Singapore was a breath of fresh air and respite from the heat of Dubai. We were so happy to be in a place where verdant green landscapes filled every glance, and although we were in a place that felt very different from home, the humidity reminded us of Nashville and it felt so good.
Singapore is a place where a lot of things are done right. There are many ethnic and varied religious groups that get along seamlessly, respecting one another. People have come here primarily from China, Malaysia and India- so those groups dominate a very international city. Singapore is one of the safest places in the world, and the citizens there really value being able to walk down the street at any hour of the day and not worry. Homelessness doesn’t seem to exist. Everyone has a home, often subsidized government housing. There is little traffic (at least during school holidays which we were lucky enough to catch) and everything is so easy to get to (it’s a really small island). A lot of activities are free to the public, museums are free to all citizens of Singapore, and culture seems to be celebrated. The shopping is amazing too- from saris and bangles in Little India to high end fashion on Orchard Road, Singapore has it all. With its shiny buildings and gorgeous green landscapes, it’s easy to love this city state which you can drive across in less than an hour. It’s also the cleanest place we’ve ever been, which was appreciated.
Yet with all of the places we’ve been, it seems that the good is often balanced with some less than ideal traits. Singapore- for all of its beauty and cultural understanding, is run by a very select group of people. There are no free elections, no gay rights, no free speech. There is censorship in all forms of media. The reason that it’s so safe is that CCTV cameras cover the city, so if you commit a crime, the punishment is swift and severe. When we spoke to people about freedom, most of them were quite vocal about how upset they are about the government and their desire for change.
With all that said, we really loved Singapore. The food, the culture, feeling safe and the beauty of this country were amazing. Here are some things we loved.
Highlights of Singapore:
Our dear friend from home, David, came to spend two weeks with us and it was so lovely to see him and be able to chat with someone we understand (because there is speaking English and speaking English we understand). We had a blast together.
Hawker stands- Singapore used to have lots of street food vendors like the rest of Asia, but then Singapore decided that it wanted to be very clean and brought all of the vendors into covered buildings where they had to meet hygiene standards like all other restaurants, and suddenly no one got sick from street food. The people of Singapore are all foodies and have great food at such good prices that they rarely eat out at restaurants, and instead frequent hawker centers. Since Singapore is a melting pot, the food is quite unique here and it was so fun to discover it. When you go to a hawker center- it works like this: place your stuff on a numbered table (no one will take it), & then walk around and order food from any of the 100+ vendors housed inside their permanent stall, tell them your table number and your food will show up a few minutes later. We waited in line for some food for over an hour as the best stalls pull the longest lines. We had dirt cheap meals at $5 a plate, and some of the places are even Michelin star rated -Anthony Bourdain posthumously guided us to a few really great spots. So, we feasted at the Indian hawker center, an outdoor one that specialized in satay and many more. We had a ball and although Luna was at times disgusted by the creatures we saw on the menus of various places (stingray, beef brains, etc) we had a fine time reaching beyond our comfort zones and most of it tasted so good. Our comfort zone did not include brains of any kind or most of the stranger end of exotic foods available… We can recommend Chicken Rice, Curry Rice, Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice and Noodles respectively), Duck with noodles and Chicken Satay. If you find yourself in Singapore we also highly recommend lunch at Samy’s Curry – an Indian restaurant that serves it’s amazing curries on banana leaves where most customers eat with their fingers.
Singapore’s gardens are stunning. We visited the Gardens by the Bay where we saw the cloud forest and flower garden which are housed in GIANT glass domes on the edge of the bay. The biodiversity here is amazing and we were able to explore nature in new ways. The Botanical Gardens in Singapore are gorgeous (and free) and there is a special orchid garden there too that creates new hybrid versions of orchids for any visiting dignitaries, matching the flower to their look and personality.
Access to really cool activities for the family: in the span of a few days, we went to the world’s best zoo where we saw pandas, tigers, free range monkeys and we played with manatees. We swam with dolphins the next day. Luna and I went to Little India and bought saris and realized how comfortable they are and loved wearing them. We went to high tea at the Fullerton and it was so posh. Josh and David bought some jackets. We took a cooking class and Luna pestle and mortared all of the sauce bases for each recipe! We went to art exhibits, learned how to make soap (I make the ugliest soap in the world, by the way), and loved getting henna artwork in Little India.
Luna just read this post and exclaimed, “Mama, you didn’t even talk about the airport!” and she’s right. Changi, Singapore’s airport is a destination unto itself. Come to the airport 12 hours early, really. There are ropes courses, high tea, an amazing mall, awesome restaurants, the world’s highest indoor waterfall, lounges, bars, a hedge maze, a mirror maze, free massage, wifi, movie theater and butterfly garden. Like we said, Singapore is awesome. Hope you enjoy the photos! There are a lot of them… xo