2-12 Singapore!

Things I noticed about Singapore:

  1. There is excellent public transport.
  2. Food is expensive unless you eat at Chinese takeaways or Little India
  3. Little India smells delicious. Like the whole area, starting as soon as the doors open on the train.
  4. The story of Singapore is very much like the story of the USA. Immigrants looking for a better life or opportunity but often finding a squalid existence for at least the first 10 years and land disputes with native peoples.
  5. It is a very clean city.
  6. I love not being hassled by hawkers.
Creepy hand print at the water and light show. 
This image is being projected onto sprayed water.

We arrived at the Singapore airport and caught the train into town. This alone was a bit of a shocker. There was a train that went from the airport to town in a simple, well-mapped fashion. Brilliant. Then we had to find our hostel.

The hostel was hidden and I kind of think the manager did it intentionally. We looked around for about 15 minutes from the street corner it was meant to be on. Then we called the reservations number. We asked where it was and said we’d like to drop off our bags. The manager babbled something and hung up. We waited on the street corner, thinking she’d said she’d come down. No such luck. Finally, we started opening random doors to see if the address was wrong. Through the second door and up a flight of stairs, we discovered the hostel. We knocked. No answer, we rang the doorbell, which did finally get an answer. The manager stuck her head out to say that check-in didn’t start until 1 pm. She was shutting the door on us when we asked if we could leave our bags. She grudgingly allowed us in and pointed to a corner of the common room. We dropped off our bags and ran away. When we did go back to check in, she was much more civil but we still spent most of the 3 days we were there trying to avoid talking to her.

The immigrant stories struck a chord in this American

Singapore has an excellent Asian Cultures Museum. We were in it for close to 5 hours and only covered half the galleries. We didn’t have the brain space left to keep looking at things after 5 hours. I learned a lot about Islam and Buddhism. My favorite section was the bit on calligraphy. It is fascinating to see different orthographies and think about all the different ways we could create words with squiggles on a page.

A photo of a photo.  I’m so meta.

My favorite museum in Singapore was the Chinatown Museum. It is relatively short, but very well put together. It shows how the Chinese immigrants came and made lives in Singapore. It had a very good demonstration of the cramped living quarters with the personal effects of several families. It also had quotes from people who lived during that time, which really humanized the whole thing. I would recommend it to anyone visiting Singapore.

We also took a trip to the night zoo. I love animals, so I enjoyed myself, even if the flying squirrel wouldn’t jump off the tree while we were watching. They had nice exhibits with a good mix of animals all of which seemed well cared for. Watching the show gave me a sense of dislocation when they said, “This great animal comes all the way from North America.” Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. (The animal was a Great White Wolf.) The otters were the best. They’ve been trained to recycle. The trainer set out a bunch of bins and scattered recyclable across the stage. Each otter chose a different material and threw it in the correct bin. It was very cute.

The owl was a show off.

The shocking thing about Singapore was the modernity. Coming from Vanuatu and Indonesia, it was unexpected. Not that I think Singapore shouldn’t be developed, because I know it is, but rather that the contrast between these places was shocking. Sinagpore looked a lot like home, and I guess I wasn’t expecting that. Going from streets crowded with food stalls, parked cars and motorbikes to wide open walking areas and clean, timely public transportation was pleasant. But going from smiles on the street with a nod or a greeting to head down and move along on your business was less so.

We left Singapore on a bus heading into Malaysia. It was a short visit, but that’s all our budgets could afford.

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