Singapore is a city unlike most others; it’s clean, there are no traffic jams and everything runs on time. There is simple reason how this can be so in a city of almost 4.5 million: the government. Singaporean authorities garner great authority here and their influence on the urban population is obvious. Littering, drug trafficking and yes, the ban against chewing gum are all heavily enforced. I even felt a heightened awareness of my behavior, willing myself not to jaywalk (or risk a fine of S$50) despite all of my NYC instincts honed to do just the opposite.
The city is so orderly in fact, that it lacks the authenticity that so many other capitals have earned with grit and character. Singapore feels more like an amusement park-version of a city, where a dedicated staff attends to each discarded piece of garbage and trims any untidy bush. It also lacks its own indigenous culture, taking a page each from China, Malaysia and India to make up it’s ethnic landscape.
That being said, there is no denying Singapore’s beauty. The architecture is stunning, the river peaceful and the greenery lush. People are clean-cut and educated. There are no beggars or buskers. The transportation is perfection and lacks the usual traffic-jam anxiety. World-class shops line Orchard Road where Singaporeans and visitors alike can burn up a pay check in one session. Or for the more frugal shoppers, there is Bugis Street market, a former haven for prostitutes and transvestites, but that now boasts the largest street shopping in Singapore. It’s a bit lame coming from Thailand, but the hundreds of stalls filled with cheap clothing and tacky knick-knacks are bound to thrill some.
The luxurious colonial-style Raffles Hotel was the best of my experiences in Singapore. A trip to the Long Bar to have a Singapore Sling where it was first concocted is a trip back in time. The barmen are traditional in white jackets, the bar looks well worn and weathered, and patrons still throw peanut shells on the bar floor. And the “Sling” you ask? Best I’ve ever had.
(Is my recommendation less convincing since it also happens to be my first?)
Music by DeVotchKa.