Singapore provides 'sticker shock' experiences
The Biker's Diary
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:40 AM
Every winter when we are in Thailand, we like to go somewhere where at least Spouse Roger, if not both of us, has not been before. So for this year's side trip, we chose Singapore. I have been there several times, and it is a place that I knew he would enjoy seeing, so about three weeks into this last Thailand visit, off we went.
Dr. Jan Meyer and Spouse Roger enjoy a Singapore Sling at Raffles.
Singapore is very impressive in many ways. It is likely the world's cleanest city, and a lot of effort goes into keeping it that way. There are strict fines - which are actually enforced - for littering. And even though we did spot a tiny bit of litter here and there, it is still incredibly clean.
One of the many laws which keep this city so clean and efficient is the ban on chewing gum; it was explained to me many years ago that if people don't chew gum, they are not going to throw the wrappers around or have the used gum end up on the bottom of someone's shoes. It makes sense to me, especially since I have long thought that seeing anyone chew gum is a very unattractive sight.
Our first afternoon there was spent with two friends who drove us all over and took us walking through the old Chinese part of town. Singapore has been so modernized that not many of the old buildings remain, so that old section was high on my list of what we needed to visit.
Friend Dennis explained a lot of other things that make Singapore so unique. One of those was the electronic signs in every section of the "downtown," listing how many parking spaces were currently available in that area and where they were. That likely helps to keep traffic flowing very smoothly and we never saw any traffic tie-ups at all. We did not have to hunt for parking spaces.
In the early evening, we got to watch as Dennis taught a dancing class, something he does several times a week at various community centers around town. He is a champion Latin dancer, and watching this group of about 20 go through their paces was amazing. It was clearly an advanced class and, in the hour and a half that we observed, they added two or three new patterns to the routine they were learning. I was impressed that they could remember such complicated steps, and so many different ones within the same song. It became very clear to me why Dennis wins so many competitions in Latin dancing.
After the dancing class, we went to dinner with Dennis's parents, two brothers and two friends. The venue was a very traditional Chinese restaurant, next to a parking lot atop a tall building, and it was clear that the family goes there often. His parents remembered World War II, and during dinner told about some of their adventures back then in Singapore.
Because we were guests of someone else on that first day, we had not yet experienced Singapore prices. But since Dennis was leaving on a business trip the next day, and our other Singapore friends were at work, we were on our own. And starting with breakfast, we were in sticker shock. We soon realized how fortunate it was that we were only staying three days, and needless to say we scouted for a less expensive place to have breakfast the next day.
Singapore is both a city and a country, and so small that it does not have a lot of natural sights to lure tourists. So, it has created a tourism industry, and we saw a lot of it, made very easy by the Hop On buses. Courtesy of Singapore Airlines for its passengers, we just showed the driver a sticker identifying us as such, and we could jump on and off the bus at will for the duration of our stay in Singapore.
We had a map of the bus route, including what sites there were at each stop. In addition, a recording served as an on-board guide, giving information about each upcoming location. There is never a long wait, as a bus comes by each stop every 20 minutes. We planned ahead for which places we wanted to visit and we spent a whole day hopping on and off.
It is a tradition that anyone who visits Singapore must go to the historic Raffles Hotel, duck into the Long Bar and enjoy a Singapore Sling. Of course we did that, and the cost was only slightly less than that of breakfast. But, as Spouse Roger said, "Just accept it."
My favorite stop was at the incredible botanical gardens. The place was huge and had different types of gardens with a lot of walking paths. We hopped off there in the mid-afternoon and soon realized that those gardens deserved a whole day of our time. Unfortunately, we did not have a whole day left.
Another interesting stop was the Singapore Hard Rock Café, which I suggested because Spouse Roger had never visited a Hard Rock venue before. There we talked with one of the employees who lives in Malaysia, and drives two hours each direction from there to Singapore for work. He says there are no jobs in Malaysia and feels fortunate to have had this job for a few years. He was very good at what he does, and I am sure that earns him above-average tips. In addition, as Dennis proudly told us, Singapore allows no unions (and no protests or "Occupy" scenes), so this fellow was spared paying union dues.
We weathered the sticker shock, got another country stamp in our passports, saw a good friend, met his family, saw the sites and had a good time. Not bad for three short days.