Singapore: “Disneyland with the death penalty”

Travel dates: 29th March 2008 – 02 April 2008. This entry is from my 2008 RTW Trip.

Singapore at dusk

Singapore at dusk

I was not very keen on visiting Singapore. I had passed through quite a few times and my impression was similar to that held by author who wrote the above line (read more here). And yes, it’s true – the whole city/state has a very unnatural ring to it. An almost sterile, hospital like feel to every where you go (well, except Little India). For me, the absence of street food is a downer enough. A place without street food is a place without a soul if you ask me. But dig just a little deeper and you will find a whole new facet to this little country.

Singapore: Cheap flights and Visa Free Transit Facility for Indians

The VFTF was the only reason I went to Singapore. If you have a visa from a few privileged countries (US, UK, Japan, etc), you can be granted a 96-hour visa-free transit through Singapore. This is extremely convenient as Singapore is a wonderful hub for cheap flights. I flew to Singapore from Delhi on Jet Airways (~10,000 INR), and was flying out to Macau on Jetstar (126 SGD!).

Singapore beyond the obvious

I had three things on my agenda:

  1. Smuggle chewing gum(which is banned!) into Singapore. I wonder how they survive without Orbit White which, as we know is a must for all “bachelor mans and bachelor womans“. I have proof of my own “Civil Disobedience Movement” in the Day4 album linked below.
  2. Stay as far away as possible from the manufactured tourist trap of Sentosa.
  3. Try to see a side of Singapore most visitors don’t.

As soon as I landed in Singapore, I made my way to Newton Circus to meet up with my host Vincent. There we met a Korean girl who had come to Newton Circus expecting um, a circus! Circus there was none, but the food at the hawker stalls was simply fabulous (think seafood noodles and oyster omelettes). Dinner done, it was time to retire via the efficient MRT to the northern reaches of the Island, for that is where Vincent lives.

I started the next day on a decidedly non-touristy spirit, and headed straight to Bukit Timah, the highest point in Singapore – it took all of 45 minutes of walking to reach the top! Most visitors focus either on the concrete jungle on the manufactured wilderness of the zoo. Yet right here in the heart of Singapore is a real natural rain-forest that completely misses everyone’s attention!

Merlion

Merlion

I did do some fairly touristy stuff while I was there. Little India was nice (the food there was good). While Orchard road was the dullest stretch of real estate I have ever seen, Clark Quay and Boat Quay were fantastic at night. Walking around Singapore Riverside especially in the evenings is beautiful thanks to the waterfront and the non-obtrusive lighting around the Quays. Thanks to my host I was able to discover several side streets in quiet neighbourhoods that provided much needed respite from the traffic of the metropolis.

A street in Chinatown

A street in Chinatown

But what made Singapore awesome was the people. There was of course Vincent my host, and at another CS “Eat meet” I played, partied and sang with many other people. When I look back at it now, it is these experiences that I cherish the most, far more than the sterile streets, malls, shops or museums. And oh, the food was superb too. I’ll be back from some more of that Chilli Crab.

More pictures from the Singapore leg of my trip in these albums: Day2, Day3 and Day4

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