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Singapore and the chewing gum quandary

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Arriving in Singapore was a highlight. Singapore is an island just off the tip of Malaysia, even though it almost seems part of the mainland when looking on a map. There was clearly a tropical environment with heavy rain clouds threatening to burst any minute. After making my way through customs, I was happy to see such a modern facility at the Port. A large network of buildings which housed a mall and a train station made me more comfortable at making my way into the city. Obtain a proper subway ticket was slightly more complicated than I thought it would be, but eventually I figured it out. The machines gave out plastic cards that have to be filled and then deduct for a particular zone. Okay, so it doesn't sound so complicated when I write about it, but just wait until you try to buy one!!

Port of Singapore

It took a good 20 minutes or so to get into the city. I had decided to go to the Jurong Bird Park, first thing, so it took me about another 30-45 minutes to make my way there. I wrote about the park in the previous post, so I will just jump ahead here and talk about the city of Singapore. The train system throughout the network was clean and efficient.

Singapore Suburbs and urban sprawl

Out in the suburbs of Singapore, the areas were quite nice with modern apartment building and the occasional green park and sports field.  Many of the single family homes I saw on the hillsides here and there were beautiful. It almost seemed that one would have to have a lot of money to live in Singapore. There appeared to be a lot of wealth there, with no shortage of luxury cars and real estate.

Singapore Suburbs

For the most part, Singapore seemed flat. No mountainous backdrops or dramatic landscapes. I suppose that from what I've heard most of my life, I expected Singapore to be such an exotic place, but so far, it was a modern and familiar scene. I'm not complaining though, it's just an observation. The subways were mostly crowded but air conditioned. I was surprised at the large number of Indian people throughout. I enjoyed looking at the various colorful clothes worn by the Indian women, but it makes one nervous to look because you don't quite know how other cultures may react to something so simple as looking. People seemed to keep to themselves.

Singapore City Central

When I arrived back in the city, it was quite a walk through the network of underground passage ways. I was trying to reach an area where I could pick up a sightseeing bus. Many countries have these buses now where you can pay a price and get on and off the bus all day.


The sightseeing bus company in Singapore is called "Hippo Tours" (yeah, I know). After walking for a while and asking various people, I finally found the tour desk inside the mall. The main ticket office is inside "Suntec City Mall", and you can get to it via the "City Hall" subway stop. If I remember correctly, it cost me about $24 for a ticket to use all routes. You should go to the web site to get more detailed information.

Singapore City Central

I actually like to first see a city this way because these buses take you all the popular areas and allows you to make a choice where you want to get off and walk around. Later, when you're ready, you just hop back on and go somewhere else.

Singapore Skyline

As I explained earlier, the city of Singapore is mainly a large, modern city. When you see pictures of the exotic locations of Singapore on the internet, you are generally seeing photos that people took inside of the various areas, such as Little India, or China Town.

Singapore Chinese area

You won't really find the historical architecture and scenes that you might envisions. That being said, there are some very interesting things to see within these areas.

Singapore Little India

Little India has markets and restaurants that should be appealing to any tourist. There is an Indian Temple which is rather unique, but unfortunately was under construction when I was there. Other Indian temples are listed on the previous link.

Singapore Little India

The area is not huge, but large enough to spend an hour or so walking around. The subway stop for this area is at "NE7". However, central Singapore city is easy to walk around and if you decide not to take the tour bus, you can walk from one place to another if you have time.

Singapore Little India

In addition to Little India, there is Chinatown and an area called Kampong Glam, which is an enclave for the Malay and Arab community. I didn't really explore this area much, but there are also a number of restaurants, places to shop and an interesting temple.

Temple in Kampong Glam area of Singapore

Walking around the city of Singapore felt very safe and comfortable. It was easy to keep visual landmarks, so as to not get lost. At one point, I stopped and watched the "Dragon Boat Races", which were taking place on the river. I couldn't quite figure out who was winning, but it was interesting non the less. There was s drummer who sat on the front of the boats and beat out a rhythm that the racers rowed to.

Dragon Boat Rowers in Singapore

There were teams from all over the world there. The team was nice and would wave. It was funny how the Asian teams seemed so nice, and the American teams were walking around with their shoulders back and their chests puffed up...and no smile. Not a good way to represent!

Dragon Boat Rowers in Singapore

I didn't find Singapore too expensive, but it was similar in cost to Shanghai. There was plenty to see and do, but that means you have to leave the city center at times. The Singapore Zoo, is one of the best in the world. I didn't visit there this time, but from what I hear, it's amazing and well worth going to. There is also a Night Safari, which is supposed to be good.

Food markets in China town 

I have nothing bad to say about Singapore, it's a great place and worth the visit. However, as I said before, if you're looking for something completely exotic, you might want to try Thailand instead. Singapore is beautiful and they take very good care of their city, but it is mainly a large, modern metro environment. However, that may be exactly what you're looking for.

Downtown Singapore

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about going to Singapore. Here is a world renowned City/Country/Island that everyone talks about as being the cleanest, most sterile place on earth. They say things like "The streets are so clean that you could eat off them". Well, it's time to get some of the myths out of the way and point out some of the harsh truths. First of all, it's NOT illegal to chew gum in Singapore. However, it is illegal to sell it, spit it out anywhere or place it anywhere other than the trash can. You can not bring in large amounts of gum into Singapore. Secondly, you will not be canned for spitting on the sidewalk, but you can be fined. There are lots of things you can be fined for, but most tourists aren't really going to do those things.

Singapore river walk 

Yes, Singapore, for the most part, is very clean. However, there are dirty spots, and you will see trash on occasion, along with a few run down buildings. Most of Singapore, in the city area, is quite pristine. Don't be foolish and drop your trash on the ground. It's amazing you even have to say that, but I see so many Americans throwing trash out their car windows in the U.S., it's just disgusting. Also, for those of you who can't be bothered with flushing the toilet, you'll be surprised to know that it's illegal not to. Yes, you can be fined.

Singapore Skyline

Canning is a fact of life there. You can be canned for really breaking the law. For instance, don't drive drunk. Not only is it really stupid, irresponsible and dangerous, but if you get canned once, you won't do it again. Don't believe me..go to Youtube and look up canning videos. Pretty horrific. The good news is that Canning is only reserved for males under the age of 50 and over 18, but the laws don't allow anyone to get by with criminal behavior.

Singapore skyline and construction

Also, if you have prescription medication of any kind that you must take into Singapore, be smart and either take a doctors note or make sure it's labeled properly. Drug trafficking in Singapore gets you the death penalty. No excuses. They don't mess around when it comes to drugs, so be smart. There are actually many more laws there that make things illegal which we might considered normal in the U.S., but most tourists won't be affected by them.

Singapore side street and cafes

There are some more photos of Singapore that you can access in my Flickr albums HERE.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, your photos are really sharp? what camera do you use?

Singapore is well known as a 'fine' city, just look at all the t-shirts at tourisy shops. That said, I don't think the police or the environmental officers are always around and therefore sometimes you see some people spitting on the streets and they walk aways scot free

Luther Bailey said...


Thanks for writing. For this trip I used a Canon T1I, 15.1 MP. I also alternate with lenses. Sometimes it's necessary to sharpen a digital photo in post processing though. Digital photos, now days, tend to have a softer output.The more pixels we add to our SLR's the softer the image becomes.

Thanks! Luther

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