Singapore is a destination that completely took me by surprise. Based on the descriptions I had heard from certain locals and visitors, I shouldn’t have liked this city state at all. They described it as a dull, orderly, expensive, and over-surveilled concrete jungle that wasn’t worth lingering in.
While I can see a sliver of truth behind these statements, I think it’s a bit harsh to wither the city down to that.
Yes, Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia, but business is booming here and there are so many cool start-ups pushing new ideas. Yes, Singapore is very orderly and people are actually law abiding, but I think that’s a great thing! For once during my entire year of travel in Southeast Asia, cars were stopping at pedestrian crosswalks as opposed to trying to run me over. And yes, Singapore may have a lot of surveillance, but it’s not like people are being observed with binoculars 24/7. I noticed some police presence at large metro stations and a few surveillance cameras in malls and bus terminals, but it was nowhere close to the scale I was expecting; I’ve seen more surveillance and police presence in Manhattan, so let’s give Singapore a break!
If I had to describe the city to people, I would say Singapore is innovative, artistic, pushing architectural boundaries, and very liveable. Perhaps I’m judging the city too soon – after all, I’m just a visitor and not a resident – but here’s why I feel this way:
A liveable space
For a small city state, Singapore has a lot of green space. Whether you want to go for a stroll along the historic Esplanade Park which is shaded by towering trees, or whether you prefer the thrill of riding down one of the mountain bike trails at the Kent Ridge Park Trail, there is plenty of greenery to lure you out for some exercise. Also, aside from the main island, Singapore is made up of 60 smaller islets, many of which you can visit for a little city escape.
Another thing that makes a city liveable is transportation and I was very impressed with Singapore’s MRT system. It was modern, sleek, efficient, and spotless!
Singapore may be expensive, but when it comes to eating out, food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Hawker centers are extremely popular and this means affordable dishes made right before your eyes.
What I liked about the hawker centers was all the variety they offered under one roof. Most places served up dishes like Indian curries, Hainanese chicken rice, Singaporean chili crab, Malay laksa, and more. And the best part – these dishes only cost around $5.
Since I only had a few days in Singapore, I decided to do the hop-on-hop-off tour so that I could see as many of the neighbourhoods as possible. I’m not kidding you here, I seriously spent half the ride with my mouth agape, trying to get Sam’s attention from across the aisle every time we drove past a cool building. I sounded like a broken record, of ‘Oh my gosh, look at this one!’ and ‘Whoaaa! Did you see that one?’
Some of the structures that most stood out to me included Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay which are nicknamed ‘the durians’ for their spiky exterior, the ArtScience Museum which resembles a giant lotus flower, and the mind-boggling Gateway buildings which look like they’re only 2 dimensional (I had to do a double take to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me because from a certain angle these structures look like they are paper thin!).
Then, of course, you have the Marina Bay Sands which dominate the skyline; I’m still trying to decide if it looks more like a boat or spaceship!
And don’t even get me started on the Gardens by the Bay. I was there for their nightly light show and all I could do was stare in awe as the super trees lit up and the tribal soundtrack of the Garden Rhapsody transported me to the world of Avatar.
A thriving art scene
When it comes to the arts, there is always something happening in Singapore.
I was only there for a few days, but my visit happened to coincide with the Mosaic Music Festival, which hosted well-known bands from the UK, Norway, Iceland, the United States, as well as local Singaporean acts. I even got to watch an indie rock band from South Korea play at The Esplanade!
i Light Marina Bay was also taking place; this was a cool light installation that came to life at night with music. It was open to the public free of charge.
Meanwhile, Savour was calling all foodies to come and indulge in Michelin star and award winning cuisine from Singapore and around the world.
And that was just the beginning! There were also numerous photography exhibits, theatre productions, and festivals – all happening within a span of a few days. If you live in Singapore, there is no reason to stay home on any given night.
One of my fondest memories from my time in Singapore was stumbling upon an open air concert at the Gardens by the Bay. It was late afternoon and out on a green field, hundreds of people had come with their blankets and picnic baskets to listen to a free performance put on by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Couples were drinking wine out of plastic glasses, friends were sharing a sushi dinner, and children were running around while songs from The Sound of Music played. If this weren’t idyllic enough, we had the Singapore skyline at sunset dominating the landscape.
That’s when I thought to myself, I could live here someday.
Have you been to Singapore?
What were your thoughts?