Saturday, September 19, 2015

Singapore is not China

Most Americans I know unless their family is from the region visit Asia for business. Here are seven reasons why you should vacation in Singapore. Note that Singapore is not China. 

1. Getting around is easy

The same things you do at home with a smartphone--using an app to call a taxi or uber, locating a shopping mall with Google maps, finding pho with the highest reviews--work just as well in Singapore. Everything is in English, the taxis are relatively cheap, and cell phone reception is excellent. Just call it a handphone.

If you want to take public transportation you won’t find a more modern, clean, and easy to navigate system anywhere. Purchase a 1, 2, or 3 day tourist pass for unlimited travel on Singapore's public buses and MRT trains. I bought a 3 day pass my second day in Singapore and used it to travel across the country--40 km round trip--to visit my dog in quarantine. Buying and using the pass is easy because clear signage explains everything. Once you're on the MRT you watch the route in progress from an overhead map or listen for them over the intercom. Buses have overhead marquees that display the next stop. 

Tourist Pass

2. Friendly and Helpful Locals

Singapore taxi drives are amazing. I have taken a dozen cabs during my visit and each taxi driver speaks English and carries a healthy amount of cheerful pride about Singapore and its culture. A cab driver taking me to my new apartment shared with me that the people of Singapore are taught in schools to offer help to people when needed for the good of the country, not for compensation. I have found this to be true on buses finding my route, in line at the grocery store fumbling for correct change in SGD, and learning the nuances of hawker centers

3. No Fewer Worries

Visit a busy shopping mall, the metro, or hawker center to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Unlike other busy such as New York, Rome, or Barcelona where you must be constantly vigilant about pickpocketscrime rates in Singapore are some of the lowest in the world. My husband left his phone on the metro during his initial visit, which was returned to him within ten minutes as he was completing a lost item report. But it's not perfect. While in Ikea during a public holiday I did hear an announcement to "mind your personal belongings" because the store was so crowded.

4. Asia 101

The only other city in Asia I have visited besides Singapore is Tokyo. And though Tokyo is a fascinating and wonderful place, it is very different from American and European cities, mostly because everything is in Japanese. My friends tell me that Taipei and Seoul are equally foreign as everything is in Chinese and Korean respectively. Singapore is an excellent introduction to Asia because of its diversity. You can acclimate to Asian culture while still reading and speaking English. 

5. Stopover to Australia or Bali

Has your dream been to spend two weeks in Australia touring the country, first seeing Sydney’s opera house, then diving at the great barrier reef, and finally seeing ‘roos and koalas in the bush? Spend two or three days in Singapore on your way down under and acclimate to the time change. Singapore is a small country, which means you can see a lot in two or three days. From Singapore, a flight to Bali is just under 3 hours, less than 8 hours to Brisbane or Sydney, and less than 5 hours to Perth. Try the vegetarian vegan and vegetarian Indian meals on Singapore Air. Good stuff!

6. Foodie’s Paradise

Singapore is located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and became an independent republic from Malaysia in 1965. Ethnically Singapore is comprised of roughly 75% Chinese, 13% Maylay, 9% Indian--the remaining roughly 3% is made up of Eurasians plus everyone else. Singapore is currently the world's second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage. It's physical location and the diverse culture of its people make for some exciting local dishes at reasonable prices and fine dining

7. Modern City Full of Discoveries

A luxury shopping center that houses Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co., has a walkway to the Orchard MRT. Every brand you know and some you don't are located around the Orchard and Somerset MRT stations. Walking down Orchard Road on a Friday night has the energy of walking around Time Square but with the sophisticated stores of Beverly Hills, housed within the modern architecture of the fancy end of The Strip in Las Vegas, with a Hawaiian climate. 

Enjoy your time at Changi Airport. I was thrilled by the cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen on my first visit, but there is more to enjoy including shopping, spas, a slide, and a butterfly garden.

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