Food is the national obsession – and it’s not difficult to see why. Sitting out under the stars at a bustling hawker centre with a few bottles of Tiger beer and diving into an enormous verity of Asian dishes is one of the iconic Singaporean experiences. Soups, chicken rice, clay-pot dishes, curries, Indian food, Chinese food, Thai food…the list is as long as it is delicious. And, of course, if your credit card hasn’t already taken a battering in the shops, the city’s restaurants are some of the most stylish and innovative in the region.

We tried several dishes in Singapore and I would point out food in “Little India” and Lau Pa Sat food court. Indian food is famously cheep and good so you can stop by at any restaurant in Indian district and you won’t miss it. Lau Pa Sat Food Court is kind of cover modern market with dozens of small restaurants with all kinds of food for very reasonable price. Definitely stop by and check it!!!

What to say about drinks. Alcohol is expensive even for western standards. I had one beer in whole 4 days so I can’t really say if they have a good one or not. We had the most expensive sangria ever – 50 $ – in a lounge bar on top of Marina Bay Sands – at least the view was amazing. The only thing that is cheap are fresh fruit juices but after drinking them in all other SE Asian countries, I have to say that these ones were the worst ones so far. Drink water and you will do just fine :).

TRANSPORT

Be it the bus, Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) or taxicabs, getting around Singapore is a breeze. Singapore has one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world. And it is cheap (at least one thing 🙂 ) – 1 EUR per metro ride usually – to the airport from the center 1,5 EUR – Madrid you could learn a lot from them. Funny fact – that almost cost me 500 $ – is that you are not allowed to eat and drink in metro (as I was instructed by the guard enjoying my bag of peanuts). Can you imagine that they don’t have even one garbage been in the whole metro system – and they don’t even need it. People don’t litter in Singapore. I am not kidding you, if I say you could literally eat from the floor 🙂

SIGHTSEEING

I was at first a bit annoyed by the fact that we will stay in Singapore for 4 days. Firstly because of the costs and secondly because I know that big cities’ sightseeing can be usually done in 2 days. Well, I was wrong.. The transport is cheep, the food as well and there are plenty of things to do and see to make you busy for some time. Little India, China Town, Arab Street, Riverside walk, Gardens by the bay, Marina Bay, Marina Sands … are enough reasons to stay a few days.

LITTLE INDIA

This modest but colourful area of wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music is a relief from the prim modernity of many parts of the city. Centred around the southern end of Serangoon Rd, this is the place to come to pick up cheap textile, cheap electronic gadgets, look for a backpackers accommodation, live music, eat great food and watch streetside cooks fry chapatis.

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CHINA TOWN

Singapore’s Chinatown is the island’s traditional Chinese quarters and, whilst the entire city of Singapore is largely Chinese, the area still retains some of its original charm. But don’t get mistaken, Chinatown in Singapore has nothing to do with chinatowns elsewhere. It’s modern, clean and doesn’t smell of food and fish oil :). Nobody is screaming and nobody is trying to sell you anything although there are plenty street shops. Almost as if you were not in a Chinatown actually:).

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ARAB STREET

It’s a strange paradox that one of the oldest precincts in Singapore – an important gathering area for the original settlers in Singapore, the Malay and Muslim communities – has over the years embraced modern shops and bars that are bohemian and alternative.

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RIVERSIDE WALK

A popular way to see the heart of the city is a walk along the Singapore river. Cute restaurants, skyscrapers, interesting sculptures of Asian and international artist (including Salvador Dali) and Marlion park are all the reasons to have a nice walk in this area.

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GARDENS BY THE BAY

Gardens by the Bay is a park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden.The largest of the three gardens is Bay South Garden, standing at 54 hectares. This award-winning horticultural attraction houses over 500,000 plants. The two cooled conservatories – Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, feature rare and unique plants from around the world.

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MARINA BAY & MARINA BAY SANDS

Marina Bay is a bay near Central Area in the southern part of Singapore, and lies to the east of the Downtown Core. The area surrounding the bay itself is a 360 hectare extension to the adjacent Central Business District.

Marina Bay Sands is an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is the world’s most expensive building, at US$ 4.7 billion, including the cost of the prime land. Marina Bay Sands is situated on 15.5 hectares of land with the gross floor area of 581,000 square meters. The iconic design has transformed Singapore’s skyline and tourism landscape since it opened on 27 April 2010. The property has a hotel, convention and exhibition facilities, theaters, entertainment venues, retailers and restaurants.l

At Marina Bay Sands you can get the most spectacular view in the city. If you go before 6 p.m. to 57th flor you can enter for free to the lounge bar or you pay 30 $ and enter to the viewing deck. We decided for the free option but than they expect you buy a drink at the bar, nothing surprising… Sangria was 50 $ so in the end it costs you the same as entering on the deck. And the bad side of the bar is that after 6 you have to leave if you are not dressed properly (long pants for the guys). Our recommendation therefore is to pay for the platform bring your water and you can stay as long as you want. There is also an option to enter to one of the most spectacular swimming pools in the world, but it will cost you 100 $ plus the drinks. Well maybe one day.. 🙂

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There are plenty more of other sightseeings that you can do in Singapore, but they are either not worth of mention, either cost to much or we simply didn’t have time for them: Singapore’s botanical garden (we did it and it’s nothing special), Singapore ZOO, Night safari, numerous museum, shopping centers…

Ok Singapore is behind us. Its beautiful, mesmerizing, organized, clean and everything else that you would expect from a modern city. Who knows, maybe my next working station is waiting for me somewhere there – I wouldn’t mind to try my luck there. But now we are heading for Indonesia. One of my favorite countries on the Into the wild list. Let’s see if its still so amazing as it was 3 years ago.

To end I will summarize Singapore with a few interesting facts and +/- as usually.

FACTS:

– 4 days of staying in Singapore

– 90 EUR of costs/person

– the most expensive city in the world

– every 3rd person living in Singapore has at least 1 MIO $ on his account

– 2nd bigest port in the world after Rotterdam

– 3rd bigest petroleum rafienry after Rotterdam and Houston

– the lowest corruption rate in the world

– almost 0 % of unemployment

– very expensive alcohol and tobacco

– don’t have any natural resources – not even its own water

– the most expensive building in the world: Marina Bay Sands

– more shopping malls that you could ever imagine

TOP 5

1. Marina bay & Marina Bay Sands with its views (specially at night)

2. Food in Little India and Lau Pa Sat Food court

3. City’s general organization and tidiness

4. Riverside walk

5. Concert arena at marina bay with its live music

NEGATIVE 5

1. Prices (accommodations, entrances, drinks)

2. Standard and roommates in the dorm

3. Too consumption orientated people (specially kids) – even more than in the western world

4. Too much air – con everywhere (stores, metro, buses…), just freezing

5. Supposed botanical garden (looks more like a park)

Love Maja & Andrej

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