Scenes from Singapore: A Sensational Start to Our Sabbatical

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!

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

12 thoughts on “Scenes from Singapore: A Sensational Start to Our Sabbatical

  1. I love your photos, they brighten a dull wet day over here in the UK. I hope you will be posting more from Bali!

    1. Jane, thanks for dropping in again. Coincidentally, it’s also rainy here in beautiful Bali, however, the wonderful people we’re meeting (and the colorful accessories and architecture) keep our spirits happy. Look forward to more tales from the UK – a branch of my family is from there originally, so it’ll be a joy to read your posts and learn more. Hope you’ll stop in again soon for the Bali posts. I hope to find some time to chronicle my adventures here soon!

    1. Amy, great to hear from you! We only caught a red-eye flight through Dubai. What an aerotropolis that is! I thought of you as I remember you spent some time there. We’re now in Bali, and I’ll be posting tales of our encounters soon. It’s the rainy season, but the wonderful colors of the surroundings as well as the amazing spirit of the people are keeping our days bright and happy! Hope all is well in IL with your little ones!

  2. You’re right about that, Singaporeans don’t actually tremble with fear when we walk down the streets. In fact, it’s the “tight security” that gives us the perfect excuse to hang around on the streets till weeee hours in the morning!

    1. I can see why, Wanderfulpeople. We had a very relaxed time in Singapore. Regrettably we weren’t able to make it back there at the tail end of our Southeast Asian trip as planned, though.

      Do you have any special places that you recommend?

      1. Yeah! Singapore is pretty special in the way that you could walk from one ethnic enclave to another, they all seem to co-exist seamlessly. There aren’t many places in the world where you can visit a Hindu temple in the heart of Chinatown, or have curry in Little India and hop right across to Arab Street for mint tea.
        I would even say that a visit to any old neighborhood is worthwhile, to see how majority of the locals live in the colorful government apartments, kids playing in the common playground and old men crowding around for a game of chess. :)

      2. You’re tempting my tastebuds with all those culinary mentions! :) Here’s hoping we’ll be able to make it there again soon. Singapore was great from arrival to departure: from some of the friendliest immigrations officials we’ve encountered, to locals offering to help us carry luggage, open doors, etc. Have you lived there all your life?

      3. Yes, and i must say the city’s changing a lot. I don’t mean it in a fishing village to skyscrapers sort of development. That has passed, and the sterile/boring city vibe is giving way to lots of local funkiness! I hope you get to drop by again, and a sabbatical just sounds tooooo gooood!

      4. Sounds like it’s a spot with so much character! The first leg of the sabbatical was fantastic and something I’d been dreaming about for years. :) We made it to 8 SE Asian countries and also India. Now we’re staying with family and figuring out where our personal and professional paths will lead.

        Hope your week’s off to a swell start!

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