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Currently Browsing: Singapore

This Is Singapore?

Singapore Drug Trafficking NoticeSo Western. Too easy. Not authentic Asia. These are descriptions that the masses of travelers drilled in our minds about the island city-state of Singapore. Needless to say, we expected our transition into Asia for 4+ months would be eased by Singapore’s rumored simplicity. Even before landing at the ultra modern Changi International Airport, it was apparent that the Republic of Singapore is not as bland as some would have you believe. The Singapore Strait was choked with container ships waiting for access to the world’s second busiest port. It was a surreal view from an economy seat of an Airbus jet. Name a Western metropolis where upon descending for landing you are welcomed by a Normandy looking invasion of ships.

Boats in Singapore Strait Singapore Airport Singapore SMRT

The airport was unlike anything we have seen, complete with a swimming pool and movie theatres to pass time during layovers. We brisked through Customs, but not before being reminded of the swift death sentence if we were apprehended for smuggling drugs. Then it was onto the sleek SMRT rail system that ushers passengers from 58 countries to the city center. We arrived at our station in record time, thinking, yeah, Singapore is almost as advertised. After one hour of searching the hectic Geyland area for our lodging, we humbly disagreed with previous assessments of Singapore. Alas, we found Hotel 81 amongst the numerous brothels, video game cafes, and bars spilling onto the street. I was even welcomed to the red light district by an elderly women who kindly inquired, “Touch me?”. I shall pass, but thank you.

Singapore Arc?We tackled the next day with a fury. Haji Lane, a small Muslim zone, was our first destination. Beside mosques and among veiled women, we perused clothing boutiques, even finding Ash’s friend Amy a pair of sailor socks. From there we leisurely walked through a fantastic park, across bridges, and admired architecturally unique shopping malls. This must be the area that visitors talk about so much, where motos (scooters) abide by traffic signals, grub is easy to order, and skyscrapers put a kink in your neck. Being obsessed with real estate, Ashley grew tired of my constant appreciation of creative retail structures and incomprehensible towers. Despite the 100+ degree heat, we both agreed that the arc like edifice being built atop three hulking glass office buildings was worth a long gaze.

Singapore Skyline Small Buildings Amongst Steel & Glass

Seeking shelter from the sweltering heat, we found respite at one the many restaurants along the Singapore River. Across the bustling river was a classic 19th Century British influenced structure that provided a stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers behind us. If only Stamford Raffles and the British East Indian Company, whose open immigration policy of Singapore spurred immense growth, could see the place now. Consuming Indian-Malay cuisine, we chowed down under fans and drank a pitcher of delicious Tiger beer. Suitably cool again, we hit the pavement once more to explore the city including the understated Sir Raffles monument.

View of Singapore River Tiger Beer Lunch On River

Chinese Red Paper LanternThe sun was drooping as we boarded the SMRT for Chinatown. Once again, we experienced the unexpected. The sense of calmness in the hyper tourist and business district was chucked out the window in this chaotic mess of people. Noisy parades, sun dried ducks, and tasteless ice cream were all experienced. Perhaps the best moment was inhaling street food while people watching under the ubiquitous red paper lanterns strung between colonial buildings. The view from a pedestrian bridge exhibited the contrast between the Chinatown street market and Singapore’s impressive skyline. Our splendid time in Chinatown sparked a fire in us for the months ahead in Asia. A quick stop amongst hundreds of gawking men in Little India prepped us for a visit to the Subcontinent.

Duck Chinatown Little India... Men... Lots of Men

Having seen much of Singapore’s less talked about underbelly, Ashley’s shopping itch was scratched along Orchard Road. However, shopping without a credit card cramped her style. Louis Vuitton? Keep dreaming Ash! Regardless, Ash had a ball along this opulent stretch of designer stores reminiscent of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. After yet another long walk through the city, we arrived at Singapore’s most famous hotel. Opened in 1887 and named after Singapore’s founder, the Raffles Hotel has endured receivership during the Great Depression and survived WWII Japanese occupation. Trying our very best to look non-backpacker, we saddled up in the Long Bar to enjoy the omnipresent Singapore Sling. Our jaws hit the floor when the $20 price tag revealed itself. One cocktail, two straws please!

Orchard Road Raffles Hotel $20 Singapore Sling

While we experienced the Western influence of Singapore, by no means does that define it. Between the red light district, ethnic dominions, and culinary fusions, we did not experience the expected blandness of Singapore.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Making a hand drawn map of your accommodation’s approximate location can prevent massive headaches. Particularly when arriving at night in a foreign country. Including major landmarks on your rough map allows locals to provide helpful directions when in doubt.
2) Resting your eyes in predictable areas of a city has it positives and negatives. Ash and I had a ball just walking around Singapore’s Geyland area though at times wished obtaining something as simple as a bottle of water was not a monumental task.

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