I had wanted to visit Singapore for a long time. I was fascinated to hear about an Asian country with such cultural diversity and, finally, in February of this year I had the opportunity to make a short but very profitable visit. By saying that in Singapore English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil are spoken as official languages, and that Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Taoist and Confucianist religions are practiced, one can already get to the idea of cultural variety in which Singaporeans are immersed. I know quite a lot of people in Japan who have traveled or even lived relatively long seasons in Singapore, but nobody spoke to me very well about the country. In the eyes of most Japanese, that ethnic and cultural diversity of which I spoke is reflected as a lack of idiosyncrasy and identity ... I guess it all depends on the point of view from which you look.
Mosque, church and temple. True example of living together.
We left Narita on a dark and rainy day. Our only concern was that the plane could take off without problems, and not have to spend the night on the cold floor of the airport, as we had already done on another occasion under the same weather conditions. We were lucky and we took off punctual destiny Singapore. Finally we can take off our jackets, scarves, gloves and enjoy, even just for a couple of days, an equatorial climate! The weather forecast warned of possible storms in the area, so I didn't have them all with me, but when we arrived at the airport, after one and a half in the morning, there was no sign of rain. On the plane they handed us the entrance cards in the country. Among the typical and funny questions of the style: "Do you carry firearms with you?", "Have you committed a crime in this country before?" A warning in capital letters caught my attention:
"Any person in possession of drugs (here there was a long list of drugs, both soft and hard, accurately detailed) will be arrested and punished, capital punishment being the greatest of these punishments."
From what he had informed me before the trip, I already knew that the laws of Singapore were quite strict but, even so, the warning in capital letters had a great impact on me. Speaking of strict laws, before traveling to Singapore it is important to be well informed about both your customs and your fines. Throwing a simple piece of paper or a cigarette butt on the ground can cost you 500 Singaporean dollars, spitting in public the same, entering the country with foreign tobacco also has its punishment in the form of a fine. The sale and consumption of chewing gum is strictly prohibited. In fact I had never seen so many candies, throat lozenges and jelly beans like the ones I saw there. Somehow you have to compensate for the lack of chewing gum! One of the most curious fines is that of 150 SGC for not pulling the chain after using the WC. And to think that when I was in university in Shanghai we didn't even have a chain! If I have to be honest, leaving aside the issue of freedoms and whether or not you agree with the imposition of so many fines to "educate" the people, the truth is that from the point of view of the temporary traveler, the hygiene and safety that you breathe as soon as you step on the floor of the airport. In that sense it is a true paradise.
We arrived at the hotel near 3am. On the street it was an ideal warmth. At that time of the morning we were about 27 degrees, but it was not the humidity of which they had spoken so much to me. The problem came when entering the room. I recognize that the air conditioning is an invention that does not suit me at all, but the cold inside was something impressive. Although we turned off the air as soon as I entered and that, at least I put on a chubby sweater over my pajamas, there was no way to catch my eye. The air conditioner had to be on all day and thus it was impossible to get warm. In the room there were no blankets or anything like it, so I could not sleep more than an hour. Even "my partner" (as Isabel 😉 would say) spent the night whispering "samui, samui" (cold, cold) between sleep and sleep.
The morning finally arrived. Neither rain nor storm, but we expected a solace worthy of the month of August. On this first day we planned to visit ARAB STREET and INDIAN LITTLE. Then, if we had plenty of time, take a walk around CLARK QUAY. At the hotel they informed us that we could walk to the nearest station, NINTH, and it would take about 30 minutes. The other option was to take bus 124, which would leave us on the subway in 5 minutes. As from our own experience we knew that the notion of time varies from country to country, we were afraid that the 30 minute walk would become 60, so we decided to take the bus, which, as we were told, stopped on the sidewalk in front of the hotel (We were stressed not to get on the bus in front of the hotel but on the sidewalk in front). There began one of the funniest episodes of the game "and who do I think now?" We had to practice throughout the stay in Singapore.