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June 26, 2011

Singapore - the fine city

Singapore is a little piece of jewel in the heart of Southeast Asia. The country-city lies on a couple of islands on the southernmost tip of the Eurasian continent, only a few kilometers far from the equator. With only 5 million inhabitants, it is much smaller than any of the capitals in the region, and due to the strict laws and regulations, the city is amazingly clean and pleasant to look at. Because there are heavy punishments and fines for quite a lot of things, Singapore is often entitled as "the fine city". You will get fined for chewing a chewing gum(!), not flushing the toilet, urinating in the elevator (must have been common before) or jaywalking across the streets. Durian is a kind of fruit popular all around this region, interestingly it is forbidden to take it with you in the metro of Singapore. First we thought it must be because it can be used as a weapon, but no, we have been told, it’s because it spreads an awful smell, thus it can actually be considered as a weapon of mass destruction:) Some activities attract heavier punishment than simple fines. Caning is still practiced, and as an example you might be subject to it if you stay longer in the country than your visa permits. Homosexuality is officially illegal, and oral sex was forbidden before 2007.


Singapore has an interesting mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European cultures. In terms of language, English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are ALL official languages, but English is used most commonly. Singaporean English, or Singlish as they call it, has its special features, mostly influenced by varieties of Chinese. You will hear a couple of times the usage of the “lah” word, something like: Drink lah! meaning: Just drink! The nightlife is also a great mix of European and Asian here: in the very same street you can go to high-end clubs as well as more modest Indian discos with Bollywood music.

As Singapore sports good weather almost all year round, the sea between the islands is ideal for some water sports. With the professional guidance of Arendt, Adrian and the boat-driver master Chifu (forgot his real name), we have taken a dip into the waters of wake-boarding. (Our other friend, Ankit couldn't join us as he was about to leave to Dubai the next day...and in the following 5 next days as well:)

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Singapore also features the southernmost point of the Eurasian landmass. Most precisely the southernmost point can be found on the tip of a palm tree on Santosa island. From here you can get all the way until Europe by means of ground transportation only (including crossing some bridges).


In terms of culinary pleasures Singapore offers great food from the dirt cheap prices to luxury dining. Here you will find all the tastes of Asia as well as European food. All guide books will tell you to try the chilli crab and the steamboat, and they are in fact worth to give a try. Watch out for the spices though as local waiters tend to misunderstand the difference between spicy and not spicy.

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Architecture-wise Singapore also has a number of amazing buildings. Probably the most emblematic is the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino complex and the theater right next to it. The top of this hotel features a large swimming pool, which is normally only accessible for guests, but we managed to sneak in. How? Someday we will tell you:) Peeking down the other side of the hotel we find the grandiose port of Singapore and a construction area where probably a new hotel is being built. In the city-side front of the hotel there is a spectacular laser/fire/water show every night, several times. It is great, but feels like free circus to the masses panem et circenses style.

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