Singapore – The Lion City
I don’t even know where to start with this one really – so much happened to us just before and during our stay in Singapore! Just a couple of days before taking off we had nowhere to stay as our efforts to get someone to host us on Couchsurfing had been fruitless (hotels in Singapore are not for our pocket), we were struggling with finding a fourth person for our roadtrip in Australia which we were planning to start at the end of November, back at our flat (in the UK) the washing machine had broken down and in general we were feeling a bit tired from the constant moving and planning.
But then we woke up one morning and found out we had someone interested in coming with us to the roadtrip and one of the couchsurfers not only accepted our request to host us but also invited us to a Malay wedding in Singapore! It was really unexpected but most importantly, these few things gave us the much needed boost in motivation. We felt pumped up and ready to go again.
The next couple of days we spent in trains, tuk-tuks, airports and planes. We arrived to Singapore knackered but also very excited about all the things we had planned ahead of us.
We were lucky because our couchsurfing host Nizar picked us up from the airport in Singapore and even gave us a quick tour of the area where we were staying. The first impression of Singapore was that it was super organized, very clean and modern (absolutely nothing like our last couple of months!). The public transport system in Singapore is second to none – it’s clean, intuitive to use and affordable. Unlike in Dubai, for example, you can get to pretty much any location in Singapore without a car or a taxi.
What struck me the most is how social and well-functioning Singapore felt. There were loads of public spaces such as parks, squares and hubs (a little bit like small malls, hubs are places for shopping, eating and entertainment). We have a lot of those in most cities in Europe as well, but you can never “just do your thing” – you are kept distracted by people begging (especially in parks and squares), handing out flyers, trying to sell you stuff, etc. There are very few areas where you can just sit and chat with your friends, work or play.
It might be a cultural thing, but my other guess is that some of our public spaces are not functional and therefore people spend barely any time in such places. We go to a park or a square to take a picture or have a walk at best while in Singapore you will see people dancing, exercising, socializing and playing. Facilities are provided to do all of those things here and public spaces are extremely well maintained which means spending time outside is actually very pleasant and safe.
A few other things which we enjoyed to the fullest were live music (thanks to our amazing host Nizar!) and cinemas outside or in hubs. A few times we were heading back home after a long day of exploring but we simply could not resist watching a movie (for free!) in Tampines Hub.
To top it all off, we found that tourist attractions in Singapore can easily keep you busy for at least a week. We visited the world-famous Supertree Grove in Gardens by The Bay, watched a water and light show in the Marina, explored the botanical gardens and listened to live music in Clarke Quay.
Unfortunately, it was not just roses and rainbows for us the whole time. As a matter of fact, in Singapore we had our most stressful moments of this trip as well (not because we were in Singapore, but because we did not plan what we needed to do before going to Australia early enough!). About three days before our scheduled departure to Melbourne, Australia, we realized we did not have our eVisitor permits to enter the country. We did not stress too much as processing time, as stated on the Australian government website, was only 1 day. However, after applying, Kristina’s application did not result in being autogranted (immediate approval). It went to the “to be manually checked” box which meant the process could have taken several days or even weeks.
This caused us and our friends waiting in Australia to get our roadtrip started a lot of stress and inconvenience. The only good news was that our flight to Australia was cancelled, so at least we did not lose any money there, but instead we lost plenty on the car rental cancellation in Australia, alternative flights to Thailand and also flights from Thailand to Australia. The funny thing was that Kristina’s visa was granted eventually (four hours before the initial scheduled departure time which means had our flight not been cancelled, we might have actually gone to Australia that same day). We learned our lesson that we need to apply for visas early so hopefully this won’t be happening again.
All the troubles aside, we had a very pleasant time in Singapore. The experience was very different to everything we have had before – the people including our host were extremely hospitable and nice to us. Despite the fact that the population of Singapore is so multicultural, socially as well as religiously diverse, everybody lives in harmony. We departed to our 6th country of the trip with plenty of nice pictures but most importantly with very warm memories. I have no doubt we will come back again some time.