Singapore is tiny – about two thirds the size of New York City. It is almost freakishly clean, unless you set foot in less touristy areas. My hostel was located in Little India – things did look a little bad worse there, but still clean compared with other parts of Asia. It is very easy to move around there – busses and trains are aplenty and almost everyone speaks English. Two facts which make it a perfect destination for first time travelers.
The city planners of Singapore did something right. The skyline is very unique and, as one of my family members pointed out, manages not to look like another concrete jungle. The city center is a wonderful mix of high end shopping paradise and lots of green space – parks, trees, flowers, benches to sit down for a rest in the shade while you enjoy the view.
All that will cost you, of course. Money and also a bit of personal freedom. Okay, so I admit, the last part may be a little over the top. I’ll try to explain. Well, not the money part. That is kind of self-explanatory, I presume. The freedom part. It first hit me after I entered the third(?) shop, looking to buy chewing gum and wondering to myself why the heck they only sell mints. The mounting frustration finally led me to google and as it turns out, chewing gum is outlawed in Singapore. If you knew it before, congrats. I didn’t. No chewing gum in Singapore. As I understand, there was a major cleaning up process some time ago that cost the city lots of time and money after which they basically said, ‘No more!’ Yes, my inner outrage may be petty. And I perfectly understand the frustration of a city council that is fed up with people spitting their gum wherever they walk. But come on! Where does it end? Or start? You are willing to have a government dictate what you can and cannot eat? Really? At what point do you draw the line then?
If invasions into your personal sphere like these don’t bother you, then you will definitely like Singapore. I know I did. But I choose to walk through life with open eyes and I can enjoy a place and still not be blind to the faults in it. It is a very safe place, but again, it comes at the price of high regulation and severe criminalization of even minor offenses. Like forgetting to flush in a public toilet.
I enjoyed Singapore a lot. But then again, I don’t have to live there. It does make for a great layover stop though and can easily be explored in a day or two.