The moment you arrive at Changi Airport in Singapore you’ll notice 2 things; the first is that this place is very rich and luxurious; considered the greatest airport on Earth this place immediately blows you away. Next are the strict rules that the people of Singapore live by and that you should certainly try to adhere to during your visit. But there is also something about this place you’ll notice once you arrive downtown…
It’s not uncommon for airport security to search through your belongings if you’re not a citizen; they pulled just about everything out of my carry-on asking me what almost every single item was. By the way, the moment you step off the plane you must go through a full security check, complete with x-ray machines and metal detectors. If you’ve heard anything about Singapore, it’s probably the no gum law. I met with someone during my stay that had been living here for the past few years and said that while it used to be strictly enforced, they’ve calmed down a bit recently, however I did not find a single piece of gum for sale in any store anywhere, so apparently it’s still active enough to not allow gum sales.
Random Fact: Sang Nila Utama founded Singapore in 1299
and Sir Stanford Raffles founded modern Singapore in 1819.
After making my way through the airport and catching a taxi I instantly started learning a lot about the city and its people from my driver who went on and on about the food of Singapore and the nightlife. I was excited to try the food as I had been seeing some Singapore dishes available to try back in Japan, but never ordered because I figured I would wait until I arrived here. The freeway was very clean and cleanliness is something else Singapore is known for, so far it was proving true.
The airport also uses a rating system to improve quality. After security I used the restroom real quick and upon exiting I was greeted with a screen asking me to rate the toilet. Then after grabbing my luggage and going through immigration I was asked afterwards on a screen to rate the quality of the service. So Singapore really does give off a different feel almost immediately, but that feeling only intensifies the more you explore here.
A Fine City!
Singapore is referred to on many t-shirts and other merchandise as “a fine city”, with a stress on the word “fine”, a joke that you will quickly understand. You will see signs everywhere showing things you aren’t supposed to do and the fine you will be required to pay if caught breaking some of these laws. Now, you may thinking “how bad can it be, really?” well, below are signs posted outside a simple subway station.
And then when you get on an escalator.
And while you’re on an escalator you might here a recording start that announces all these things as well, including in subway stations listing off the things you shouldn’t be doing. Now, it took me a bit of time to find out what durians are, along with “outrage of modesty” (which was another sign I saw frequently but forgot to take a picture of). Durians are a very odd fruit which basically looks like a green football covered in spikes and “outrage of modesty” basically means any form of molestation. Committing “outrage of modesty” results in caning (yes, actual caning) and jail time. Some of the signs confused me as to why they were needed, like not urinating in elevators; you think that would be something obvious. Some signs though are a bit more threatening.
Random Fact: The governments of Singapore and Malaysia attempted to merge in 1964,
but this detriorated quickly and ended the following year.
You may notice that the sign above is in 4 different languages, this is common everywhere. Unlike other countries that may claim to be a “melting pot”, Singapore really is a melting pot and almost every sign is required to be in at least these 4 languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. As for the shirts I mentioned, you’ll see some additional signs on them that I missed taking a picture of.
A Bizarre Island or Alien Planet?
The country of Singapore is among the smallest countries in the world and is an island just off the southern tip of Malaysia, but the entire time I was here it felt like an alien planet. One of the reasons for this is that if you visit a certain part of Singapore and ask for directions, you may get something like this: “Leave the Meadow and go over the Dragonfly Bridge and past Dragonfly Lake, avoid the Cloud Forest and continue on passed the floating baby until you reach the Golden Garden.” And the freaky thing about this is that these are all actual places in the Gardens by the Bay. The floating baby is certainly a rather eerie sight in my opinion.
From the angle I original saw this at, it appeared that the child was lying on rocks, but when getting closer I realised that the rocks were in the background which really freaked me out because I could no longer figure out what was holding it up. Of course this is not the only oddity here.
Random Fact: In 2014, Singapore was rated as the most expensive country in the world according to The Economist Intelligence Unit.
These giant things are called Supertrees and are located in the Golden and Silver Gardens, these specific ones I photographed are located in the Golden Gardens. They look a bit different during the day and for a better view you can take a walk on the OCBC walkway which is suspended 72 feet (22m) up amongst the trees. Due to the fact that you can see through the grated floor and that there is nothing below any part of this walkway there are several signs warning people not to attempt going across if you have a heart condition, blood pressure condition, feel unwell or dizzy, or have a fear of heights. While going for this walk with the Supertrees you may feel the walkway bounce around and move a bit, this is completely normal since it’s suspended in the air and not attached to poles or platforms of any kind. Instead it is held up by cables attached to the branches of the Supertrees.
If you’re lucky and time your walk correctly, you can be up here during the light show! The Gardens by the Bay offers plenty to see and do, including the Flower Dome and the amazing Cloud Forest, which allows you to go up into an artificial mountain and it offers catwalks several stories up above all the odd plants, sculptures, and waterfalls! Another amazing view is from the world famous Marina Bay Sands, which is a hotel consisting of 3 tall towers with a structure sitting on top that resembles a ship. Up here is a (yet another “world famous”) infinity pool which gives the illusion that you’re about to swim off into the city bay 679 feet (206m) below.
Though, if you’re not a hotel guest you’ll only have access to the front of the “ship” and the restaurant and bar at the front. This isn’t a bad spot to check out though, considering the price of a single night here I chose to just visit the front area and enjoy the views from here.
If you feel like mixing high up views with a ride you can jump on (currently) the world’s 2nd tallest Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer standing 541 feet (165m) tall. It held the title of tallest in the world until the High Roller opened up in Las Vegas in 2014. If you feel like adventuring out a bit from downtown Singapore there is one great spot I will recommend which is the Chinese Garden which is about a 15 minute ride west by rail. I wanted to visit the MacRitchie Reservoir Park but decided against it due to budget restraints.
Random Fact: It is a common misconception that Singapore is part of Malaysia.
The Chinese Garden is pretty impressive and also has a Japanese Garden section as well. One of my favorite things about the visit to the garden was the pagoda that is plotted towards the center of the garden and features some pretty good views from the top. It stands at 7 stories and if you want to get to the top there is no elevator, just a spiral staircase.
There’s plenty more to see as well here including a Chinese zodiac garden featuring sculptures of the 12 animals and each one having a plaque that explains the meaning of the symbol, a few lakes, statues of many famous people from Chinese history like Confucius and Qu Yuan, and more!
The city skyline of Singapore is easily one of the most amazing I’ve seen and is quickly becoming one of the most famous in the world. Being featured in recent films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Hitman: Agent 47 the city is quickly becoming more recognizable every day. The commerce part of the city is like any other, tall business buildings, 5-star hotels, rooftop bars, and more. The bay however is the highlight of the city, featuring the Marina Bay Sands hotel shown further up from the top and the next picture below from a distance.
Random Fact: There was a town in Michigan called Singapore, but was destoryed by a fire back in 1871 and vacated in 1875.
The bay itself has several other interesting highlights which includes the mythical creature that represents the city and country of Singapore which is the Merlion; which is basically a lion that has the body of a fish as the name implies (much like a mermaid). There are also boat tours that go through the bay and up the river a bit further, these however are rather expensive and there is at least one boat landing that will try to scam you. Unfortunately it’s the one that is closest to the Marina Bay Sands.
From left to right you’ll see the Singapore Flyer, Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands and the Shoppes at Marina Bay, Downtown Singapore, and the famous water spitting Merlion Statue which is the symbol of the country. And if you’re looking for a Starbucks, the 100th Starbucks is located just a short walk behind the Merlion!
Traveling south of the center of Singapore will take you to an entirely different part of this interesting and unique country. There are several islands off the Singapore coast and one of the most popular is Sentosa Island which features a Universal Studios, Lake of Dreams, waterfalls, a giant Merlion, and several even smaller islands of its own. One of these miniature islands off of Sentosa marks a very special spot in the continent of Asia.
Though if you want to get to this once-in-a-lifetime spot you’ll need to brave a rather shaky narrow bridge, as this is the only way to reach the island aside from swimming. Personally, I think it’s completely worth it, not only is this a very special spot on the planet, but not too many people can say they’ve been here. There is also a pretty cool sculpture of the name Sentosa on this tiny island along with 2 viewing towers.
Singapore is also home to one of the most bizarre theme parks on Earth; Haw Par Villa. Haw Par Villa is a free park that features many strange and even disturbing things, some of which I cannot show as I’ve been keeping my site relatively clean. Most of the things you’ll see here are relatively harmless, but in the same theme of this country, the deeper you go the more bizarre it gets. This includes the wall of decapitated heads, a bloody war between rats and bunnies, people being mutilated, tortured, ripped apart, burned, and more. The following are a few pictures of the more tame things here.
Random Fact: After using a toilet in the Changi Airport, you can rate your experience before exiting the restroom.
Random Fact: The highest natural spot in Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill (536 ft. or 163.6m) and contains more species of trees than the entire continent of North America!
I’ll end this post with a shot of my birthday dinner. I was actually in Saigon on my birthday, but I considered this meal in Singapore to be my “birthday dinner” as I decided to go all out on dining along the bay at Gordon Ramsays restaurant Bread Street Kitchen in front of the Marina Bay Sands; and it was excellent! Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back as I will be publishing my time in Malaysia next!