“GTFO, Singapore.” Were my last words as we rapidly crossed the bridge, passed border control and into Malaysia. Brutal, I know but there were a series of events that led up to those harsh words.
Allow me to start from the beginning.
Singapore had been on our list of places to see ever since we vegged out on the Anthony Bourdain series, Parts Unknown. We’re huge AB fans and if I were to meet him in real life, I’d probably cry… and then buy the man a drink.
I was intrigued about the melting pot of cultures and the obscene high-end architecture throughout the city. Mostly, though, I was way pumped for the food scene! Anthony Bourdain ate his way through the country and it genuinely looked like he was thoroughly obsessed with all of his meals there. So, following in true Anthony fashion we had planned on eating our way through Singapore.
The other perk to the trip was Andrew’s cousin and her family is stationed with the military in Singapore, so we had the luxury of staying with family – good for the soul and the pocket book!
I literally don’t even know where to begin with this section so I’m starting it with this sentence so it can…start. As far as customer service and hospitality goes, Japan is a tough act to follow. If you read my previous blog on our time there then you know what I’m talking about! When we arrived, we were forewarned that if you want good customer service, Singapore is not the place to be and to not expect others to put you first.
I didn’t think too much of this until Andrew and I were on a bus and witness a handicapped man trying to get off of the bus. He had a cane and as he tried to exit several people entering the bus, pushed him aside to get on…then the bus driver closed the doors on him. I was astonished. Sharon, Andrew’s cousin is pregnant and has had very similar experiences, unfortunately.
Hailing a taxi was also a very frustrating experience when cab drivers would refuse to take you to the places you request…or even stop to pick you up when they’re available. Andrew and I spent an entire hour one day trying to get a hold of one! Sharon mentioned a time she was at the doctor and her toddler was so sick they told her to get to the emergency room. When she hailed a cab, the driver said NO because it was outside of the area he likes to work in. How can you reject a sick child?!! <<That’s insane.
Despite the fiery first three paragraphs in this section, there are nice people in Singapore too. J Our tour guide from the biking tour was really great and we met a guy on the Tiger Brewery tour that was super friendly. Although, now that I think of it he was from Australia…. So there goes that theory I guess….
Enough about that. #rantover
THIS is why we wanted to go to Singapore and the food did not disappoint! I literally cannot think of a meal in this country that was not amazing – I loved it all! While Singapore is generally an expensive place, there are hocker stands that offer really cheap (think like $3 give or take), really high quality and quantity food. Think of these joints as an outdoor cafeteria…but the cafeteria food we know of back in the states aint got nothing on these! Don’t get me wrong, those turkey and gravy meals we’d get back in elementary school were bomb, but I think I’d rather settle for freshly juiced watermelon, papaya and kiwi with a chicken curry and freshly made flat bread.
In Singapore you get a variety of different cultures since everyone is from somewhere else (Singapore is just 50 years old!) They also have some strict rules and regulations for dining establishments, so the food is generally safe, clean and of good quality. They have food inspectors visit restaurants and stands frequently and will even shut down eateries on a regular basis to thoroughly clean the area.
Some of the best things I ate: pork rib noodle bowl, flat noodle stir-fry and many fresh juices!
There are so many interesting laws in Singapore. The joke is that you get fined for everything! Chewing gum is even illegal and is a pretty steep fine if you get caught. While some of the laws seem a bit crazy, I do have to admit that it is by far the cleanest and safest city I’ve ever been to. In the states if you drop something on the ground we have the “5 second rule” to pick it back up and eat it…Singapore, I’d give a solid 10-15 seconds it’s so clean!
One crazy point is homeless people don’t exist in Singapore. The government has public assisted housing and they basically give flats away to citizens - including homeless people. Some speculate that is actually a big problem with cultivating a lack of work ethic among the youth. The government even gives out money to citizens each year on their independence day, so in the minds of some youth they think ‘Why do I need to work hard when everything is given to me?’
Aside from government assisted housing, basic flats start from around $400,000 US. You think that’s steep? To own a car the cheapest, basic model Toyota is in the 60-70k range (sing) PLUS you have to have to buy the rights to own the car, which is another 50,000. Get this…you can only own the car for 10 years and then it is scrapped! You would think that this would deter people from owning a car completely, but they are so into status symbols that people still desire to buy a car.
These are only just a few of the bizarre laws they have implemented into the system… but the list goes on.
There were a few differentiating factors that would set apart our experience from that of other travelers. First of all, since we were staying with family we were in a residential area far outside the “tourist” zone, so we didn’t necessarily always have accessible sights to visit. However, we also had a car and were driven around. This was great because there were a couple of sights that would have been tough to get to without one – the Tiger Brewery, for example.
We visited the brewery and went on a mediocre tour of the factory…more like rooms they designed specifically for the tour to corral guests. The perk was unlimited beer at the end, which included Guinness, Heineken and several other brands that they brew there.
The highlight of the trip was on our last day, which in retrospect we wish we had done on our first day to get the lay of the land. We did a bicycle tour of the city and happened to be the only two people on it! Singapore is a great city for biking around and once we got to see the harbor, the best markets and some interesting history and background on the city, it really opened our eyes. The harbor at night offered a free light and laser show and the cityscape lit up is very stunning.
Here are the links to a few of things we did while we were there:
Treetop Walk (nature reserve hike)
Our overall thoughts on Singapore are if you had a lot of money to spend, it might be a decent place to visit. With the steep prices of accommodations, food, tours and transportation it make it difficult to justify for a backpacker.
Walking away from our experience, the highpoint for us was being able to see family, which we loved but in the end it is not really a place that we’d recommend. The people are so difficult and displeasing that it really makes it hard to love it! Also, I can't support a country that doesn't approve of gum and alcohol...