After more than 24 hours in transit via Germany and Dubai and following a most-bumpy approach through the Strait of Malacca, Shawn and I were delighted to touch ground in Singapore this past weekend.
This ‘Lion City’ that is home to 5 million, is made up of 63 islands, just 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of the equator. The mélange of faces there is incredibly-diverse; the residents are primarily of Chinese, Indian and Malay descent.
While in this island country, for just less than a day, we feasted upon noodle soup and a freshly sliced chunk from a mammoth-sized Jackfruit. The smell of incense wafted through the air. Spirit houses were placed at the entrances of businesses and homes, housing incense sticks and food offerings to the gods. Warm, smiling locals greeted us with a courtesy reminiscent of the British Isles. Everyone seemed anxious to help us – from holding doors open, to directing us to our hotel.
Although we somehow missed the t-shirts mocking Singapore’s notorious rules (“It’s a fine country”), Shawn and I debated about the country’s infamous restrictions. (I later learned the specific infraction details: there is apparently a S$10,000 fine for smuggling gum into the country (or up to one year in jail), S$500 for eating/drinking on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system and a hefty fine for jaywalking.) We weren’t initially aware of the MRT rule and as we lugged our backpacks and luggage in the muggy heat from the airport terminal, Shawn instinctively reached to take a water bottle out of his backpack. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign in the MRT warning travelers of the S$500 fine to pay for refreshing oneself with a beverage or snack while riding the transportation system. Shawn instead kept the bottle in his backpack – looking at it as though it were a mirage in the distance. A bold passer-by I observed spat on the street – twice! (Note – it was not this mannequin-like man crossing by this ‘Humps’ warning on the street.)
I was surprised to see gory images plastered on cigarette and tobacco products – pictures of deformed fetuses impacted by nicotine, faces and mouths plagued by various forms of smoking-related cancers.
We concluded that it was very pleasant to be in such an impeccably-clean, graffiti and litter-free locale and because the locals were so friendly and carefree (not acting as though they were enforcing these rules as vigilantes) the restrictions didn’t seem at all suffocating.
Yesterday, as we returned to Chengi Airport to catch our flight to Bali, we had to smile when we heard polka music pouring out of one of the aerotropolis’ terminals. The locals were celebrating ‘Germanfest.’ The fest was complete with pretzel tossing contests, musical chairs and Lederhosen t-shirt-sporting employees. It’s ironic that we travelled thousands of miles from Germany to experience more Deutsch culture with an Asian flare.
Our departure from Singapore was swift as we caught a flight out to Bali the next day. Nevertheless, we look forward to seeing more of the country in the coming months!