expensive Singapore

Posted from Singapore.

IMG_5870Tell someone you’re going to Singapore and they will immediately retort some guffawed remark about how strict their laws are or how expensive it is. Granted – I’ve heard of this too, but let’s face it – it’s an urban center. I saw two people spit whilst walking down the street – and one of them quite audibly cleared his throat before letting that lugey go on the walkway. There may be laws, but the only cops I saw were giving out parking tickets.

I arrived in Singapore from Melaka via bus. The border crossing was the smoothest experience I’d had switching countries in all of Southeast Asia so far. I can’t say that for the family of five that got left behind at the Singapore border, but for the rest of us on the bus it was quick and easy.

On the MRT to Chinatown.

On the MRT to Chinatown.

At least it was easy, until I got dropped off – somewhere. I had no clue where I was. And if there’s something I’ve learned all too well, is many people will just lie if they don’t know the answer to your question. It has something to do with saving face. Some Asian pride thing. Take this into account and it explains why it took me 20 mins to find the MRT subway line.

The hostel I booked into was called 5footway Inn. It was located right outside the Chinatown MRT stop and, if booking online, was a bargain $19/night. This included a free breakfast of toast, cereal and coffee and tea, free drinking water and hot showers. While the bed was probably the most comfortable one I’ve had since Cambodia, the only other good things I can say about it are it’s secure, clean and had wicked wifi.

The hostel is broken up into four different locations, which is about as inconvenient as having a hospital split up. The building where breakfast and the free coffee can be found, is also the location of the all-female bathroom. I was not staying at this site. My site had 40 beds and two toilets, which were always occupied in the morning. I had to go down the street to the other location to pee in the morning. Which is really fun when you just woke up. Plus, a lot of people stay here longterm – as they have longterm rates, which also means some people have occupied the dorm rooms to a level of comfort that clearly suits only them.

Boat Quay becomes very lively in the evening. Most people come for the seafood.

Boat Quay becomes very lively in the evening. Most people come for the seafood.

I switched to the Prince of Wales Hostel at Boat Quay for my last night and had a much better experience with big rooms and nice staff. And three toilets down the hall for eight people. The free breakfast was eggs and toast, but I had to skip it to get to the airport in time.

Enough about that.

I felt like a bum in Singapore. People are well and richly dressed in the downtown core, and most everywhere. There’s a constant sense of urgency to people’s gaits, and everyone is connected to some electronic tether – chatting or texting on book-sized LCD screens.

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There are a lot of green roofs in the city. And it isn’t uncommon to see trees growing in pods hanging off the sides of buildings. Some of the roofs are actually classified as parks and what a better way to get a view of the city.

Meals start at around $5 if you can find the cheap food stalls, (like in Chinatown) but if you like to sit in a restaurant and dine, you’ll be looking at $15 for something simple. Even a beer will be between $9 and $16. Of course, I stayed downtown and didn’t venture to the suburbs. I’m sure things can be found for cheaper. And perhaps people don’t dress in the high fashion outfits I kept seeing marching down the streets – in heels, even the dudes were in heels.

The MRT is quite cheap comparatively to Toronto’s transit system. You pay by distance and return trips have a small but important discount. I took the subway to most places, like Sentosa Island, as it’s well set-up and provides exceptional portability.

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A trip to Singapore isn’t complete without seeing a few prime locations – the waterfront, the Marina Bay Sands, and the evening light show. I never made it to the botanical gardens, the zoo, underwater world, the Singapore Flyer (a Ferris wheel bigger than the London Eye) or the aquarium, but I’ve heard they are also must-sees. Plus little India, Chinatown and Arab Street.

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I spent one day walking around probably far too much as my foot has decided to have a serious RA flare. But the downtown core is easier to see this way. I went to the Marine Bay Sands, through the War Memorial Park, past town hall, got bitten by mosquitos in Fort Canning Park and spent a grotesque amount of money eating quesadillas at a Chillis.

This is a firehouse. The firemen working here were the biggest dudes i have seen in Asia.

This is a firehouse. The firemen working here were the biggest dudes i have seen in Asia.

Singapore is a very clean and beautiful city. It’s an economic powerhouse and a rather comfortable place to visit after seeing so much squalor in the rest of Southeast Asia. You only need a few days to see it, though, unless you’re into a deeper sense of exploration.

From here I fly to Bali – where I will only stay for a few days before heading to Gili Trawangan to get my dive on.

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