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The Look and Feel of "Lion City" - Singapore
It looks awesome in pictures and it has a plethora of jaw-opening attractions and the Singaporeans are friendly, welcoming.
But how does it actually feel to be there?
How should we prepare for a trip to Singapore?
After having visited Singapore, I called it my favourite travel destination.
My expectations were already high before traveling, but upon arrival I got slammed in the face by some bad surprises. Though, later has captured my heart, charming me deeply!
I would certainly visit "Lion City" again and I warmly recommend it to all of my readers!
One of the central area's beautiful roads: old historic buildings and palms along the road
But first: there were a few things that shocked me in a negative way... Had I known more about these issues before traveling to Singapore, I would have preapared better.
First of all: I had this climate shock. One thing that almost put me down sick.
Characteristic Singaporean spiral stairs in Bugis
I felt suffocating tropical heat and piercing Sun rays on and I could barely cope with it.
The Sun's rays were cutting through my cranium. I literally felt the heat inside my head! And I almost passed out several times during humble street strolls.
Singapore's climate is harsh, indeed.
Yet, I picked the best month possible - June - which is the driest and least hot month of the entire year. Still, it felt terrible at first, but miraculously I have gotten used to it.
The heat outside seemed unbearable on the first days (and I forgot to bring a light-coloured cap/hat to protect my head - big mistake!).
The Singaporean air is extremely dense, full of water vapor, but gradually I have gotten used to it. It felt like in a jungle. Now I can't imagine how much worse a real jungle would feel!
I couldn't let the temperatures and the damp thick air hinder me from enjoying the beautiful city-country, so I took measures to cope with it.
First: drink plenty of liquids is vital.
And: it's best avoiding much coffee or alcohol (my mistake: I had plenty of coffee, thinking it was going to keep me more awake and I tasted several beers as well).
Secondly: don't stay too much in the Sun, at least on the first days! Unless you are already used to tropical heat.
Houses in Little India
Climate shock wasn't the only thing. I was terribly hit by jet lag and it felt agonizing. My immense mistake was that I drank loads of green tea and strong coffee, which only amplified the effects of jet lag and had made me feel terrible outside in the heat.
To avoid making such mistakes, I recommend you check out my jet lag coping techniques - which should help you overcome the condition faster.
In the end, my trip turned out to be wonderfully exhilarating!
And it was one of the most memorable travels that I had ever taken.
So, whenever I check my thousands of travel photos that I had taken while in Singapore, I feel like yearning for my next trip to see it all again, dig even deeper and discovering the newly-built attractions that have appeared since then...
One of the things that makes Singapore so unique is that it's a city-country-island.
And: it's multi-ethnic, so I consider myself lucky, because I got a taste of Chinese, Tamil Indian, Malaysian, but also Arab, Japanese and other cultures at a single location!
Before I had taken this trip, I heard about Singapore's excellent reputation regarding cleanliness. Someone once said, "it's like a pharmacy".
Regarding this affirmation I have to note that certain neighbourhoods were rather filthy... to my surprise!
Singapore is full of colourful buildings like these. Most of them are houses or roadside shops.
Especially if I compare them with the central areas of Singapore or, with Western Europe and Japan.
I was surprised to see the dirt piled up, the rotten smells and the pieces of trash on the streets in the Geylang area (which is also the red light district and probably the worst area in terms of hygiene).
Houseblocks in the Mountbatten area
Mountbatten is not bad, but it's so damn close to Geylang. You don't want to stay there, especially if you're with your family.
I must mention about the Singaporean house block-filled residential areas is that many of the blocks are in striking contrast between each other (in terms of colours). At least this makes them less boring (unlike those Eastern European and North Korean concrete house blocks that look so grey and lifeless!).
Contrastful residential area in the Bugis - Sim Lim area
When booking for my hotel, I was aiming at the Mountbatten area (because the LRT was close and hotel prices were good).
The Mountbatten area was indeed clean and full of modern houseblocks.
The problem was that my hotel was actually closer to the Geylang area where flocks of hookers filled the sides of streets. As explained above, it was a run-down area, but I'd exaggerate if I'd call it a "slum".
Clean modern house blocks in the Mountbatten area have dense jungle-ish vegetation near them
But, central Singapore, like the downtown core's skyscraper area, Chinatown and almost everywhere I've been was extremely clean.
I'd say - Singapore's main areas of interest and the central business district were a lot cleaner than the cities of Barcelona, Rome, Vienna, Lisbon, Budapest, Athens. But less clean than Tokyo, Helsinki or Amsterdam.
A "hop-on, hop-off" bus. You can see these everywhere in the World.
Transportation was excellent in Singapore. Of course, there are multiple means - but I was satisfied with the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit System), which is sort-of-a metro system with 106 stations (as of mid-2014).
Magnetic cards can be obtained from a machine and you can periodically recharge your card!
When leaving Singapore, I gave my card back to a machine and it returned me the cash I paid for it (the re-usable plastic card has a price of its own + the cost of the trips that you want to take).
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
As for attractions, Singapore seemed soooo rich in beautiful hotspots, points of interest that I was barely able to visit most what I had pinned on my map.
I had them all marked on my Google Earth map on my faithful little netbook - but even the approximately 7 nights spent were barely sufficient.
I was hunting almost constantly to visit those places and I still couldn't get to about 10 % of them.
The first place I checked out was the revered, boasting Marina Bay area with the already World-renowned triple skyscraper luxury hotel - Marina Bay Sands seen on the photo to the left.
As I was writing my Singapore escape pages, I couldn't help stopping thinking what an amazingly rich little World there is on the island.
Some of the most awe-inspiring "jewels" are Singapore's old ethnic quarters.
But, in addition to the Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street, you might also be interested in the European influence - almost entirely British, which you will fell in mainly in the central areas.
I encountered Christian churches in the areas: City Hall, Bras Basah.
Wandering and exploring in Singapore seemed almost endless, there were so many things to see! I reckon, one requires at least 2 weeks to take a really deep dive.
Perhaps, 5 days would be the bare minimum I'd recommend for visiting "Lion City". If you're smart enough and quick enough, you will be able to visit Singapore's 15 main attractions within 5 days.
Skyscrapers of Raffles Place
As for safety: Singapore is one of the safest places on Earth. Very little worries regarding theft or physical aggression, but be aware: there are swindlers, fraudsters.
When exchanging some Turkish liras for Singapore dollars, the elderly guy at the exchange office shamelessly "forgot" to give the correct amount of dollars - but I didn't take the cash away, just told him to give me the rest! So, he eventually did...
Dense forest of skyscrapers in the Raffles area
Another thing that you must pay attention to: the very strict laws of Singapore.
Jaywalking is harshly punished with huge fines or, even jail - as I heard.
They can fine you with sums ranging from several hundreds to potentially over 2,000 SGD or, in some cases - they can jail you!
Eating and drinking on MTR vehicles and buses is prohibited, so is taking photos!
So, before entering the stations - I made sure I had no food or drinks on me, because one can easily forget and start sipping a bit of water - for example...
Munching or drinking just a bit in the MRT stations or inside the trains can get you a fine of 500 SGD! Reason why I made sure that I had no food, nor drinks on me in order to avoid any "accidents".
And it's not just jaywalking, eating and drinking in the MRT that's forbidden.
Spitting on the street is also harshly punished and in some areas, smoking in most places and loitering are also forbidden by law!
And, loitering is exactly what travelers often do... walking around, looking around seemingly without any clear objectives.
Singapore's laws are among the harshest out there in the World (they apply death penalty to drug traffickers), you'd better get well-documented and respect the laws.
Also: chewing gum is illegal in Singapore! Don't bring any chewing gum into the country!
I found it strange: the mere possession of durian fruits on you is forbidden - in the MRT, in some hotels and other buildings.
Imagine: having a fruit like that in your bag is actually illegal! Why? It's said to have a strange, strong odour (!).
Have you been to Singapore? If so, what were your experiences there?
Do you have any other thoughts, feelings regarding the look and feel of Singapore?
Feel free to comment down below on this page!
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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