Initial Impressions of Singapore



164_6445-4.JPGI think Singapore’s the most developed place we have been since Switzerland. It was readily apparent just going through immigration. Land borders are usually pretty simple and fast, but this checkpoint was more like an international airport. Computers, technologically-advanced security, long-lines, etc. Note: Singapore doesn’t have any duty-free allowances on alcohol or tobacco, so unless you want to pay 300% duty on your cigars or see them cut up in front of your eyes, don’t bring them. Our first day was spent getting used to being in the first world again. Not little Brunei, but world-renowned metropolis- sky-scrapers, highways, oceans of commuters, blocks upon blocks of malls, and late-model cars. Like everything we’ve read, Singapore is clean. Really clean. Like I said, Switzerland is the last place we’ve been that’s comparable in some ways. Infrastructure is not almost there, its there. Everything works. Also, like we’ve read there’s lots of rules. Here’s what I know so far (amounts given in Sing dollars, 1 USD=1.38 SGD): $5000 fine for misusing emergency alert on the metro, $500 fine for eating or drinking on the metro, $500 fine for littering, $500 fine for urinating in public, plus there’s a lot of signs and fines I haven’t memorized yet. Oh, and a $200 mandatory minimum fine on any undeclared tobacco/alcohol item brought into the country. And reading the newspaper yesterday, I learned there’s a mandatory death sentence for dealing drugs- in the case I read about, a couple of days ago, an Indonesian tried to enter the country with a couple dozen bags of pills stuffed up his rectum, where one burst causing him to get extremely sick, arousing the suspicions of border control who arrested him and sent to jail, via the hospital. Can you imagine risking your life (through illness or capital punishment) by sticking bags of pills up your butt? Anyways, lots of rules, but I’ve heard that the government is lightening up. Still no spitting (I think that’s $500), but chewing gum is allowed.

            Unfortunately, being a developed place also means its really expensive. So our accommodations have taken a hit, we’re eating mainly off the street (which isn’t really a sacrifice, b/c everything is available and its good) and taking mass public transit around (no taxis, rickshaws, or scooters for us here). A lot of the attractions are pretty expensive too, but few of them seem worth visiting: a theme park, a zoo, and a big wheel (which journalists have just bashed since Singapore recently unveiled it as the largest one in the world, beating out the London Eye). We’ll dish out some money to see some unique things like the famous Bird Park and a museum or two. But we’ve found enough to occupy us so far. A long walk from the MRT station to the inconveniently located Vietnamese embassy to get our Vietnam visas. A stroll through the financial district and waterfront Esplanade to see Singapore’s mascot, the Merlion (yea, it looks how it sounds). Joylani enjoyed the Singapore Art Museum, while I thought the small museum at the Raffles Hotel was interesting. Chinatown seems fake and is too touristy anyways, while Little India has bit more character. The millions of malls provide an interesting glimpse into Singaporean life as well. We’ve only been here a day and a half so far, with three and a half days left before our flight to Jakarta, but these are just some of my initial thoughts on this interesting city-state.

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