Fun Facts & Rules: Singapore

Singapore fascinated us.  After unfortunately:

  • getting somewhat used to holding our breath through the spell of soiled streets
  • making eye contact but declining homeless beggars
  • not understanding the language
  • being lost due to terrible signage
  • constantly worrying over the safety of our purse
  • being depressed over garbage everywhere...

we came to Singapore.  Looking back on our short 4 days there it still seems more like a society I read about in a book than an actual place on earth. 

There are many rules in Singapore (our favorites listed below).  Though strict, the society that has developed because of them is polite, clean, well mannered, and seemingly rich.  We spent a lot of time talking to our AirBnB hosts who shared that 80% of the population lives in government housing (the rest, like our hosts, live in private housing).  All schooling, through University, is paid for by the government.  The country is meticulous.  The roads are nicely paved, and same with the sidewalks.  There was not a single dog dropping to be found (how nice to not have to watch where we are walking!).  Everywhere we went was well landscaped and well maintained.  The cab driver to the airport proudly told us the flowers and shrubs lining the way to the airport are trimmed monthly.  And whoever designed their subway system accounted for tourists being akin to 5 year olds learning something new and make it foolproof.  We were never lost while there.

That said - life in Singapore is expensive.  Our hosts did not live in government housing and paid over a million USD for a postage-stamp sized apartment.  Their interest rates hover at around 1% which is how they can afford it to begin with.  Their BMW, which would cost $50,000 in the US was $100,000.  And, no cars can be older than 10 years, so in 10 years time she'll have to give it to the government for hardly any money in return.  Seemingly the most popular thing to do here is shop and they shop!  The malls are gorgeous, with AC (to escape the humid, humid heat), and shops that put our malls in the US to shame.  The tourist attractions were immediately out of our price range, starting at around $50USD. 

A sign reminding it's illegal to protest

A sign reminding it's illegal to protest

Our hosts shared that the cost of living is rising faster than salaries and there have been some grumblings among the lower classes.  Protesting is illegal so it's hard for the people to express themselves.  Oh, and the ruling party here has been in power since 1905, so nothing is going to change quickly. 

I'm not going to pretend to have seen all of Singapore, we didn't, nor to be an expert on the country, but it is interesting to reflect on a country that was vastly different than anywhere we have been before. 

So here are some of our favorite rules from Singapore.  Really, it's all common sense but by making infractions such as these, people have a reason to follow them!

  • Importing or buying gum is illegal.  You can declare gum and bring it into the country but if you get caught smuggling it in, it's a year in jail and a $5,500 fine. 
  • Smoking is illegal in restaurants, cinemas, and other indoor places.  They are considering making it illegal in parks and other outdoor spaces.  The fine for first time offenders is S$1,000.
  • If you get caught doing vandalism, the punishment is caning.  Fines can include up to S$2,000, between three to 8 strokes of the cane and up to three years in prison.
  • Residents and non-residents can be forced to take a drug test.  And if you are caught there's the death penalty for some drug offenses.
  • You are not permitted to eat or drink on the subway.  It's a S$500 fine.  Smoking is a S$1000 fine.
  • Unwanted touching, both violent or sexual, falls under the "Outrage of Modesty" law. Violations of this law can bring up to two years in prison, caning, or a fine. 
  • Bringing porn into the country can carry a fine of up to S$1000 as well as imprisonment.
  • No hugging without consent.
  • Nudity, even in your own home, is illegal. 
  • If you don't flush the toilet the fine is S$500. 
  • Drinking and driving can get you 10 years in jail.
  • Littering is illegal.  The first offense is S$300.  The second offense is S$1000.  The third time you have to wear a shirt saying you are a litter and clean up the streets. 
  • Surprisingly, prostitution is legal.  Prostitutes in their red light district have to pay a lot of taxes and frequently get drug tested. 

Day 2, Singapore

Our second day we were greeted with lots of rain in the morning.  We stayed in the house until it slowed down a bit, even being a bit too much rain for us from Seattle.  We headed to yet another mall, this time in search of new shoes for me.  All this endless walking has made for some tired feet and it was time for replacement kicks.  Our AirBnB host also wrote out what we were to try there: Laska, Chicken Curry, and Otka.  Each of the foods was delicious.  The seafood is all so fresh here is still tastes like salt water.  It was delicious!

Next we headed to walk all over Chinatown and little India.  Along the way we saw many mosques and spiritual centers.  We entered one, removing our shoes, as is customary.  It was beautiful and unlike anything we have seen beyond pictures or movies. 

At this point, we had reached zombie status again and headed home for a nap.  Our AirBnB hosts had offered to take us out to dinner to show us the Red Light District that evening so we wanted to be rested up!

We headed to Old Airport Road Hawker Center for dinner.  Lynn and Rayne took turns standing in the lines while we wandered around looking at all the food.  They bought a huge assortment of different things for us to try.  Everything they selected was luckily delicious and we loved all the different flavors and textures. 

Everything is overlooked by the government here and the food stalls are no different.  They have health standards they have to meet and are regularly closed for cleaning.  All walks of life are eating here and it was clean enough for our standards!  The one thing that is not provided is napkins, so we have taken to carrying them with us for sticky fingers!

Next we headed to the Red Light district.  This again is also overseen by the government.  Odd numbers are eating places and businesses which the even numbers are for the "love" houses.  The women, and supposedly men, that work in these places have strict standards to meet as well.  They have to be tested often for diseases and are sent home if they becoming pregnant.  It was fun to walk and drive through the area to see a different side of the night.

On the way to try Dorian, the kind of fruits, we had some dessert.  Though a huge sweet person, sadly I did not like the bean curd filling.  We had some other treats that were quite good and it was fun to try everything on the menu with our guides ordering.

Finally, Dorian.  From what we have read, Dorian offends.  The smell is so strong that it is not allowed in public areas and there are even signs stating it's prohibited to have on the subway.  The taste can not be described, because after one whiff I was disgusted and after one taste I was done.  Eric, who poked around it a bit more, used words like sewage, burnt hair, and avocado to describe the fruit.  Our hosts were eager to have us sample some... and we were keen to please.  Pictures do more to tell this story than I can with words:

We held our noses as they finished the rest of the Dorians. 

After dinner they took us to the golf course for a view of the skyline at night.  What a pretty city!  We will be back!

And finally some photos to share of their subway.  Like many other things in this city, money seems to be no object.  The subway line is extensive and the cars all seem to be new.  There is serious air conditioning in all of the cars in the stations.  In each subway there is no garbage, graffiti, or any rowdy behavior.  They felt quite safe, a nice change from Rio! 

Singapore

Singapore is an amazing city/country.  It's honestly hard to describe how nice it is.  Everything we saw is meticulous.  Gardens are beautifully done and tended after.  The streets are all new without potholes.  The sidewalks are large and without debris and/or dog poop.  The cars can only be 10 years old so we only see gorgeous cars.  The subway system is one of the best we have every used and so cold it's like being in a freezer.  The malls here seem to be like Starbucks at home - one is everywhere!  There are no homeless people.  There is no trash on the streets.  It, thankfully, does not smell of urine (oh the things we have gotten accustomed to!).  The government, which has been in power since 1905, has government housing that 80% of the population lives in.  We saw only one person begging for money and I swear we walked up and down, and all over the city. 

The only problem for us North Westerners is that it's hot.  Hot in a way I've never experienced before.  It's so humid I feel like I'm being slowly steam cooked when we are outside and then freezing when back in the AC.  We are sweating at an alarming rate and can't drink enough water.  We spent quite a bit of time on google looking for how to stay cool in SE Asia!

We are staying at another AirBnB and our hosts have been nice to answer our endless questions and give us suggestions for what to do each day.  My brother in law, Tom, has also been to Singapore quite a few times and also provided great lists of what to do.  All these things have looked and sounded great - this is a tourist dream with all the meticulous options provided, but unfortunately they are quite expensive.  Seeing their Marina by the Bay is a free park to walk around but if you want to go in to the Cloud Forest or Flower Pavillion then it's S$50 each.   That's more than our budget for the day!  We couldn't even look at the costs for Universal Studios, knowing it's beyond what we can afford.  Tom also just emailed us yesterday to say Singapore is now the most expensive city in the world.  Not the best city for us on a budget!

At any rate, we have really enjoyed ourselves. The first day we ran a few errands, replacing our Steripen and Eric got a haircut.  In the afternoon we headed to the Gardens By the Bay to see the free parts of the park.  It is so well done, with gorgeous signage that explains all the flowers and gardens.  Unfortunately this is also when jet lag set in and we turned into zombies that needed to return to nap immediately.  Here were some pictures before we left:

That evening we went to one of the many hawker centers for dinner.  These are government run, very clean, stalls that are all over the city.  They have every type of food you can imagine and then some, all organized with picture menus and helpful staff.  I had delicious sweet and sour fish and Eric had dark noodles with pork.  Unfortunately no cold ones to wash it all down with, beer is heavily taxed and a can of beer is S$3.50! 

It was a great first day in Singapore - our feet hurt from walking and we are a bit unsure of the heat - but we are excited for tomorrow!

We have arrived!

What a day of travel to get to Singapore!  We traveled 12,498 miles to arrive, 24 hours of flying with a 7 hour layover in London.  As awful as that sounds, with the aid of sleeping pills and complimentary beverages, it actually went by quite quickly.

On our first flight from Rio de Janeiro we boarded at 10p from the worst international airport I have ever been in.  I kid you not there were 2 small cafes to choose between for food and 1 small duty free shop.  Talking to a few others on our flight they confirmed that this was the permanent home for international flights and not a temporary one like I had thought.  If you have to spend any time here, bring your own food and a book! 

We tried to stay up as long as possible on our flight before taking a sleeping pill.  I had taken my sleeping pill around 1a and was trying to keep watching a movie until succumbing to sleep.  I even offered to hold Eric's drink while he went to the bathroom.  But, upon his return, he found me passed out.  I had spilled his drink all over me (thankfully just the blanket!), still had my movie on and headphones in, and looked to be dead.  He took off my headphones, removed my glasses, and reclined my seat so I could sleep.  He told me the next morning what happened and I still laugh when I think about it! 

We arrived that afternoon in London.  Eric has been having the hardest time trying to find clothes or shoes that fit him so we were going to use our 7 hour layover in London to hit the shops.  We got on the tube and covered some serious ground!  It was surreal being in London and delightful to hear English being spoken!  What a gorgeous city - it was our first time being there together and I wish we could have stayed longer!

After our jaunt through the city we headed back to the amazing Terminal 5 at Heathrow.  The shopping, the food, the whole experience is on a different level than Rio.  We have a few favorite spots to visit after our time spent there last summer going to Italy and we enjoyed fresh salads at Pret a Manger along with some coffee to keep the traveling going.

On our next flight to Singapore we boarded a mostly empty flight!  We each had our own row and could sleep horizontal.  Who needs first class?

Who needs 1st class?  We each had our own row!

Who needs 1st class?  We each had our own row!

Unfortunately I didn't learn my lesson from the first flight and once again passed out before stretching out.  Eric saw my head droop as I was watching a movie and thought, Oh no, not again.  He had to come up to my row and help me stretch out and get under the blankets.  Those sleeping pills are serious business! 

Soon enough we arrived in Singapore.  What a well taken care of city!  Thankfully English is the official language so we easily got in a cab to our AirBnB.  We walked around the neighborhood where we are staying and got some delicious Thai food for dinner.  We are staying by the new Indoor Stadium and the area is meticulous.  It was fun to see all the families out enjoying the evening and it felt very safe!  We wanted to make it to the light show but we were sooo tired that didn't happen. 

You'll be glad to know I did figure out the sleeping pill timing and took one I was safely in bed, glasses removed, and ready to sleep!

Off to enjoy Singapore!