Singapore or Singabore?

Singapore (or Singabore as I more affectionately refer to it) is one of those cities you can’t quite put your finger on. The old blends in with the new but a contrast still remains. High rise buildings tower over small sheds, stalls and little markets. This is where the ‘real’ Singapore still shows, the Singapore of days gone past, the Singapore that was still more Asian than the Western hub it is today.

Singapore is a well-maintained city, relatively modern, clean and organized. The government make a great effort to keep it that way which had resulted in quite the stringent regimen restricting citizens in more than one ways. The most known policy probably is the ban of chewing gum, to be fair the streets are clear of gum but yet still trash is found everywhere. Violations are heavily fined and people get seriously discouraged to go against any government policy ‘or else’.

A great little precaution the government has taken is the spraying against mosquitos. Big trucks hose down the city with some sort of Deet like substance, keeping the number of mosquitos at a low and with this largely preventing both Dengue and Malaria. As I function as a walking mosquito repellent for everyone else because they are too busy biting me, I do really enjoy the lack of these annoying little critters, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of health effect the spray has to Singapore’s citizens.

Another example of this regimen is the policy on car ownership. To control the traffic situation the government has taken precaution and had implemented a system in which only a certain number of car permits are appointed at one time. These permits are auctioned off every 2-3 weeks, cost around S$70.000 and are valid for 10 years. As a result not many people own a car and the streets feel rather deserted.

Walking around the city almost feels like wandering through a mall before opening hours. The streets are empty and even the ‘city centre’ feels a little quiet at all times a day. Coming from London, a city so crowded there is a human traffic jam at the underground at most hours of the day, I can’t help but feel a bit lost in this young city.

Because of the mix between East and West I always assumed this would be a good place to live, at least for a while. The city seems to offer all the Asian cultural things and impulses I love so dearly whilst still enjoying the comforts of the West I have gotten so accustomed to. But after having spent almost a month in the city I’m beginning to wonder if it is really for me.

One thing I absolutely love about the city though is the vast amount of Hawker stalls and centers. Here you can find a wide variety of street foods and taste the ‘real’ Singaporean flavor. From Chinese to Malay, Japanese to Western, Singapore really is a melting pot of flavors, cultures, languages and religions.

In terms of things to do there really isn’t all that much around and after having visited the botanical gardens, Supertree grove, the Merlion, Orchard Road and Marina Bay you swiftly run out of things to do.

Because we Couch-surfed here for a few days we met some of the locals who took us around the city, showing us the ‘local’ life and got to enjoy another side of Singapore. This made me appreciate it more to a certain extend; life is comfortable, it offers a great social network and a wide variety of people of all walks of life, cultures and religions and most importantly(?) amazing foods at all times of the day.

Whilst in Singapore the city got ready to celebrate their 50-year independence. Everywhere stages were being built, flags were raised, moral was lifted and patriotism was as present as ever. When the big day finally arrived the streets flooded with people dressed in bright red, the color of Singapore, all laughing, enjoying their day off and trying to find the best possible spot to enjoy the events of the day and the grand fireworks display later that evening.

After a day of wandering around the city,  observing all the festivities and events, we found ourselves at a prime location and possibly the best spot one can think of; The Marina Bay Sands. Somehow we managed to get a table without mandatory reservation in the VIP section for free when everyone else had paid good money to be there. From here we enjoyed the view, airshow and the lovely firework display later that night whilst enjoying a good glass of wine, great company and some delicious snacks.

Overall I enjoyed our time in Singapore but as I am flying back to this peculiar city once again I already find myself struggling to find something to pass the time.

I guess when all fails, one can always eat their way around the city and engage their taste buds in a frenzy of tastes made up of a blend of all cultures and flavours the city has to offer.


Leave a reply