Monday, June 8, 2009

Visiting Singapore

I was only in Singapore for 3 days - it was my 5th time there, and I've never stayed longer than 3 days, as it's a small place and there's not a lot to do, at least for me. The hot and humid weather makes walking long distances nearly impossible outside. Most downtown shops are located indoors, in large underground shopping malls that are seemingly always packed - not with shoppers, but with people walking from place to place.

The weather rarely varies here, with daily temperatures around 30 C and the occasional brief thunderstorm. But it is humid; if you are not accustomed to it, you will be sweating after just a few minutes outside. The locals joke that you can spot a tourist, he is the one sweating while wearing shorts. It's true that residents usually don't wear short pants, but there is nothing wrong with it, as long as you are not visiting a religious site, where they do ask that your legs are covered. Since it is right at the equator, each day seems like the one before, with little variation in sunrise or sunset times, and no need for daylight savings.

Singapore is easy to get around - taxis are plentiful and cheap, and the MRT (subway) will take you to most places, although it is quite crowded throughout the day. There is also an extensive bus network, but that's a bit more difficult to understand. You can get a day pass for unlimited travel on buses and the MRT, but most things are reasonably close by that it may not be worth it. If you decide to buy your MRT ticket every time you ride, you should keep small change at the ready, and each single trip requires you to pay $1 deposit that you get refunded after the trip, which can be a hassle at times.

The population is around 5 million people these days, from a wide variety of ethnic groups, with the dominant group being ethnic Chinese. But there are also large numbers of Indians and Malays, as well as some Westerners of course. Each culture celebrates its heritage, but there is no strife between groups that I noticed - Singapore seems to have kept everybody relatively happy - there are 4 official languages and the government ensures that each group is treated fairly.

Having such a wide cultural diversity leads to the best thing about Singapore: cheap food in hawker stalls. These are small outdoor eateries that offer meals for extremely low prices. They are sanitary and the food is usually very good. I suggest you stay away for the overpriced restaurants at Boat Quay and try your luck in Little India or Chinatown. Noodles are my choice as well, particularly Laksa. The picture below is my chicken laksa cooking while I wait. Yummy and only $3.

Of course, Singapore has problems - its well known that for its tough government that doesn't tolerate dissent and uses caning as a punishment. There are also laws against free speech that would harm the multicultural society. I don't want to get into a political debate, but it seems to work here.

TV sports variety

Well, this blog is about sports travel, and I think that the main sports channel in Singapore, Star Sports, understands that a wide variety of sports will appeal to most fans. While I was there, I managed to watch a few World Cup qualifying games, the F1 Turkish Grand Prix, the French Open finals, the NBA finals, and there was even some cricket on. Wow. A truly international sports weekend. I then returned to Japan and saw another Yankees game. Ugh.

Travel Hall of Fame

Singapore is home to the world-famous Raffles Hotel (pictured above). Home to the Singapore Sling, the hotel also contains a museum devoted to its history. Within this museum is the Travel Hall of Fame. I've been to several sports halls of fame, but have never seen one dedicated to travel before. I wondered what they could possibly put in such a place and found the answer quickly - not much. The THOF is really just a cabinet with some trophies for Singapore Airlines, the Raffles Hotel, and Singapore Changi Airport, all of which are considered among the best in the world at what they do. Well, at least it was free. You can see a picture of the entire hall of fame below.

Overall, Singapore does have a lot to offer for first-time visitors. The Night Safari is a unique attraction that I've yet to see anywhere else, and Sentosa is a good place for a family to spend a day. There are also nearby resort islands, such as Bintan, that are part of Indonesia but really only accessible from Singapore. I'd recommend a trip there, but not for sports, unless you are going to watch them on TV.



1 comment:

  1. You're funny. "I then returned to Japan and saw another Yankees game. Ugh." Some of us in the states same the same thing.