Singapore

I took a three night detour into Singapore from my Malaysian travels.  Busing it in from Melaka was pretty straightforward, but for the customs process.  You have to get in and out of the bus once to get processed through Malaysian customs, and once again to get through Singapore’s customs process.  Getting through customs is not particularly difficult for Canadians but they are really strict in processing people from southeast Asian countries and they make children go through customs separate from their parents.  If you run into the misfortune of having someone in front of you experience any sort of problem, they’ll shut the entire line down for upwards of 15 minutes until a customs agent can arrive to take the person away.  Given that this happened to me twice as I was checking into Singapore and once as I was checking out, it appears that it is a common occurrence.  For a country that is generally as well organized as Singapore, I was surprised that the customs process was such a disaster.  It took me 30-40 minutes to clear customs in a line-up length that would have taken Canadian customs 10 minutes max. 

Their customs forms are also terrifying.  You are essentially given the form once you are at the border (i.e. once you have no chance of turning around without raising serious suspicions) and the form flat out reads: “Warning: Death for Drug Traffickers Under Singapore Law.”  I actually did a little bit of research into their criminal justice system while I was in the country.  Interesting fact, gun trafficking is also punishable by death.  But their definition of trafficking is crazy expansive, i.e. if you are found in possession of more than one illegal gun, you are officially a gun trafficker.  The way that they administer caning is also particularly horrendous.  For one, caning is generally reserved for heinous offences such as rape, armed robbery and murder.  But then they randomly throw in vandalism.  And when one is sentenced to caning, it is never on its own but rather on top of a prison sentence.  Here’s the messed up part–the offender is never told when the caning will be carried out.  One day during the prison sentence a guard will simply show up and take the offender off to administer the caning.  That’s some state-sanctioned psychological torture to the extreme.  And on the physical realm, after three lashes the skin breaks, leaving permanent scarring.

Anyways, aside from the draconian system of justice, one of the other notable things about Singapore is how expensive the city is compared to the rest of Asia, heck the rest of the world.  Because of that I stayed at a pod hotel called the MET a Space Pod.  Yes, you’re only getting a pod for $50 USD a night, but I really couldn’t complain.  The location was fantastic, right off of the Boat Quay, close to Parliament and Chinatown.  And the pods themselves were very comfortable, spacious and each featured a built in mini-safe, fans, multiple lights, a retractable screen in front of the pod and access to a larger locker to store bigger stuff.  Because it is considered a luxury hostel, there weren’t a lot of loud younger folk so I actually slept like a baby.  Not a bad option in the end.

Shots of my pod, the Boat Quay, and the Parliament building right across the river:

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You can find excellent versions of most Asian dishes in Singapore.  My first meal was a late lunch of Bun Bo Hue at a Vietnamese restaurant.  It proved to be the second best I had, better than any of the versions of the dish that I had in Hue itself:

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I spent the rest of the evening taking some photos around the streets of Chinatown and doing a little photo editing in the pubs around Boat Quay.  It was at this time that I discovered that during happy hour, one will pay a minimum of $10 CAD for a small bottle of beer.  Pretty much the best deal in town is a large beer at an outdoor stall for $10 CAD in Chinatown.   At one point I sat down for a small glass of beer near the river without checking the prices and was charged $25 CAD for the mug of beer.  And short of eating in Chinatown or other street food stalls, the food prices are similarly crazy:

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07 & Cover

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For dinner I went to a food court in Chinatown where they have all of their street food stalls outdoors but under a roof.  This is one of the cheapest places to eat dinner but you’ll still be paying between $5 and $12 CAD for a plate of food.  I went with a Chinese/Malay soup called Laksa.  The base for the soup is Laksa paste which consists of lemongrass, chilies, shallots, tumeric, galanga, spices and dried shrimp.  It is then served with chicken, shrimp, tofu puffs, fish balls and coconut milk.  I did enjoy mine well enough, but I got occasional mouthfuls of something super fishy tasting that I did not like much. 

The food court and the soup:

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The following day I started off with lunch at the Chiew Kee Noodle house for some decent noodles at a reasonable price ($6.50 CAD):

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I then spent the day walking around town with a couple who knows a friend of mine from Toronto:

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My main activity for my last day in the city was to hit the world famous day and night zoos.  Unfortunately they are a bit of a hassle to get to on public transit, taking at least 1 hour and up to 1.5 hours if you go by train and bus.  I’d recommend just going to the nearest skytrain stop and then taking a $10 CAD cab the rest of the way, you’ll shave 20-40 minutes from your travel time.  If you give yourself 3 hours to the see the day zoo before it closes that allows you to escape the brutal mid-day heat and check everything out at a quick pace.  You then have to wait 1.5 hours at a nearby food court before the night zoo opens up.  All in all you’ll end up spending about $65 CAD for the combined ticket but it’s worth it.  They really made an effort to use natural looking barriers such as artificial rivers to keep the animals confined rather than bars, and the animal enclosures are nicer than those of most other zoos.  The night zoo is also fantastic, they display totally different animals from the day zoo and the lighting is designed to allow nocturnal animals to go about their business.  You can both walk around and take trams (do both as you see different things on foot than on the tram), and when you walk around it feels like you’re pretty much wandering alone for most of the time which is great.  For obvious reasons, the night zoo doesn’t photograph well:

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One of the best things about the zoo is that it is right next to a huge green space and lake, it doesn’t feel at all like you are in a large city:

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I’ll leave you with one final picture of Chinatown at night:

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