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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

First Stop - Singapore!

SINGAPORE | Monday, 16 September 2013 | Views [519]

After many sad goodbyes, my lives possessions picked up by the shipping company en-route to Australia and the last of my things squeezed into my back pack – Andrew and I departed to Asia with a 24 hour stopover in Melbourne. We offloaded our valuables to the Burns family and had a lovely catch up. Mum was also having a flying visit to Melbourne so she saw us off at the airport before heading onto Adelaide herself. Even though I know I will see her sooner than a year and a half like the last 2 times I have left home, leaving this time felt very strange & sad as life has now changed on a more permanent level.


The flight to Singapore took 8 hours from Melbourne. When we arrived we were hit by the intense never-ending humidity and heat that is Asia. Singapore is a very western influenced city but with their Chinese, Indian and Malay heritage at heart. The public transport system is excellent (but reminds me of London at peak times – just when you think the carriage can fit no more, 3 more people squeeze in!), every suburb has a mall, food can be as cheap or expensive as you are willing to pay and despite the smog and condensed population (roughly 4.5 million), the city is very clean.

There are hefty fines for eating, drinking or smoking on trains and littering anywhere – amongst a long list of other government rules. To put it in perspective, if you eat on a train, you could be SIN $500 poorer – and the Singapore dollar isn’t that far off New Zealand’s. Ouch!  


The main things I noticed was that the locals seem to wear jeans and long sleeved shirts without seeming to feel the uncomfortable heat. Not many seem to wear sunglasses and no one has a physical book on the train – almost everyone has a tablet, laptop, ipod, smart phone or various e-book reader. We travelled a fair distance on the local metro during our stay and looking at all of the suburbs, there are next to no houses with a backyard or courtyard. Those that do have the luxury usually only have one about the size of an average car. Most people live in high rise apartment blocks, and each unit have poles sticking out their windows to dry their laundry. A funny site when you’re not used to the concept!


We spent 3 nights and 2 full days in Singapore and it was non-stop! We were up rather early due to our body clocks adjusting to the time difference & of course, because of the stifling heat. Both days were filled with about 8 hours of walking and exploring as much as possible. We went to Jurong Bird Park and I enjoyed seeing many birds that I have never seen before. Unfortunately near the parrots, which are my favourite, we got annihilated by mosquito’s so had to rush past them. We then wondered around Chinatown, its markets and few temples. I loved how the streets are covered in colourful hanging lanterns – it made everything feel so festive! We also walked a portion of the infamous Orchard Road with all the premium clothing, shoes & accessories brands from all around the world.


We explored around Arab street (next to our hostel) which has lovely Indian fabrics and rugs, and all around the grand Raffles Hotel, the CBD and the riverfront – Boat Quay & Merlion Park - to the impressive Marina Bay Sands Mall & Hotel. We went up to the skydeck of the hotel to the 56th floor and enjoyed a 360 degree view over the sprawling city. We could even see the Formula One street track being set up for next weeks race. I loved the walk around the riverfront with its rows of bars and restaurants and little bumboats motoring past – the area has such character!  One day I would like to stay at the Marina Bay Sands and enjoy the luxurious infinity pool on the roof looking out over the city. The top floor is build like the shape of a boat resting on 3 towers – quite a sight!


And of course Sentosa Island – we couldn’t miss that out! I have been to Singapore before with my Nana 5 years ago and had a lovely time. Amongst other things, we caught the very high cable car over to the island and visited the most interesting aquarium I have ever been too. I had high hopes to go to this place again but the island no longer resembles anything like I remember! It is now one big “resort land” with Universal Studios, big hotels, casinos and every activity you could imagine. It now also hosts the largest aquarium in the world according to the Guiness Book of Records. I don’t know if the original place Nana & I visited had just grown or if where we went was something else entirely. Andrew and I decided to check it out anyway and it was very impressive, with most of the bizarre sea creatures that I had previously remembered but unfortunately it was absolutely rammed full with adults and children – all holding up various sized cameras, phones or tablets fighting to get a glimpse of what was behind the glass. We just didn’t have the fight in us so just drifted through and saw what we could…


We also visited the man made Siloso Beach on the island and were absolutely astounded by the prices to enjoy a cooling drink. It even made America’s exorbitant prices look bad! The beach isn’t even that wonderful. It feels (& probably is) completely polluted by the hundreds of container ships scattered all over the harbor. We were planning on staying there for a few hours until the awesome 7.30pm water & lights show that I saw last time but with the disappointing beach & sky high prices, unfortunately it wasn’t feasible this time around.


There are many fantastic things to do on the island, especially if you have children, so please don’t let this put you off – but if you would like to go and actually participate in anything, not to mention eat anything – be prepared to spend around $100 NZ per person per day. That doesn’t include accommodation. NOTHING is free and it is super busy, loud and fake. But alas, yes it can be fun!


In Singapore there are many places you can find to eat that are very cheap (around $3-5pp) but as far as accommodation goes, our very basic non-ensuite hostel room cost $72 per night – which is roughly the same as costs in NZ. Shopping is only marginally cheaper depending on where you go. As far as Asia goes, it is going to be the most expensive part of our trip (except maybe the islands in southern Thailand at the end of our trip) but it has been totally worth it.


Extra tidbits about Singapore for those who are interested:


  • British Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819. He turned the sparsely populated swampy island into a free-trade port. It is still one of the busiest ports in the world.
  • The Japanese invaded in 1914, killing thousands of locals.
  • The country is constantly in transition with its motto being “Upgrade, Improve & Reinvent”. This is very believable with its large amount of university’s & polytechs, the city’s growing technology and slowly expanding expat community.
  • Families are very close and it is not uncommon for children to live with their parents well into their 30’s. The majority of the population lives in government subsidized flats and the government even dictates ratios of races living in each block. These subsidies favour married couples.
  • The government is still very boy focused but females have more or less equal rights with most things these days.
  • The population is 75% Chinese, 14% Malay, 9% Singapore Indians and the rest “others”. English is actually the most used language but many speak Mandarin, Malay or Tamil. The 4.5 million residents (the developmental boom predicting to reach 6.5 million very soon) are squeezed onto a tiny 604 sq km. To put this in perspective, little New Zealand is 268,670 sq km!


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