After spending around 3 months travelling through some rather grimy, underdeveloped countries, we were really taken aback by the polished, first-world futurism of Singapore. It's world-renowned for its cleanliness and hyper-modern cityscape, so in some ways we knew what to expect, but when you've become accustomed to dusty, potholed dirt-roads, old world markets, tuk-tuks, and people living in wooden shacks, it really makes a place like Singapore seem like a utopian fantasy. If cities like Seoul or Ho Chi Minh resemble a dark, cyberpunk future reminiscent of films like Blade Runner and Akira, then Singapore is that glossy, perfectionist future found in films like Minority Report and Elysium (or the Citadel in the videogame series, Mass Effect). The buildings and roads are immaculately clean, which for some gives the city a sterile, bland appearance, but to us those sleek modernist structures are just as aesthetically pleasing as quaint, ancient temples (especially when you've started to grow tired of the latter!). As much as we loved those less-developed countries that we travelled through, we can't help but feel refreshed by Singapore's futuristic perfection.
Another thing that stands out about this pretty little city-state is its diverse population, with noticeable Chinese, Malay, Indian and European populations (to name a few) calling it their home, and numerous different languages being spoken on the street and in the subway. This makes it a delight to explore, as there are foreign influences everywhere, and the colourful ethnic enclaves prove there's more to Singaporean architecture than apartment blocks and shiny skyscrapers. Because of the multicultural population, pretty much everyone can communicate in English as it's used as a lingua franca, and many of the under-50s can speak it fluently, which is convenient for us visitors.
I should also mention that Singapore is very significant to this blog, as it's actually the country from which I've received the most page hits. For some reason, this blog receives more traffic via Google Singapore than it does via the regular Google.com. I'd be curious to hear from any Singaporean readers why this is so. I can only assume that Korea is a popular destination among Singaporeans, which has led many of them to my blogposts on that country.
In any case, without further ado, here's our first bunch of pictures from beautiful Singapore.
|Our route from Vientiane to Singapore required a bus ride to Udon Thani in Thailand, a flight to Bangkok, and another flight to Singapore.|
|The next day, we took a plane down to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.|
|From there, it was a short flight south to Singapore Airport, which is often rated as one of the best airports in the world.|
|We booked into a really cool hostel called Happy Snail, which felt like living in a shared apartment with a bunch of backpackers. The next day we went for a walk along the clean, tree-lined avenues of downtown Singapore.|
|Passing a Sikh temple.|
|The ever-reliable Singapore MRT.|
|The first ethnic district we explored was Little India, the centre for the large Indian community in Singapore. Its colourful buildings are a nice change from the monochrome tones of downtown Singapore.|
|For lunch we ate at a vegetarian restaurant, enjoying some delicious South Indian cuisine. I'm not usually a fan of Indian food, but this may have converted me.|
|Next we explored the marina, which is dominated by skyscrapers and futuristic architecture.|
|The marina was probably our favourite place in Singapore, just a perfectly relaxed, breezy place to go for a walk and escape the heat (a little).|
|This is the city's national mascot, the merlion. The "mer" part represents the city's origins as a fishing village, while the "lion" stems from its original name, Singapura, meaning "lion city."|
|Next, we headed for another ethnic enclave: Chinatown!|
|Surely this should have been in the Little Belgium district?|
|The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.|
|Another sight that seems a little out of place in Chinatown is this Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman. Nevertheless, couldn't resist going inside to see its colourful figurines and deities.|
|Also in Chinatown was the world's largest coin, a "yap" stone made by the people of Micronesia. The hole in the middle was for a pole so that people could carry it.|
|In the evening we walked along Orchard Road, an area famed for its malls and fashion stores.|
That's it for our first full day in Singapore, but don't worry, there's lots more to come. In the next post, we visit some of the greener areas of the city, including the Chinese Gardens and the incredible Gardens by the Bay.