I’m jet lagged, which is weird because I never get a jet lag when I travel. I was fine traveling to Singapore, but coming back really knocked me out. Maybe it’s because the trip lasted almost 36 hours (including the time to get home from the airport), which is a long time to travel when you go through eight, or more, time zones. Anyway, I’m not here to complain about my jet lag, as bad as it is. I’m here to share my experience with you.
I plan to divide my posts into two parts: food and photography. I took a lot of photos of the food we ate, and the places we visited, so hopefully I can share a large portion of them with you. I haven’t really conceptualized how I plan to do it (individual or aggregate posts), but I will definitely do my best to share it with you.
My first impression of Singapore: “WOW!” This country, or city-state to be more accurate, is really jazzy! There is an incredible emphasis on architecture, which is by far the most amazing manifestation of modern that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s not just about the structure itself (as you’ll see in the photos that I will publish in the upcoming posts), but also the type of lights that accompany it; it’s about the location of the sun and shadows; it’s about the curves, the heights and so much more. It is, to put it simply, quite amazing! I was really taken aback the first time I visited downtown, talk about a jaw-dropping moment!
Getting Around Singapore
Getting around Singapore is really easy, which speaks to the well-planned and well-organized city-state. The main train and bus stations are massive, and are usually connected to major colossal malls (some of the mall are the size of little towns). This is another bonus, because you never have to leave the station, a bonus you can really appreciate given the humidity and heat that is so characteristic of this modern city-state. Most of the massive malls we visited are built underground, sometimes up to 4 levels deep! Here is a photo that illustrates how deep you get to go down (this is only one level down):
The subway and bus systems are profoundly efficient! Something you can really appreciate if you’ve ever had experience with New Jersey Transit. Missed your train? Not a problem! The next train is only 4 minutes away! I think that’s why people don’t push each other, even during rush hour. Here’s another interesting part, which I found to be really useful, especially during rush hours: the train stations have passengers lanes directing the inflow and outflow. It made our life easier during rush hour, when thousands of people were walking in the tunnels trying to change trains or just trying to exit the station. What also amazed me is how clean the stations were; I guess a $5,000 fine for littering does work like magic. It’s not just the train stations, but the entire city-state that is impeccably clean (perhaps with the exception of Chinatown and Little India).
The train and bus system is the best way to get around in Singapore. If you’re only staying for a few days, I suggest that you purchase the Tourist Pass. It costs $10 a day, with a $10 refund when you return the ticket to the ticket office, so basically you get to pay $0.00! We bought the ticket for three days (the longest duration you can purchase), which cost us $20+$10 deposit, which we received back when we returned the ticket. It’s a great deal because it allows you to move freely using both SRT and LRT train and bus services. You can only get the ticket in specific locations.
Here is a typical train station in Singapore. Efficiency is a key here:
Food Courts’ Experience
The food courts are amazingly rich with diversity in Singapore. Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Afghani, Pakistani, Japanese, and many more cuisines are there to explore. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the options that are available, especially since each option is a freshly cooked meal that is very inexpensive. My advice: resist the temptation to make your decision on the first food counter! My strategy was to focus on famous Singaporean dishes (such as chicken rice, Laksa, and others), and only after I was done exploring these dishes I made ‘room’ for other dishes. The part of all, these small kitchens are regulated in terms of hygiene and then graded, from “A” (excellent) to “D” (run away).
Everything we ate was absolutely delicious and was cooked on the spot! You tell the cook what you want, and come back after 10 or so minutes. The system is very efficient, and the service is always with a smile. The owners take pride is what they cook, and for them it’s more about feeding you the best food they can offer than it is to make money. The philosophy is simple: if you liked what you ate, you’ll come back. With hundreds of options to choose from there is simply no room for mediocrity.
Don’t be surprised if you share a table with strangers in the food court. Everyone is polite and everyone is there to do the same thing: socialize and eat delicious food. So, enjoy it! There are a few unwritten rules you need to keep in mind, however, when entering any food court in Singapore. For example, if you want to reserve a table before you purchase your meal, you need only to leave a napkin (or a book, or a bag) on that table. Needless to say that this rule goes both ways, and if you don’t honor it, you’ll get dirty looks!
Below are few pictures of different food courts we visited:
Check out the streets below. Notice how clean these streets are?
This is part of Chinatown (the slightly dirtier part of town). Spotless!
The same results on Arab Street. Very clean streets.
And even the food court in Little India…
Everything is spotless! Why you asked?
Singapore Is a ‘Fine City’
“Singapore is a fine city,” said our taxi driver from our ride from the airport to the hotel, adding a laugh before explaining what he meant. It has a double meaning, he noted: “fine” in the sense of a great country, and also in the sense of a country that “fines” you for almost every violation of rules of conduct. I can see why so many people I spoke to (mainly Americans) were a bit put off by the harsh penalties for chewing gum in public, littering, spitting in the street, excessive hugs in public, hacking internet hotspots, not flushing public toilets, and many others. Some may refer to this as a lack of freedom, but after being in Singapore for two weeks, I came to appreciate it as necessary, at least if you wish your environment to be pleasant. Can you imagine if NYC enforced such rules?
Here’s an example of another penality:
Attractions in Singapore
There is a lot to do and see in Singapore, and you need to plan in advance if you want to see a large part of it, thought it is impossible to see it all in just a few days. The hot weather limits you from walking outside during the day, and taking the train from one spot to another does take time. Your best option is to plan your sightseeing according to the train lines, this way you can move from one attraction to another without repeating your steps. For example, traveling from Marina Bay stop up the red line can cover the following attractions:
- Gardens by the Bay
- Singapore Flyer
- Marina Bay Sands
- Science Museum
- Little India
- Arab Street
- Orchard Rd
This is only a short list. Each line will take you to more attractions. Look out for my forthcoming review of some of the attractions we visited in Singapore!
Here’s an image I found on Flickr of the MRT & LRT system (photo credit: Pete):
Overall, we had a great time!
More to come…