* Singapore means lion city in Malay.
When reading about Singapore, it seems very easy to get sidetracked and freaked out by all the information out there. How much is exaggeration and what should I expect from this little beast of a country?
They say Singapore is boring. They say it’s so sterile you’ll feel like you’re in a giant open-air farmacy. They say it’s all about business, money and towering new buildings. They say you can’t discuss politics, religion, or anything remotely sensitive. They say you’ll be thrown in chains should you dare to chew a gum.
Singapore Opera House
Well, they may somewhat be right. (Okay, except for the chains bit./phew)
Singapore is all that, to a certain degree. It is that overachieving kid everyone else in the class hates. It is not the liveliest nor the most exciting place in the world. It is so clean and orderly, someone from the Balkans as myself might find it borderline creepy. Littering, smoking and jaywalking are considered law offences and can quite “unburden” your budget if you’re not careful. And no, you really cannot buy chewing gum here – but you can bring your own, should you find it absolutely essential.
Park Royal Hotel
One of the world’s most economically developed cities and states and possibly the safest place on Earth has its other, uglier side resembling an obsolete dictatorship system. Capital punishment is practiced on narcotic offenders. Freedom of press and speech is suppressed, homosexuality is illegal and caning is a legit form of law enforcement. How paradoxical that Singapore is considered almost entirely free from crime, yet the government can choose to punish you if you kiss a person of the same sex? To quote the best show in the history of the universe, Breaking Bad: “no half-measures”. Apparently not.
Central Business District
All that being said, I wouldn’t like living here. Visiting, on the other hand, was quite a another story. Singapore was so different from anything I ever saw before that it became interesting and exciting in an entirely new sense. The glaring patina on Singapore’s pristine surface made me feel like I was time-transported from my medieval peasant village into the Future with a capital F. And how can that ever be boring?
A bad shot of Parliament of Singapore
Okay, so what else do we need to know about Singapore? (Don’t yawn on me now!)
Here’s what, the boiled down edition. History buffs, ears up!
This small state has had quite a turbulent history. The earliest known settlement on Singapore’s territory, Temasek, dates back to the 7th century, which was later invaded in the 11th century by the South Indians. Five centuries later, the Portuguese raiders burned the whole place down and wiped it off the face of the Earth. It was only in 1819 that sir Thomas Raffles took notice of the potential of Singapore’s strategic position, bought it from the Malaysian state Johor and made it a vital British trading post and naval base.
In Little India
During World War II, Britain suffered a great defeat in 1942 when they lost Singapore during a Japanese attack. They regained it in 1945, but the losses were significant; more than 25,000 Chinese Singaporeans lost their life during battle. Singapore declared independence in 1965 and it has remained a parliamentary republic since.
Somewhere between Little India and Chinatown
The state consists of 63 islands: the main, Singapore Island and the considerably smaller 62 others. The population consists of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and others. As for languages, there’s no less than four official ones: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires (allegedly one in every six households has over 1 mil. USD or more) and house ownership rate is also among the highest on a global scale. Small wonder the immigration rate is skyrocketing.
Daily commuters to Malaysia
Isn’t it weird that Singapore, with a 75% Chinese population, has a Chinatown? And yet…
Religion-wise, it’s again very kaleidoscopic. The largest religious group are Buddhists (30%), followed by Christians, Muslims, atheists, Taoists and Hindus.
Inside a Buddhist temple
Should I babble about food again? Maybe I shouldn’t, as I’ve done a fair share of food-related ramblings on this blog. But let me just tell you, these people know their food. They are obsessed with it – and if *I* am saying this, then it is bloody well saying something. Hawker stalls are so popular their culinary merits are often the topic of many a heated discussion among the Singaporeans. And, in contrast to the usual hither prices, hawker stalls are cheap and don’t require you to mortgage your home in exchange for a meal.
Dining out is a common scene in Singapore
Once you feel the urge to run away from the concrete jungle into a real one (or at least something close to it) and hide in the shade of lush greenery, take a stroll through Fort Canning in Singapore’s very centre. The green hill is brimming with fascinating historical monuments thanks to its past use as a military fort. It is also stunningly beautiful and therefore well worth a visit.
Fort Canning park
Close to the Central Business District lies Marina Bay, a waterfront with a 3.5 km long promenade curbed by imposing buildings on what feels like every inch of the way.
Marina Bay (1)
Marina Bay (2)
Marina Bay (3)
Five years ago the entire area got its cherry on top with the completion of Marina Bay Sands, an upscale resort consisting of a casino, shopping centre, restaurants and a 5-star hotel with a boat adjoining the roofs of three buildings. In a country where luxury dining and shopping are nation’s favourite pastimes, Marina Bay Sands stands as the main abode for religious worship.This second most expensive building in the world was quite a fair site/sight… No, wait, I need a better word. Jaw-dropping?
Marina Bay Sands (1)
Marina Bay Sands (2)
Inside the Marina Bay Sands hotel
Marina Bay Sands by night
I hadn’t even managed to collect my jaw off the floor, when my eyes landed upon the Gardens by the Bay, a botanical garden housing more than 500,000 plants all over the world. Half. A. Million. Plants. The panorama is domineered by Supertrees, 18 artificial vertical gardens connected by a walkway. What a testament to technology, architecture and brainy humans who know how to make this stuff happen. Something that can be said for the entire Singapore, actually.
Gardens by the Bay + Marina Bay Sands
Gardens by the Bay (1)
Gardens by the Bay (2)
Gardens by the Bay (3)
Gardens by the Bay (4)
And that, my friends, was it for Singapore. Everything functions smoothly and efficiently, which is all nice and great… But I always welcome a healthy dose of mess in my life. And so, on that note, I returned to my messy, messy Croatia.
*Thank you Urdax for most of the photos.