Singapore, 2008-12-16 12:00 by Martin
Back in Singapore! This time we were planning for an even shorter visit due to the high costs of decent accommodation here, and we were actually only stopping by to get our visas done. But things turned out differently; as we were lucky enough to be accommodated by a great girl called Juana we met through CouchSurfing (Cudos to for making such a great community).
Staying with Juana made our budget more in tune with Singapore, we could now spend our money having fun instead. The first night we came to Juana’s, she had arranged a dinner with some other couchsurfers and some of her friends. We had great Malay food and it was fun to meet a lot of different people. We ended up going to ‘Zouk Out’, which is a big dance festival, held at Sentosa Island beach. It was a lot of fun, with good music (I thought so anyway), lots of festive Singaporeans and good company. As it was a beach party, it was considered ok to wear bikinis or shorts only. It was quite a different way of dressing than we had been used to in India. In general Singaporean girls dress skimpily; short skirts and tight tops; but this was even less. But what was most amazing was the nonchalant way everyone behaved; no one stared at the girls, no one made inappropriate moves or simply grabbed a butt or boob – which for sure would have happened in India. All in all Singaporeans are so polite and easy going – if you on accident bump into someone, they will be the one apologizing, even though it was your fault. This aspect is one of the things I really like so about Singaporeans – nowhere in the world do you feel so relaxed and unthreatened, and just know that you can walk down the darkest of alleys at night, without needing to feel worried. Also it is refreshing to be back in a country where women are again seen as equals to men, and where women can behave and dress as they please, without being stared at or harassed. Another thing you immediately notice is that the general understanding known as ‘standing in queue’ is again present, which was a relief after India and China.

We got to do some sightseeing as well – mostly the low key places and some museums. Singapore is a great place just to wander around, discovering neighborhoods you didn’t know exist. It’s a big city though, but with the efficient MRT system, you get so easily around. Contemporary art is big in Singapore, and we saw some interesting exhibitions. But equally good is the more traditional Cilvilizations museum, where you can get an insight into Singapore’s origin and incredible cultural mix. We also went to Chinatown to visit the newly build Buddha Tooth Temple. It was really cool – grand in scale and décor, but also intimate and mystical. At the 5th floor rooftop they had created an orchid garden with a small temple and prayer wheel in the center; the serenity up there was fantastic – especially because the buzz and bustle of the financial district was visible through the gated windows.

Singapore is so diverse, both in people, religions, culture and landscapes – all packaged into a small island. It’s amazing how Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, mosques and churches lay side by side, and how the Little India district entangles with the Malay/Arab district. Worshippers of Chinese descendant, heading for their Buddhist temples, stop by the Hindu temples and pray or make offerings, just to cover all bases. And through all the cultures, capitalism is ever present, symbolized by the giant skyscrapers, thriving businesses and giant malls. But around and in between these consumer-oriented symbols stand another kind of symbols – the massive concrete housing complexes, which most of Singaporeans call home. Even though these complexes resemble the big ghettoes of some European cities (including some Danish), they are far from that. Actually they are an item of pride to the Singaporeans. The layout is the same as an ordinary ghetto in Europe, but the atmosphere is completely different. Everyone seems to get along and even as a stranger you feel welcome. It is probably mostly due to the Singaporean mentality, but another factor might have an impact also. In each housing block, there are certain quotas on the ethnic groups living there – meaning that e.g. 50% have to be ethnic Chinese, 30% ethnic Malays and 20% ethnic Indians. This constitutes to a mixed neighborhood where everyone is represented and no ethnic group really has a majority. Singapore has its issues as any other country on earth and racial and religious problems are not unknown; with the current religious currents in many neighboring countries, indeed in the whole world, one most just hope that Singapore steers clear of the conflicts other countries face.

Sampling the Singaporean nightlife once wasn’t enough, so we once more hooked up with some Couchsurfers and Juana + friends, and headed out for a night on the town. The Clark Quay area of Singapore boosts some fantastic clubs and bars – stylish and fun, and being a Wednesday it was “ladies night”, meaning free entrance and drinks for the girls. Us guys had to pay, but some free drinks were discretely passed our way, and the girls were in good mood with all their free Lychee Martinis in hand. After dancing and having fun long into the night, we took a cab home and slept soundly long into the morning.

We were also lucky to be accommodated at Ashok’s (a friend of Laerke’s) family just before we headed to Bali. They were such nice people and we were sorry that we would only spend one night and that we were unable to taste Ashok’s mother’s surely delicious cooking. We had a great dinner in the local food court with Ashok and his lovely little sister though, eating until our stomachs almost burst.


Big City Life
Singapore and Bangkok