(Welcome Camille Gladstone to the blog, she will be sharing her recent adventures here over the next few weeks. To find out more about Camille, check the author page)
(Downtown Core, Singapore).
The one I knew about Singapore before I went there was that it was a “very clean” country and had made many odd things illegal such as chewing gum and feeding pigeons. However, in my short five day experience in Singapore, the country was not as tidy and proper as many people claim it to be. There was often trash in the back alleys and the smell of Durian (it’s a gross fruit, look it up) filled the streets (even though it is supposedly “illegal” there). The city makes up for its flaws with it’s beautiful street art and great food; it is truly a multicultural country where you can have many different experiences all within close proximity to one another. Singapore is a country for backpackers and elegant travelers alike.
One important thing to note is that in comparison with other South East Asian countries, is that Singapore is expensive, especially if you plan on doing all of the known tourist attractions. I was in Singapore for New Years 2017, so I understand that prices may have been inflated but it was important to budget day to day because money was easily spent there.
Sam and I were hoping to go to the iconic Marina Bay Sands infinity pool and have a romantic afternoon, but sadly it is restricted to hotel guests. We considered renting a “basic” room for one night at the Marina Bay Sands; until we discovered that a “basic” room ranges anywhere from $445.00-$480.00 CAD per night! Needless to say, this was not in our budget. We did however take a lovely $20.00 boat tour around the city and captured a nice photo of us with the Marina Bay Sands in the background which was well worth the price.
(River Cruise Tour, Singapore).
(Middle Road Street Art, Singapore).
Singapore has an interesting history and it is beautifully displayed in the streets. I knew little of the history of Singapore prior to coming here, and what I learned blew me away. As mentioned previously, Sam and I took an afternoon boat tour around the city and it was accompanied by an audio history lesson in which we learned many new and interesting facts. Such as the history of the ico
nic Merlion (the half lion half fish statue). The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name—Singapura—meaning "lion city" or "kota singa".
((Marina Bay, Singapore). Notice the butterfly flying perfectly in the photo?!).
As a budget traveler, some tourist attractions that I found to be worthwhile included Chinatown and walking the Marina Bay. We chose to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve on the Marina Bay and I can sum it up as NOT WORTH IT. The area was packed with locals and tourists and the fireworks lasted a total of three minutes. We met many tourists that came from Indonesia, Korea and the Philippines for Singapore New Years. Within the days leading up to New Years getting a table at a restaurant was often a wait and the city felt like it was bursting at the seams. I do anticipate though that other times of the year would be much less hectic.
(Marina Bay New Year’s fireworks, Singapore).
Now for some great things about the beautiful city of Singapore!
If you’re looking for an authentic Singaporean delight you must visit Toastbox! There are about 70 locations spread throughout Singapore and there is one in the airport, so you can’t miss it. At Toastbox the menu is limited but delicious; most people order the original Kaya and Kopi (coffee and toast with a delicious coconut spread). Stick to ordering this every breakfast or afternoon you are in Singapore and you will be happy, I promise.
(Toastbox [Photograph found in Facebook Photos, Toastbox Singapore, Singapore]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/toastboxsingapore/photos/a.575709799143214.1073741831.183710975009767/575709849143209/?type=3&theater (Originally photographed 2013, September 30)
I would go back to Singapore just to have another morning kaya and kopi at Toastbox.
Sam and I love to explore craft breweries while travelling. We love good beer. We went to a local marketplace that happened to be selling a few craft beers, the beers were decent and we sat down for a while with the brewers talking about the craft beer culture in Singapore. They noted that the craft beer scene in Singapore is on the rise and many more young people were coming to appreciate a local brew. We spent an evening out at Brewerkz, a local brewery, and were delighted by both their tasty food selection and unique craft beers.
And, of course, when in Singapore you must have a Singapore Sling! I am not a big fan of mixed drinks, but I will admit to enjoying myself a few Singapore Slings. If you can not make it to Singapore, it is easy to make this recipe yourself though!
1/2 oz grenadine syrup
1 oz gin
sweet and sour mix
1/2 oz cherry brandy
Pour grenadine into the bottom of a collins glass, and fill with ice. Add gin, and almost-fill with equal parts of sweet and sour and chilled soda. Top with cherry brandy, and serve unstirred, garnished with a cherry.
Read more: Singapore Sling recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink526.html#ixzz4nJ7Isgj
(Nanjya Monjya Restaurant, Singapore).
Now, the important things to note when travelling to Singapore:
Visa & Mastercard:
Rarely accepted, carry cash (but not too much). Even restaurants that promote Visa or Mastercard often do not, they just say this to lure you to eat there then force you to take out cash and pay them extra for the hassle (yes, we had this happen).
In the urban city centre English is largely spoken. Singapore has four official languages; English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil while the symbolic national language is Malay. While walking around Singapore you will hear many different languages and see many vibrant cultures; since English is the main language of business though the majority of citizens speak it at least at the conversational level. I tried to learn some Malay while here and in Malaysia, but it is a difficult language to follow, read and understand. Many popular restaurants play Malay artists though, listening to the music is wonderful even if you can not understand it.
Airbnb is my best friend. However, during my short stay in Singapore we stayed at a hotel. We spent four nights at The Fragrance Hotel, which is normally $62.00 per night CAD, but during New Years it bumped up to $245.00 per night. The hotel was basic, the room had no windows and often felt damp from the humidity. The hotel had a perfect location though, which was something we valued; it was in the centre of the city and in close walking distance to many attractions. Next time I adventure out to Singapore I do plan to find an Airbnb though, it just did not work out this time due to us planning our Singapore trip late and the inflation caused by New Years.
My boyfriend and I each carried a 70L hiking backpack and a small day backpack (carry on size). Having a suitcase travelling through Singapore would have worked well, but if you plan on going to another country beyond Singapore I highly recommend a hiking backpack because it will be easy to carry around as often times taxis/ Ubers do not deliver you directly to hotels.
Singapore has Uber! We used Uber to and from the airport and around the city a few times, it was easy and convenient. Singapore also has excellent public transit; very clean, well priced and most often on time. Being the small city that it is though, if you have the time to walk between locations I highly recommend it as it is easy and allows you to take in the city art.
We came into Singapore from Kuala Lumpur and left to Penang after. It may seem odd to have Singapore in the middle of travels between two Malaysian cities, but flying in Asia is simple so it made sense at the time. We wanted to be in Singapore for New Years, so we flexed our travel plans around this. Travelling in Asia can be easy, or a nightmare depending on what you choose to do with the time and resources you have. There were many night buses and ferries that would go between Singapore and Malaysia, but we chose to fly because flights were short and affordable. We also dreaded going through customs, as in many South East Asian countries customs at land borders can be unsafe and travelers are often scammed in this process so we thought it to be safer and more reliable we'd just travel via air.
We flew into Singapore from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia, and out to Penang with Tiger Air. Both airlines were fine, nothing special. Air Asia often has delays but we were lucky on this flight to fly direct and early in the morning. Singapore airport is small but busy, just as a majority of airports in Asia are. It is easy to fly most anywhere in Southeast Asia from Singapore, they have many airlines and direct flights.
Going through customs in Singapore was dreadful, but as it often is anywhere. We stood in line for at least two hours to get into the country and felt as though our fingerprints were scanned at every corner. Again, travelling during the busy rush between Christmas and New Year's likely made this a more stressful experience than the norm, but be prepared to sign many documents and give many fingerprints to get into Singapore.
(Marina Bay, Singapore).
Presented with minimal edits from August 1st, 2009. Please remember that I was 15.
WARNING: VERY IMAGE HEAVY.
It was a great trip. I mean, I ate nearly nothing because I couldn't stand the food. And the heat and humidity in Shanghai was unbearable (Think upwards of 50 including humidity) the 2nd hottest day in 137 yrs occured. Technically it only ever reaches 40, cos if it's over 40 they have to let the workers go home. But it was WAY over. But we were also there for the eclipse, which was super cool, even though I had a migraine and was sick. I climbed the great wall. (only a little tiny bit because I completely wrecked my knees a few days before climbing up uneven steps at the Tiger Running well or something. Like seriously, they were shaking wibbering jelly, I could barely stand while walking down the steps. It was the worst I'd ever been at. So there was no way I'd be stupid enough to tempt the completely uneven and 2ft tall steps of the wall. Especially because my doctor told me to avoid stairs. (I didn't know how many stairs there were at this spring. Everyone made it sound like it was nothing, but it attempted to murder me.)
Now we're in Hangzhou at the Tiger Running springs. Apparently you can get the best water ever here.
My dad and I on the reclining Buddha. This is carved into a cliff
Climbing up these steps to see the view. Except they went on forever and were completely uneven! I destroyed my knees going down, I couldn't actually stand up, I wrecked them so bad. They were shaking like they were having a seizure or something. And then afterwards I got sick. yay. Seriously hiking in stupid degree weather in humidity so hot it's like climbing in a steam room only worse is the worst idea ever.
Once I got down. Totally destroyed. I think my one leg is actually blurry it was shaking so much.
The Teachers run the gammut between Rude and nice. Some would be fine untill I revealed my age (They thought I was 19, 20, not 15) and then, BAM patronizing. It was all, oh you're so much like my daughter, that's a compliment by the way. And oh, are you sure you don't want to drink? (They were all drinking. There'd be two free bottles of beer with every meal and one glass of coke. I, and this one really nice guy, Marc, would have one glass of coke. And by the end of the meal there'd be ten bottles of beer on the table. At Lunch and Dinner. They'd drink in their rooms, on the bus, it was constant.) "My son drinks, if I left him at home there'd be such a party, I bet the same with you." Which, for me is like, uh... no. But they don't listen when you say, I don't like the taste, or I don't want my mind altered or what have you (Because, my god, Teetotaler and Straight edge sound so lame!) And they were so rude, they would never listen to the tour guides and would constantly whine and shop.
There was one woman who was always all, LETS DO AN ACTIVITY, a superintendent, she'd also correct the tour guides with false info.
When I was wearing my headscarf to keep cool at Tiananmen, the one younger girl was like, Why would you wear that and not a hat? And it was like DUH? I just said it keeps me cool and wicks away sweat and prevents burns, unlike a hat with a 1 inch brim (which is what she was wearing) and her mom would just GLARE at me when I wore it It's not like I was wearing it like anything close to a hijab, I just wore it as like a glamour headscarf with my Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. Far more Jackie O than Jackie (insert middle eastern sounding O last name) So either she thought I was being a diva like my dad said, or she's just stupid not to realize there's more than one way to wear a scarf on your head. Whatever, I looked fab.
The joys of crepe headscarves. It was my belt. Seriously though, it kept me so cool and wicked away the sweat and prevented burns. I <3 it In the Forbidden City
There were a lot of beggars at the Forbidden City. It was really frustrating to look up at the roofs that had just been recovered in gold leaf for the Olympics and then to look down at the horribly disfigured beggars and children. It reminded me of when we were at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and you watched this church that had been being built for ever, all this money going into a building, while it was surrounded by the poor and homeless, who would likely go and donate most of the money right back into the church. Ostentatious displays of wealth by church and state bother me, especially when it's plainly juxtaposed against their neglected most vulnerable peoples. I drew quite a bit while I was there and while I was drawing in the coffee shop at the great wall, all these Chinese girls like swarmed me while I was showing Mary my art and were pointing and gasping and giggling. I said it was like my ComicCon experience, only totally not. Dad was pissed because they blocked his way to the coffee machine and he'd just gotten down from the top. He wanted me to give them one of my pictures. But I like them all too much.
I CLIMBED THE GREAT WALL!!! This high anyway. After I busted my knees earlier I wasn't going to be an idiot and do it again. My dad went to the top in under 35 minutes. Some of the steps were two foot high blocks followed by 1 inch steps. Also, I totally made that shirt.
Photos from the Great Wall, including No.1 Parking Lots (everything in China is Number One)
I looked great though, I lost ten pounds (according to different Chinese scales. according to Canadian I lost none) and have a collarbone now. Granted it was cos I sweated the little bit I ate away, but I look great. My hair was so very red and I never got any colour in my skin, so the Chinese were just amazed, I kept realizing they were taking pictures of me, which totally weirded me out. Only one actually asked to have their picture taken with me. The tour guide asked me my ancestry for why I had such white skin
(Icelandic/Ukranian/English/French/whatevs. I'm Canadian, we're mutts. I said Icelandic though (Future Note: I kind of enjoy identifying as Scandi-Scotch now, I'm most in touch with my Icelandic roots, but I'm pretty sure my blood is majority Scottish from both sides)) Also, I wore all my shirts I designed, the ladies adored them and were amazed that I'd made them, they all said I should continue with Art and Fashion. (The annoying ones said I'll be a teacher, which I WON'T BE DAMMIT) (Future Note: AHAHAHAHA. It's like I say, I was very fortunate to achieve my childhood dream of not being a teacher for 22 years.)
In the Shanghai market with their Expo mascot. Who looks like Gumby. Right after this picture was taken, this old lady asked my dad if she could take a picture of me with her granddaughter. That whole day I'd notice people randomly taking my photo without asking and smiling afterwards. This one guy with a massive paparrazi camera followed me around at one point. A blonde woman on our tour and one who looked just like Kirsten Dunst got photos too. (Future note: She looked nothing like Kirsten Dunst. But apparently whenever she travels to countries in Asia or Africa people think she's Kirsten Dunst.) Our hotels were all 4/5 star. Really amazing. The bulk of the trip was spent in the v. uncomfy buses because Shanghai traffic sucks!!! Srsly, I swear they think that the lines on the road and the signs and such are just there for decoration. They are the worst drivers! The buses had ridges on the back of the seats, which I swear were designed to rip your knee caps off. They were air-conditioned though. So...
The rest was in special sites and factories. Like we'd take ten minutes to learn what they do and see examples (never the actual sweatshop/factory) and then 90 minutes in the guest shop.
We went to a Kung Fu show. I had my leg up too, I wasn't just being Spider-man. It was very dancy.
We took a rickshaw tour around old Shanghai
In the Silk factory in Suzhou. They use the double silk worm cocoons to make comforters. They boil them to kill the larva and then rip them apart. Then they stretch them over a little hoop, then soak them, then over a big hoop, then stretch them like me and some of our tour group are doing here. They're really stiff, it's crazy that one inch high coccoon can be stretched the size of a bed. The comforter (bit that goes in your duvet) is super soft and light and hypoallergenic. In the same place they told us that the Chinese think it's healthy and lucky to sleep on pillows stuffed with silkworm poop.
Lighting the silk on fire to prove it's real silk.
Silk worm. Dad ate a chocolate covered one.
We went to a Silk factory and my dad bought a comforter, like what goes in your duvet, but instead of feathers, it's raw silk. It was surprisingly cheap, cheaper than feather ones at home, and is v. light and cool and hypoallergenic. We went to a Jade factory, but the factory was closed so we learned a little about living jade and history and colours and things and then 90 mins in the gift shop. I think Jade looks tacky, so I wasn't that interested in the shopping bit. We went to a tea farm. We bought some Emperor White tea, the type they don't even export and if they do it's upwards of 300 dollars. It tastes like meat.
We went to a pearl factory and oh my god, the amount of times the woman mentioned credit cards, I wanted to punch her in the face. I have pearls at home, and like really nice ones too that I was given/inherited.
We went to a embroidery school, it's amazing how like realistic and insane it is. The goldfish ones looked like they were really in water. The panda ones looked like they were on acid though.
But there was a sign saying no Picturing or Photographing. wtf. Chinglish is either funny or annoying. I mean how much would it cost to hire a freelance proof reader for your signs? Honestly. There was one that said "Vst aprj civilsation frbld" and that was the english translation... There were also vaguely threatening ones like "keep off grass for sake of life."
This translation is fine, it's just a really shockingly beautiful Recycling bin.
There was one, not really Chinglish but in the Olympic Village that said, "Beautiful art comes from your kind soul". I laughed and said to my dad, "So where does mine come from?" Without missing a beat he replied, "Someone else's." (Future note: Yes, edgy 15 year old filled with self loathing and anxiety, do not miss those days)
The one time I used an umbrella like a parasol.
(Future Note: This is a very rare photograph of me with an umbrella. After walking through pre-tornado rains without an umbrella in Columbus in 2012, I declared umbrellas useless pokey garbage and never used one again. Including when I lived in Vancouver. I still think umbrellas are useless pokey garbage, but if I go somewhere sunny I may buy an actual parasol.)
The school we visited for the conference had 4000 students and it's own observatory. It was called "The No. 1 Middle School of Nantong, Jiangsu". classes are between 50 and 100 people with one teacher. I did papercutting and calligraphy (which I SUCKED at) while my dad was in the conferences, lots of teachers skipped the second session to do calligraphy, which I found incredibly rude.
They had one day to learn and they refused. They'd never let their students skip their lesson to do something else because they thought it was boring. But that's how they decided to represent their school and country. The closing ceremonies of the conference: They brought all the preforming kids back from summer holidays and it was quite impressive. The English play was horrible and you couldn't understand them, and the English songs made my ears bleed, but their dancing and kung fu and music and weird cheerleading thing was amazing, I swear they must have had a visit from the Joker beforehand to obtain their permasmiles tho...
And it was all under such HOT lights (We went on stage after for a group photo) A bunch of teachers would shake their hands and give them Canadian flags and pins when we went up on stage afterwards. And I had no idea what to do, so I shook hands too, even though they weren't really sure why. Some were speaking to them in English and trying to have a conversation, and, well they know English, it's like a Huge thing, you can't graduate university or high school without an English proficiency exam, but with our accents and the amount of noise and everything, they kind of just smiled wider and nodded and tried not to look confused.
The Watchmen were insane tho. EVERYWHERE someone would pop up trying to sell you a fake Rolex or other types of watches out of a briefcase or some other type of crap. You'd be siting down and one would pop up behind you from a chain link fence. I'm so amazed I didn't punch any of them. If you said NO or put a hand in their face, they would leave you alone, but everyone else would be interested and so they wouldn't LEAVE! There were flyermen in the Shanghai market and apparently, when you follow them, they take you through back alleys and secret passageways where you knock three times and then a hidden door opens and is replaced by another door and then you're taken into a warehouse and locked in and they place a call after you've said what you want and a motorcycle courier shows up with it five minutes later. I didn't do it, but others on the trip, like Marc and David did. I was a bit Jealous, it sounds creepy as hell, and I'd only do it in a group. But Mad adventuresome too.
CRAZY EYES! In the Beijing market after drinking my macchiato at Starbucks. The sellers are vicious and nuts. I bought a bracelet, a spiderman thing for Philippa and a gift for Cami. My dad got a knock off Chopard watch for my mom.
(Future Note: This picture is after I had a massive panic attack. Turns out I didn't deal too well with people jumping out at me, yelling and touching me and badgering me to buy things. My Dad calmed me down and we started treating it like a videogame. We'd see how many we could get by with out being touched, and then when we'd be at the booth to buy something, I'd say I only have a little bit of money from my dad and while I talked to them, my dad would look at the book they recorded their sales in, to see how low they already had gone and therefore how low they would go. He made it fun and I left having enjoyed myself. The knock off Chopard watch was one that my mom had seen in Switzerland in 1986 and wanted so bad (it had the dancing diamonds in it) but knew she'd never be able to afford it, but maybe one day. So when my dad saw the knock off, he had to get it for her. It's sweet. He got himself a "Mickey Mao-se" watch as he calls it, a few of them actually. Mao's saluting hand does the hour. When we were at the Forbidden City, right when we entered, one of the guys on our tour saw a watch guy with a watch he liked but he wanted 5 of them. The guy said not to worry, he'd get more and find him later. Which like... It's China, there are a lot of people, we'll never see him again. Sure enough, when we exited the Forbidden City, the watch guy was there smiling with the 5 watches!)
The Fashion was amazing, especially in Shanghai, Girls in like fifties/forties cut dresses everywhere and high heels looking fantastic and no fat people to be found (I mean, you can't actually be fat or you'd die of heat exhaustion or become a mushroom farm with the sweat) Ooh, grocery store story. We were buying Crackers because I need Carbs. And Stoned Wheat Thins (the king of all crackers and the cure to all munchies) are a Canadian thing. And so we look up and all the aisles are labelled in English, and this isn't a tourist spot. So there's the Soup aisle and the Candy aisle and the Crack aisle. Yep, the Crack Aisle. It explained a lot. When we went to the checkout the girl held up a bag and my dad said No. and she was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! and laughed, and the other clerks were like NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! back and laughed. No must mean something hilarious in China. My dad was also mispronouncing the way you say Thank You in China, in a way that meant he was calling everyone short. He's 6 foot. They were not impressed, they did something nice and then the ginger giant made fun of their height!)
Grocery store pictures!:
Also, they think Disneyland and crap travelling fairs are the same thing. There was a crap looking travelling Fair we saw that looked slightly dangerous and the tour guide said look! Chinese Disneyland!!! It made Calaway Park look legit. (Future note: based on googling this place it's clearly not a travelling fair, but from the window of a bus, it looked like one, and of course now they have a real Disneyland in Shanghai and it's pretty cool. Not as cool as the Hong Kong or Tokyo ones, but pretty neat. (Seriously look at videos of the Mystic Manor ride in Hong Kong...) ) They did try to build a Disneyland type thing outside of Beijing, but it's only like 1/4 completed and the money ran out two years ago. So like the castle would be all framed but only half covered.
Tianamen and Forbidden city and all those historical sites were really neat to see. I'd decided to go in blind, without doing research beforehand, just to see what the Chinese/official perspective was. They said that the images and video of the tank man are banned and they have never viewed them, only heard of them. The bloody history was casually never ever mentioned or made reference to other than that. When they'd mention Tibet, they'd gloss over it and make them sound like barbarians and if you weren't aware of it, you'd never know there was massacres going on. The censorship was really quite amazing. CNN Asia, was obviously a hotel only type thing, same with HBO and the other English type channels. On the internet, facebook, youtube and twitter were the main things that I noticed to be blocked. And Wiki is selectively blocked, the page on Tianamen Square for instance. Emails take a long time to send and pictures take a very long time to upload. Especially to email. You know you're being watched. The gov't buildings are covered with satellite recievers and antennaes. And it's rare to see someone who isn't smiling while preforming or on TV. Lots of smiles. The old houses are allowed to decay and fall apart while new shiny skyscrapers are built directly behind or on top of them, some are hidden by billboards. The apartments soon grow mould on the outside and are covered with laundry, many windows are broken or cracked, Shanghai especially, you look up and it's a sparkling Metropolis, you look down and it's a sad, shabby, decrepit city. It was a really weird experience, it definitely is like another world, the censorship, the denial, the incredibly visible divide between rich and poor. According to our tourguide, there are no drug problems because no one can afford them, yet people afford Buicks and Bentleys and lots of clothing, so obviously they do have money, they didn't try to cover up the fact that there's crime as much, but if you only listened to the tour guides, untill the last day anyway, you'd think the only crimes committed were copyright infringement. It's a weird and wacky place, China. I'm glad it was only two weeks. I would have starved to death otherwise.
The Oriental Pearl Tower and some city pictures:
Also there is a stupid amount of KFCs there. I think Pepsico owns half of China. There's even Dairy Queens. And I discovered the joy of Burger King Chicken Tenders. They have mango chicken burgers at Mickey D's which I shied away from. I'm sure they're lovely tho..."
Solar Eclipse and West Lake.