If the world is an oyster, the island of Singapore sits like a shiny pearl, surrounded by it’s developing neighbours. The lucky citizens of Singapore live in first-world bliss, with plenty of third-world destinations at their fingertips. Sleek skyscrapers rise majestically from clean and well thought out landscapes. The architecture is modern but mature, showing Singapore’s ability to be sophisticated and modest.
The city is brilliantly laid-out, and getting around by public transit is not only efficient, but pleasant, too. The subways and busses are clean, frequent, and work exactly as they should. People move at a gentle pace, apologizing when they bump your shoulder on the train.
It’s as though the city was thought out and designed completely before it was built, with balance being the number one priority, and money no issue. Infrastructure was installed to erase confusion, not to create it, and wherever you go, helpful signs lead you to exactly where you need to be. Everyone’s needs are taken into consideration here, not just the wealthy. Public housing is frequent, and transportation incredibly cheap.
Though it’s amenities are vast, and it’s citizens privileged, Singapore hasn’t lost it’s Asian charm. Beyond the walls of the luxurious downtown core, lies an intricate maze of streets and allies filled with cuisine and culture from all over the continent. One could get lost for days in the pleasures of these diverse eateries (known locally as hawkers), consuming the food of a different ethnicity at every meal.
Like Canada, Singapore has a mosaic of races, with the most prevalent being Asian and Indian. It would appear that, for the most part, people live in complete harmony with each other. There is no dominant religion or set of cultural behaviours.
Tyson and I arrived here late one night after catching a flight from Manila, and checked into the cheapest hotel we could find. The place was decent, but nothing special. We’d just spent two months in a third world country, so it felt more than adequate. That being said, the shower was always out of hot water when we needed it, and the bed was unforgiving on the joints, and made of a rubberized material saved for hotels that rent their rooms by the hour. Though unassuming for what it is, we were in Singapore’s red light district.
Our intention was to be here four or five nights.
Before we left the airport, I approached an information desk and smiled at the girls behind it.
“I have a very ignorant question” I said. “But I just spent two months in the Philippines, so I have to ask it. Is the tap water here safe to drink?”
They giggled and nodded their heads.
Tyson and I had both caught a pretty nasty bout of travellers diarrhea before we left Palawan, and it wasn’t really letting up. This frustrated us since we’d just landed in food paradise, and were both dying to indulge in the vast selection of gastronomical delights that awaited our taste buds.
On our first day, we found a laundromat and washed all of our clothes. This was a particularly satisfying thing to do since we’d been washing by hand for the last couple of months, and I’m no expert at cleaning clothes with soap and a bucket.
That night we visited the Singapore Flyer, and went for a ride. Sitting like a giant trophy on the inner harbour, the oversized ferris wheel is an engineering feat dedicated solely to entertainment. It’s individual capsules are lit up, and the thing does one full rotation every half hour. We got an incredible view of Singapore’s intricate skyline at night.
In the following days, we visited the Singapore zoo and Night Safari, which are considered some of the best zoos in the world. They were amazing, though still a good reminder that animals belong in the wild, and not captivity. By the end of it we’d seen some 2000 animals from around the world, and we were exhausted and a bit sad for them.
We also had lunch with a lovely woman named Shirin, who works for the Singapore government, and was one of the people responsible for bringing my Dad here last year, to speak at a conference. She gave us a long list of things to do while in Singapore. We visited Arab St and Chinatown. Thanks to Shirin’s recommendation we had lunch one day at a turkish restaurant called Alaturka, and the food and service were incredible.
We visited a Hindu Temple, and the Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple, which is a five-story pagoda that houses more gold then I’ve ever seen before, and a bicuspid that supposedly belonged to the Buddha himself. I hear critics are skeptical, but the experience was very cool.
Singapore’s downfall is it’s weather. It rains a lot here. It poured heavily every day we were here, and a newly acquired umbrella became our most prized possession. The rain certainly hampered my ability to get good photos, but we still had a lot of fun.
Our plan was to wake up early on Tuesday morning and catch a bus to Penang, Malaysia. But I had a horrible headache and head cold, and I wasn’t able to go anywhere. I spent the day in bed, suffering from body aches, chills and a fever.
On Wednesday morning, Tyson woke up with the same thing, and we both spent the entire day in bed.
By Thursday, I was getting better, but Tyson was still ill, and neither of us was in any shape to slog to the bus terminal.
On Friday, we mustered up the energy to leave, knowing that our hotel was jacking up the price of our room by almost double for the Christmas holiday. After being weakened by three days of sickness, our backpacks felt twice as heavy, and the humidity less bearable than ever. When we arrived at the bus station, we were informed that the bus was full, and the next available wasn’t leaving until Dec 28. We had to sit down to digest this information.
I spotted a nearby Subway, and suddenly craved a sandwich. I’ve never been a huge fan of fast food, but for some reason, at that moment, I really wanted a sub, so we made our way across the street and ordered some food. Ok, what now?
We had two options.
1. Go back to our mediocre hotel room and spend Christmas in Singapore
2. Go to the airport and try and book a cheap ticket to Kuala Lumpur
I didn’t like either of these options. Then I remembered that my parents had generously offered me a monetary Christmas gift, which they had deposited into my bank account. I decided to spend it on a luxurious hotel room at the Grand Copthorne, one of the many palaces that grace the Singapore canal.
We checked in yesterday, and we’re here until Dec 28th. Our room is on the 13th floor, and overlooks the snaking canal and swanky skyline. We’ve already enjoyed multiple hot showers, and a night in the endless, soft bed. Included in our room is one of the most incredible breakfast buffets I’ve ever seen. It’s Christmas, and this is our little gift to us.
Merry Christmas from Singapore!
Merry Christmas to you and Tyson. It is his birthday coming up soon, so tell him that at the family dinner that is at my place this year, we will toast the two of you and wish him a happy birthday.
Love from Uncle Ivan
Hey, just realized I’ve been reading all of these and hadn’t commented yet! Really love your writing, you do such a good job of really capturing where you are and making the reader feel like we’re there with you. Aside from the sickness (which is definitely par for the course over there) sounds like you are having an amazing adventure and I wish you all the best moving forward. Happy holidays 🙂
Hi Caroline. Singapore sure is an amazing city. Mom and I loved it there too. And yes, the breakfasts at the hotel are fabulous. I’m thinking that you and Tyson may have come down with either a flu bug or Norwalk virus. Hope you are feeling better by the time you get this e-mail. Good luck with heading toward Malaysia on the 28th. Merry Christmas to both of you.
I love your blog and the pictures. Have a wonderful Christmas and I wonder what the New Year will bring…
What a nice treat – happy holidays to you both!
PS we got snow yesterday, this time to stay – so we will have a white Christmas. The boys are very excited!