I’ve started my journey towards the Philippines and I’m stopping in Singapore for a few days for now. I’m on the way with Janina.
The city holds many associations with itself. On the one hand it is one of the largest transfer airports in the world, on the other hand it is a melting pot of cultures and anyone who even spits out chewing gum here will be severely punished.
The airport is really impressive. Even if I don’t have to change trains for the time being, I came to stay.
The airport is very artistic and obviously a host of gardeners must be busy tending the botanical gardens that you pass through to collect your luggage.
The airport is thus analogous to the cityscape. It’s green, green, green. Full of parks and avenues, endless city beaches and architecturally impressive buildings.
There is no “Singaporean” per se. The population are Malays, Indians, Chinese, Thais, Indonesians and Vietnamese. This corner of Malaysia’s archipelagic landscape of many peoples has only been independent of the British crown for a few decades.
What was left behind, however, was the English language as the main language and that which holds all peoples together here. Everyone speaks excellent English and every lettering is in the same way, alongside Mandarin and Sanskrit.
The people are not only friendly, but accommodating. You only have to look around helplessly in the area and someone will come quickly to offer help. I was quickly shown where the bus departs for the city. You have to pay in cash, but the bus driver can’t change money and I only got large bills from the ATM. Every arrival should have this problem, one would think. The bus driver simply waives the price and gives me a free ticket.
My host of an AirBnB is in no way inferior: a small family of teachers from India who rent one of their rooms to guests. Everyone speaks English, both the people on the street and the children among themselves on the playground. The children of the hosts already speak 5 languages – at the age of 7!
The family lives in a complex of several futuristic-looking high-rise buildings that are walled and only accessible through barriers. There are many of them here.
Our complex is called “Mandarin Gardens”. It seems that chic hotel complexes for long-term residents have been built everywhere here. There is a very large pool, a restaurant, a fitness center and certainly more things that we didn’t see.
We definitely don’t want to miss the pool and by seducing this luxury we are unfaithful to the simple backpacking life.
Unfortunately, in Singapore I have to realize that the worst possible thing has happened: my camera is broken! All images are underexposed. Friends and family give me advice on facebook and thanks to their help, at least one trick is found to circumvent the problem in the short term.
The city is a mix of modern and traditional and manages to be clean everywhere. Not that there are many law enforcement officers who will throw you in jail as soon as you appear to have thrown something away. There is not any. People are so attentive to clearing away their trash and there is a legion of people cleaning up. The high unemployment in the neighboring countries makes it possible.
The Straits of Malacca, one of the busiest shipping routes of all, runs in front of Singapore. Looking out to sea, superships can be seen all over the horizon, the largest steel structures imaginable. And a whole armada of them.
Singapore was recently named the most expensive city in the world. Luckily we don’t notice that much. The food is very cheap everywhere, if you don’t want to go directly to a posh restaurant, and the transport doesn’t cost much either. There is also a saying that goes, “It’s impossible to starve in Singapore.” The mix of all nationalities here ensures a colorful mix of restaurants and a high level of culinary diversity. The most delicious smells come from many street kitchens.
We decide to spend the first evening walking in the dark on the nearby beach, where we walk barefoot in the warm water while a light, warm breeze caresses our skin. The horizon is lit up with all the big ships anchored near shore. We end the long day with a honey lychee mushroom soup.
The next day, when the temperature is quite hot, we hike along the coast and admire the recreation area designed there, which stretches along the water to the city center. There we take the incredibly modern subway to get to the Little India district. As the name suggests, the Indians of the city live there, and they have actually built a small image of Calcutta there. The district, along with Chinatown, is one of the oldest areas of the city and is therefore part of its heritage, which has to be protected again and again from greedy investors.
In Little India there is a large market where you can find everything from freshly slaughtered goats to shampoo and delicious curry. For just a few Singapore$ we fill our stomachs with mango lassi, coconut and pakora.
Everywhere in this district there are Hindu temples that we can enter, in stark contrast to the modern skyline.
Chinatown has more of everything. More small handicraft shops with knick-knacks that are as beautiful as they are unnecessary. And many more street kitchens. In the narrow streets, which are of course lined with classic Chinese lantern chains, the stalls are crowded and people have to wind their way through the narrow alleys. A wide variety of Chinese cuisine is offered, from boiled fish heads to stewed frogs and shark fin soup to centenarian eggs are offered to passers-by.
It is also remarkable that in Singapore you see a lot of really old people in the streets doing menial work. Especially in pubs and street kitchens they are employed as dishwashers. Others sweep the streets. Remarkably, the seniors are much friendlier than the young people with similar tasks.
Watching the people of Methuselah, skin and bones, clearing away the place settings slowly and carefully, but with a smile on their face is very thought provoking.
Before we indulge in another treat, let’s use the remaining light of the day to see the sunset from one of the city’s tallest buildings: the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. More specifically, we’d like to see the sunset from this posh hotel’s rooftop terrace, part of which is open to the mob — for a hefty entrance fee, of course.
The elevator takes us at almost the speed of light to the 56th floor, where one can be satisfied that the money was well spent on a priceless experience. The whole city, skyline, port and straits of Malacca lie at my feet.
At our feet is also a park with illuminated, gigantic metal palm trees that have been allowed to overgrow. Exactly at the moment when we arrive there, an acoustic light show begins.
The trees light up in time to the music of O Fortuna or Jurassic Park and bring the day to a perfect close.