The “Red-Haired Devil” Swings Into Singapore: Day 1
Everyone ends up in Singapore at some point. At least that’s what I hear. The word for foreigner in Singapore is ang mo. Can you guess what this means? Shirin tells me it means “red-haired devil.” Looks like I am the poster child. I took a weekend to trip to Singapore – it was business and pleasure. Let’s just say I had to meet a man who took care of some paperwork. It was all pretty James Bond-esque.
I’ve wanted to see Singapore for three years now. It all started once upon a time in a small Connecticut college town when I decided to major in the College of Letters and I met Sam and Shirin. Sam, Shirin, and I all ended up studying abroad in Paris together and while we were there, they regaled me with interesting stories about their hometown of Singapore. Gum is banned in Singapore (which results in an amazing variety of candies, with lots of black currant flavoring!). You can’t eat on the subway unless you want to pay a huge fine. And then the oddest one: oral sex is not allowed unless it leads to the real deal because every government wants more citizens. This has since been revised, really if you don’t believe me Google it, but so at your own risk. All of their stories intrigued me and now that I am on this side of the world, I took up their Parisian-made invitation to visit – a huge thanks to Shirin and her family for letting me crash and to both ladies for being excellent tour guides. It felt like I was walking around Wesleyan when we were chatting, but then it would hit me: you are in Asia!
Singapore is young. This city-state, comprised of 63 islands, is only turning 46 this year. Singapore is a major financial hub and its port plays a big role in its economy. Formerly a part of Malaysia and once a British colony, Singapore is a combination many different ethnicities and languages. In a way, Singapore has embraced its colonial past and Shirin explained to me that most people don’t feel resentment towards the Brits. English is an official language in Singapore and because of this, it felt incredibly comfortable and familiar. The public transit system, MRT, is the cleanest and best-marked I have seen anywhere in the world. I am a fan of any city that combines animals and mythical creatures to create their mascot. Singapore is known as the Lion City:
The Marina Bay area is shiny and new. As soon as I arrived in Singapore I noticed how clean and orderly everything is – it made Jakarta seem even dirtier in my mind than it really is. Everything is so orderly that it seems artificial and choreographed. Singapore is really an intriguing and fascinating place that feels familiar to Westerners but at the same time, something is still different. Shirin told me she has met many ex-pats who don’t live in Singapore but come in on weekends because the dining and night scene here are Western and make many of them feel like they are back home.
Shirin and I walked around the Marina Bay area and stumbled on a performance of Malay dance and singing, so I got to see Shirin’s culture first-hand. Malay is very similar to bahasa Indonesia – both languages come from the Austronesian family.
The Marina Bay Sands is a hotel (yes, based off of the concept of the Sands in Vegas) that features a casino, shopping center (that makes Jakarta’s most expensive mall pale in comparison), light show, and a 56th floor view.
We decided to walk around the entire bay and then go up to the 56th floor to see the view.
Singapore is a very modern city. These metallic coils were giving off a mist of cool water that sure felt nice.
I mentioned the orderliness of Singapore. Well meet Singa the Lion, “the mascot for the Singapore kindness movement” who is here “to inspire kindness and graciousness in everyone.” The fact that statues and signs like exist around the city is sort of weird.
Before we headed to the 56th floor, we had to go through the mall where there was a boat and water. I am starting to notice a trend with this in Asia, which I don’t understand because Singapore and Indonesia are both islands!
The view from the top was worth the almost $20 price. The Ferris wheel below is called the Singapore Flyer.
On the 56th floor there is also a garden.
And then we found the infinity pool. This was ridiculous. A pool on the 56th floor. It was scary, but at the same time I really wanted to go for a swim. Sadly, it’s for hotel guests only and this was made clear when a Russian woman tried to lie her way in.
It really is a pool with a view:
Orchard Road and Raffles Hotel
Earlier in the day we had walked Orchard Road, which is known as the Fifth Avenue of Singapore. People from all over Asia come to Singapore to go shopping, especially wealthy Indonesians.
In the midst of all this consumerism it was nice to see and hear some music:
Singapore has tried to preserve old building facades such as the one below. Which is nice because there are so many modern and futuristic looking buildings.
These statutes were on Orchard Road and I loved the colors and the fact that one of them is reading a newspaper.
The weekend I was in Singapore, the city was hosting the netball championships so there were players walking all over. If you don’t know what netball is, watch a YouTube video.
We stopped by the Raffles Hotel. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was the British statesman who is known for founding Singapore. People in Singapore seem to like him. I guess the mentality of being colonized is not as strong here as it is in Indonesia.
More to come from day two and I will devote one post to all the food I ate. And on a complete side-note from my room here in Jakarta, Lydia: 8 mosquito bites, Mosquito: now dead!