I’ve already noted the most overwhelming of my observations about Singapore: its lush greenery, its unpredictable weather, its interesting diversity, its similarities to Japan and its obsession with progress. Still, there are a few remaining thoughts I’d like to share before continuing up North and resuming my adventure in Thailand.
• While many of Singapore’s neighborhoods have their own unique flavor, one unexpected trait that seems to penetrate them all – save perhaps for the CBD – is an incredible abundance of color. Everywhere from Little India to Chinatown sports buildings ranging from muted pastels to man-made rainbows. Very, very visually memorable.
• Although Singapore may be the most expensive country in SouthEast Asia, as a whole it really isn’t all that bad. Hostel prices (while easily five times Thailand) are about on par with Europe, and food is actually surprisingly cheap. The only exceptions I found were gyms, cell phones, and alcohol. During one of my several walking tours I happened by a gym and popped in to ask their visitor rates. $57USD per day. Honest to God I had no intention of being rude, but when she told me the price I burst out in genuine laughter. Per DAY! 😆
• Along these same lines, Singapore is the first country on this entire trip where I didn’t have a cellular data plan. While normal prepaid SIMs are as reasonable as anywhere, for some reason data prices are an absolute joke. To give you an idea, I think it might’ve actually been cheaper to use an American data plan with international roaming than to go prepaid from Singapore. Not having access to Google Maps and always-available e-mail? Bah, what a pain 😛
• Singapore has such an abundance of good, international, affordable food that it really felt like a breath of fresh air after Melaka (where monotonous cuisine was probably my biggest complaint). As a truly international society they’ve got everything you could ever want, from Italian gelato to Turkish delight…
“Singaporean life, in a microcosm, is best epitomized by the ubiquitous (but wholly unique) hawker centre. Grab a seat, order a supersweet coffee or a Tiger beer, join the queue for a local meal and listen to the people talk about the weather, English Premier League, Hollywood diets and maids. Dishes rarely cost more than S$5 and each centre has a huge variety of cuisines, including Malay, South Indian, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, and Indonesian.” Dee-lish!
• But alcohol: OH MY GOD! OK, so I know I’ve mentioned this a few times too – but it was just so mindboggling I can’t help but do so again. Even at the cheapo corner markets, a bottle of charcoal-filtered hangover juice that’d go for no more than $5 back home is $40USD or more. A beer in 7/11 is two or three times the cost in Japan – as much as in the priciest Bangkok nightclubs – and it wouldn’t be surprising to spend $30 or $40 for a mixed drink in a bar. In all my years of travel I’ve never seen alcohol prices even close to this high.
• Singapore is UNBELIEVABLY hot and humid – or at least it was this February. “Tropical Thailand” is child’s play next to this.
• In the metros, all announcements are made in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil (I think). I always find it interesting to notice the “secondary languages” around the world. In Los Angeles it’s English and then Spanish. In Kiev it’s Ukrainian and Russian. In Guangzhou it’s Cantonese and Mandarin. But in Singapore, it’s English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. I guess that sheds a bit of light on just how diverse of place Singapore is 🙂