A comfortable break in Singapore

Posted by Ted on Oct 22, 2010 in Travel, Vagabonding

After two weeks on Gili Air, you might not think that the world’s fourth largest financial center and busiest shipping container port is a place to relax, but Singapore was a very comfortable place to re-acquaint ourselves with modern society. An island country city-state of over 5 million people within 274 square miles, it has all of the advantages of a big city without the frenetic feel of other Southeast Asian metropolises such as Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, and Bangkok.

While our last weeks on a small island in Indonesia were certainly paradise, we were already beginning to look forward to some modern conveniences such as fresh (not  brackish) water, indoor plumbing, hard (not sand) sidewalks, and more choices for food than mie goreng, nasi goreng, and gado gado. Neither overbearing nor aloof, Singapore provided all of these things, and then some.

The cleanliness of the city is legendary, so of course it was one of the first things I looked for. As we rode the MTR train from Changi airport to Bugis station, I looked out on the streets below and was amazed by the lack of trash. While one could see the occasional discarded wrapper or food container, it really was the exception rather than the norm. A game of “spot the litter” revealed maybe a dozen or two items during the 15 kilometer ride. This initial impression was only confirmed as we walked across the city over the next several days.

We had made reservations at the InnCrowd hostel in Little India, and while sufficient, confirmed for us that we really don’t prefer dorm lodging. However, the location allowed us to enjoy our first Indian food on the peninsula, and to get a taste of what the streets of Chennai might be like. The streets were alight with Deepavali celebrations. While India was not on our short list of places to visit before, it sure is now. We had the best Mushroom Masala Dosai at a place called Madras Woodlands.

During our previous few weeks in Indonesia, we had been compiling a shopping list, mostly of toiletries, that we needed to stock up on in Singapore. Most of the items were easily found, oddly, save Imodium or equivalent. Apparently, the anti-diarrheal of choice is simply activated charcoal tablets. The other very important todo item was getting my camera cleaned. I had noticed when taking photos that spots were appearing on every picture, regardless of lens. So early in the trip, this was unacceptable. Thankfully, I tracked down the Camera Hospital, conveniently only a few blocks from the hostel, and open on weekends.

Another modern convenience we enjoyed was watching a movie in a theatre, taking advantage of A/C in the middle of a hot day. While the evil villain’s raison d’être was somewhat ludicrous, Reign of Assassins was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with excellent martial arts, an intricate plot, and a warm love story. While in Chinatown, we also sampled the food at a “hawker centre“, like a food court, which exist throughout the Malaysian peninsula, but the best was experience was snacking our way down the Chinatown Food Street one night. We also tried a durian pancake – not bad!

All in all, our three day stay in Singapore was a welcome re-introduction into modern society. However, it totally blew away our daily budget, and so we moved onwards and northwards into Malaysia.

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An adventurer at heart, Ted Beatie is at his happiest when he’s off the beaten path. His deepest passion is sharing the world through photography and writing, found at The Pocket Explorer. He is also managing editor for Rolf Potts' Vagabonding, where he curates a Case Study series. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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