Things I learned in Singapore   Leave a comment

Skyline This year’s Boston Marathon came and went with little notice on my part.  While I am glad everything went off without a hitch, and (I believe) an American won for the first time in umpteen million years, I was too busy being out of the country to pay that much attention.

When my life blew up almost a year back (see my last post, and yes, I am glad I didn’t take the blog down), a childhood friend invited my son and I to visit him and his wife.  In Singapore.  On the other side of the world.  At the equator.  In the summer.  I asked if we could take a rain check, and we did, not going until this month.  Here are a few basic facts about Singapore courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • Singapore is sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and has an area of just of 270 square miles.
  • It has four official languages:  English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil, and pretty much all city signs are printed in all of them.
  • It is really, really hot and humid.
  • The city is also really, really clean.  Imagine Manhattan with virtually no litter and absolutely no graffiti.  It’s that clean.  Really.

Okay, the last two are from me.  But they’re true.

Anyway, here is a list of things I learned while in Singapore:

  • Always carry these three things with you:  a bottle of water (see above note about it being hot), an umbrella (afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon and are very impressive if you like big, booming thunder and bright, crackling lightning, which I do), and your transit card.  In Singapore, you can use your EZ-Link transit card for much more than riding the SBST/SMRT, MRT, or LRT (Bus, subway, and light rail, in that order).  You can pay for cabs, food, photocopy machines, and library fines.
  • Speaking of library fines, Singapore has a zero tolerance policy regarding them.  If you owe anything in late fees, you can’t check anything out until your balance is down to zero.  And, no, I don’t know that from experience.  The boy and I got a tour of a lovely mall branch by the branch manager.  Librarians are cool.
  • If you are planning a trip to Singapore, bring two to three times as many clothes as you think you will need; taking multiple showers a day isn’t just a good idea — it’s a survival tactic.
  • Sunscreen is a good thing.  Or would have been had I remembered to bring some.
  • Durians — which are not allowed on any public transit or in cabs for reasons which will soon become clear — can be used as weapons.  If the smell doesn’t get to your opponent, you can bash him/her around with the spiky outside of the fruit.  Provided you can stand being that close to one yourself.  For a description of its aroma, I can’t beat the ones Wikipedia has gathered, so here’s the link:
  • Avoid the bathrooms at the MRT stations.  Here’s why:  a) if you don’t remember to grab toilet paper on the way in, you’re in trouble, and b) they’re not very clean.  If you have to go, use one of the bathrooms in the mall next door — trust me, there’s a mall next door — as those are meticulously clean and even quite lovely.
  • Speaking of malls… They are ubiquitous in most parts of Singapore, and this is a good thing.  Why?  One word.  Air-conditioning.  They are also where you can get money changed at a decent rate, they have great food courts where you can eat very well for S$7-10, and they have more watch stores than you will have ever seen in your life.  So, if you’re in Singapore and your watch breaks, you’re covered.  Some also have supermarkets, and at least a few of them have public library branches.  Did I mention we got a tour of one?
  • The food is phenomenal.  We ate at food courts in Chinatown where you could count the non-Asians (including us) on one hand, at an Indian restaurant called MTR (not to be confused with the subway called MRT) that was its only location outside of India, and at a Thai restaurant that was out of this world.  My friend was amazed that the boy and I were able to find the first food stall he had taken us to in Chinatown (where we had steamed buns with soup inside them) all by ourselves as we wanted to get more.  They were yummy.

I have to say while I have no plans to return to Singapore, it was an opportunity not to be missed.  The Aquarium at Sentosa was wonderful, the Jurong Bird Park had more beautiful birds in one place than I have ever seen before, and the National Botanic Garden was simply gorgeous, a must see if you are an orchid lover.  I am grateful to my friend for giving us the opportunity.

Oh, and two words to end the post courtesy of the Singapore Science Centre:  Fire. Tornado.IMG_0453





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Posted April 30, 2014 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

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