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Singapore – the other southeast Asia

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the local story – what happened

The city of Singapore is the smallest state in South-East Asia – 5.5 million people on 700 km² do not give you the feeling of being surrounded by crowds all the time – as you would normally expect from the big cities of the region. Singapore is one of the cities with the world’s highest cost of living, almost everyone has a flat, the street kitchens or flying merchants that are so common in Asia are not to be found, neither are begging children or free-ranging animals. Everything is perfectly regulated and orderly, western standards and quality are a matter of course, nothing is improvised, the city is clinically clean, traffic is limited, public transport is fast, punctual and cheap and if you walk through the streets in the evening you don’t have to worry about your valuables. Huge green areas that alternate with skyscrapers, mansion quarters and housing estates loosen up the cityscape and never give the feeling of being cramped. Countless shopping malls tempt you to spend more money than you actually have. Hotels with clean beds, markets and restaurants in Bugis, Chinatown or Little India, historic squares, the recreational facilities and in recent years newly created attractions give the more than 11 million tourists every year the feeling that the few days spent here are not enough.  Actually a perfect place to live – as long as you can afford it.

When I left Austria, it was already agreed with my girlfriend Bine that we would meet somewhere. According to my initial travel plans, Australia was actually planned as the meeting place, but with the change of my travel destinations, this had shifted to Singapore. The joy was great at the airport and in contrast to the meeting with Günter in Vietnam, this time the weather had also played along with pleasant 30 degrees.

Three quarters of all Singaporeans are of chinese descent, the rest are malays or indians. Chinatown as a district is the oldest and at the same time the most colourful and busiest part of the city. Just at the end of February, shortly after the Chinese New Year, when the decorations for the festivities are still in place, this district shows its special flair. The market with its stalls and the adjacent restaurants is mainly frequented by tourists, you can get everything there that tourists like to bring home but actually don’t need. The Chinese cuisine is good and cheap for the local conditions.

Almost half of all chinese Singaporeans are Buddhists, therefore, the central temple was crowded during the celebration of the monks. Mainly locals took part in the prayers.

Within 15 minutes by subway from Chinatown you arrive in Litte India, a district which is mainly inhabited by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi. Like Chinatown there are Indian shops, markets and restaurants where you can enjoy the diverse cuisine of the subcontinent.

The Raffles Hotel, named after the English founder of the city Sir Thomas Raffles, is the birthplace of the famous Singapore Sling – a mixed drink with little alcohol but lots of sugar. Of course, since we are already there, it had to be tasted. The original preserved ambience was worth seeing, the drink nothing special for my taste, but very sweet and for the price of one cocktail I could have drunk 40 bottles of beer with my buddies in the small restaurant in Saigon. However, I liked the fact that with the drink, I got a medium sized jute bag of roasted peanuts and was allowed to throw the shells directly on the floor.

The city planners and arquitects have come up with something in order to make Singapore attractive for tourists. With the Bay Sands Hotel and the Marina Bay Garden they have succeeded in creating something special.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is probably the most famous and most expensive hotel in Singapore, and I would like to specially emphasize the swimming pool at the roof of the building with the probably most spectacular view of the city. Unfortunately, bathing is only allowed for guests from a certain price category / night. We sat in the adjacent pool bar and enjoyed the view from there. Like everywhere else in the city, every free space is used for shopping malls – as well as in the complex around the Marina Bay Sands.

First of all, one has to come up with the idea of creating artificial trees made of metal scaffolding and then letting them grow over little by little. I particularly liked it, especially because you can walk through this forest via a footbridge – the view is excellent and gives a completely different perspective. At night these trees are illuminated in a light and audio show.

Right next to it there are two huge, air-conditioned glass domes with botanical gardens. These two cover different themes. In one of them, rainforest and the corresponding climate are simulated, which the operators have once again succeeded in doing outstandingly. It really was impressive.

You should not miss to spend some time around the Marina Bay in the evening. The lighting and the light reflections in the water are something special. At the same time there is a laser show twice per evening around the Marina Bay sand, which is also very worth seeing.

After Singapore we went on towards Malaysia

– Henry

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