February 22 — February 23, 2014
*Note: this was originally published via email on February 24, 2014*
In just one month, our ship had traveled to three very different countries (Japan, China and Vietnam) with only two days between each country. For nearly everyone, the “holy shit we’re circumnavigating the entire globe” adrenaline had started to wear off and we began to feel the growing pains of traveling along with the stress of schoolwork — most of us forgot that we were still in school.
Fortunately, Singapore was the break we all needed.
There wasn’t really much culture to experience in Singapore, since this small sovereign city-state is made for the international wealthy to come and play — think Disneyland with the death penalty. The city is full of shops, restaurants, clubs, beaches and parks that you can find in any other major city, yet here they all seem a little bit too perfect and pristine. And of course, everything is expensive in Singapore. Even the bargain markets demand higher prices for cheap goods, and the alcohol tax makes a beer more expensive than a burger and fries. If this really is the city of the future, then I need to find a second job.
The locals call Singapore a “fine city” because it’s infamous for its extreme laws that come with severe, sometimes deadly, consequences. In Singapore you will be fined a minimum of $500 if you spit on the ground, chew gum, don’t flush your toilet, are caught naked in your house or dancing without a license (we’re not sure about that last one, but we saw it on a T-shirt in the markets and weren’t sure if it was poking fun or helping tourists stay alive). Our professors made sure to remind us of these laws before releasing us into the city and, with Singapore having more surveillance cameras than all of China and stationed on nearly every building and street corner, we all fought the urge to chew gum.
I can’t think of anyone wanting to live in such a place like Singapore, but this was a fun place to spend one night and take a break from all the constant culture shock that we were experiencing.
As we sailed into our port in the morning, the first thing we could recognize was the world famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel looming over nearly every skyscraper surrounding it. From the ship, the world’s most expensive hotel looked like a giant “M” with a long banana boat stacked on top of three towers. On top of that banana boat was the famous infinity pool that’s between a five-star restaurant and a nightclub overlooking the entire city. On one side of the hotel is a sprawling futuristic garden that could have been from Avatar, and on the other side is a luxury shopping mall and full-sized casino — all connected to the giant “M.” There was nothing in Vietnam that could have compared to this.
Most SASers were willing to pay the minimum $200 to stay one night at this hotel, but Kiki, my friend from the OC, and I decided to explore and seek out a different side of Singapore.
Our first stop was to eat lunch at one of Singapore’s famous hawker centers, which is set up like an outdoor food court full of delicious dishes from around the world. We shared a dim sum meal and started to get nostalgic for China (“Hey, remember that one time in China when we ate Chinese food?” we said throughout lunch). The food was delicious and, even better, somewhat affordable.
Our next stop was Little China and Little India to do some shopping. We had just been in China two weeks ago, so it was funny seeing the replicas of all the famous monuments and architecture when we had just seen the original life-size versions. In Little India, Kiki introduced me to naan, the Indian version of pita bread, and we walked through the various shops and took in all the spices and colors of India. I can’t wait to have naan in Big India in just two weeks!
After a couple more hours of exploration, we came back to the ship and showered and got dressed for a night out at Marina Bay Sands. Though we weren’t willing to pay the $200 for a room, we were willing to pay the $40 for food, drinks and access to the nightclub on top of the hotel. The view of the entire skyline lit up at night was worth the money, and our group laughed about how we were clubbing on top of one of the world’s nicest hotels when just a couple of days ago we were dodging traffic and navigating through the Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam.
From the hotel we made our way to Clark Query, the popular club section of Singapore where there is a half-mile stretch of land by a river full of busy bars, restaurants and clubs. Every square inch was full of people and we went club hopping for hours. We infiltrated someone’s exclusive birthday party and tried many new drinks including Singapore Slings, a sweet local favorite, and the AK-47, another local favorite that was mixed with four different juices and seven different liquors.
The next morning Kevin, my Ohio State friend who I traveled throughout China with, and I took the train to one of Singapore’s many fine beaches located on a smaller separate island right by the ship. There we rented bikes that took us around the entire island and then we met up with some other SASers and ordered burgers and drank Tiger beer while enjoying the sun and sand.
All of our past travels had worn us out, and the beach was a much-needed break to regroup and get excited for Burma, which we’ll be at on Thursday. Though most of my journey has been full of challenging experiences that have taken me out of my comfort zone, it was nice to enjoy an easier side of travel. For once, it felt good to be a tourist in a city full of tourists.