Singapore – Love at first sight

singapura -1xPart of the astonishing view from The Fullerton Hotel

Singapore was the biggest surprise I ever had in a trip, I can’t tell you exactly if it was the place I most liked to visit (probably not), but certainly it was the most surprising one.

Usually my favourite kind of travel is a more historical destination, with a quite rich past and still with visible marks of it, my passion is, for sure, essentially, Ancient and Medieval History, although Modern and Contemporary history also arouse my curiosity.

That said, Singapore is part of those cities filled with skyscrapers, too modern and apparently not with a much relevant history, so in advance it wouldn’t be on my Top 10, but…

Singapore stole my heart!

 The genius architecture of Gardens by the Bay

Why then?You ask yourselves with curiosity.

Because at each step, and each discovery of the city, or country (yes, it is both!) the only reminder coming to mind was one of the most beautiful songs ever: Imagine of John Lennon, in which the world is described as a utopia (unfortunately) and everybody lives in harmony.

And Singapore is almost that same utopia!

It is the cleanest, most organized, safest and most civilized city I ever got to know. It’s the combination of several communities with different behaviours, traditions and religious ideologies, living in perfect communion.

Sincerely, I could live in this paradise, and I rarely, (or never, to be honest) say that! Despite everything, I love Portugal and I like living in my country.

 The main Mosque in Singapore

And how did this small paradise appear?You keep asking.

Everything seems to have started in the XIV century when prince Iskandar Shah anchored in a small fishermen village running from a storm. The legend says he spotted a lion, which in Sanskrit is named singha and therefore the name of the country, Singapore – City of the Lion.

But the crucial point takes us a bit forward in history, into the XIX century, when the Engilsh Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles established in the Island with commercial purposes. Therefore, the strong British influence, like driving on the left, having a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster system, among others.

The British Empire got complete sovereignty of the Island in 1824.

Singapore was then occupied by the Empire of Japan during World War II, but came back to the British domain after the conflict. Becoming self-governed in 1959.

The territory United to other ex-British territories and formed Malaysia in 1963.

 The famous Raffles Hotel, the 1st of Singapore 

After two years it became a completely independent State. Which seems to have been the best decision possible to the people! Once from there on, it had a severe increase in terms of richness and quickly became one of the four Asian Tigers.

The economy is essentially dependent of industry and services and the country is world leader in several areas. It’s the fourth main business centre in the world, the second largest casino market and the third biggest oil refinery centre. Its port is one of the five busiest in the world (it’s amazing to see all the boats around the island while flying over Singapore).

And like that’s not enough, it’s home of the largest number of millionaire families in dollars per capita, seems like 1 in every 10 inhabitants has more than a million Singapore dollars!

The World Bank considers it the best place in the world to do business.

If you still haven’t got it: Singapore is one of the richest and agitated countries in the planet!

TheSouthBeach - 19The business center of Singapore

Seems like all this is due to, mainly, Lee Kuan Yew, of Chinese ancestry and socialist philosophy, considered the “father” of Singapore, elected prime minister during thirty years, succeeded by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, still in power.

By now you’re thinking – “hmm another dictatorship!” – but, you’re wrong, there are several parties, elections and a government that developed a country instead of enrichening themselves. Something quite patent when you listen to some locals speak about their politicians and their work (wish I could say the same…).

Nowadays, Singapore has a population of over 5 million, from several ethnicities. The main three are the Chinese, Malaysian and Indian. In terms of religion, there’s a bit of everything. Which makes Buddhist (over 50% of the population), Muslim and Christian (around 15%) and Hindu (around 4%) temples live side by side. Living side by side doesn’t always mean in communion, but here it is, and life is so, so good!

Hindu Temple – Sri Veeramakaliamman

Deep down, there’s an immense respect for everybody’s cultural differences, of course there’s also a rule formatted system, quite defined and rigid (very rigid), but the truth is it works to perfection, and so I say, and I’ll repeat it quite a lot, Singapore is quite perfect!

What you need to know when travelling to Singapore:

  • Official language: English
  • Currency: Singapore Dollar (1EUR = 1, 52683 SGD)
  • Climate: quite warm during the entire year (25 to 35ºC, the rainiest periods are from November to January/February – we went in the end of February and it went well, we had two hours of rain during an afternoon).
  • Vaccination: Not needed (for the Portuguese)
  • Passport: As usual is mandatory the presentation of a passport with 6-month validity.
  • Visa: the majority of the countries don’t need a Visa to enter Singapore (Portugal and Brazil included), unless you intend to stay in the country for more than 90 days.

However, Brazilian must present a valid certificate for Yellow Fever. Know more.

  • How to get there: We flew, as usual, with Emirates – Porto-Lisbon (TAP); Lisbon-Dubai; Dubai-Singapore (Changi Airport) – in a total of 17h of flight, besides scales.

It’s easy to find trips from every major city, once all the main companies fly to Singapore. From Brazil you easily get trips with Emirates, United and Etihad.

  • Time zone: + 8h (in comparison with Portugal)
  • Transportation: Taxis aren’t expensive and take you everywhere, with taximeter, invoice and no scams, to change a bit from the usual panorama. The subway network is also quite organized and easy to use, assuring quick access to the different areas to visit, Uber is also available, with a great service and a bigger number of services (you can even call a taxi on the APP).

Having in account the amount of population, Singapore doesn’t have the usual (and infernal) traffic of the Asian metropolises. Because government defined an excellent public transport networks and increased the prices of cars and licenses (that can cost as much or more that the car you want to buy).

  • Rules to take in account (really): It’s forbidden to chew gum, it’s not for sale and you can’t enter the country with it; it’s forbidden to spit on the floor; forbidden to cross outside the zebra crossing; public urination is also forbidden, as well as tossing garbage to the ground; forbidden to enter a casino under 21 years of age; the use of drugs is also forbidden, moreover it’s punished with death penalty(!); it’s also advisable to avoid public affection demonstrations.

It may seem a bit too much, but it’s not, because it works, the streets are super clean, the city is organized to perfection and it’s one of the best places in the world to live in! So it’s working!

You can always break the rules if you want to, but enable to suffer the consequences, like big fines, prison or even lashings! And no need to ask for help to your country! A Mr President of USA already tried and it didn’t help in anything!

Singapore also has an agitated night life  

What to visit in Singapore?

From the top of the Marina Bay Sands, to the Zoo, passing through Chinatown to National Parks, there’s so much to do, so much to see and so much to explore! Singapore, despite that cosmopolitan look, is an authentic garden, green is one of the dominating colours and rivals with the metal from skyscrapers. All this because the visionary Lee Kuan Yew wanted to develop Singapore as a green city that would cut the effects of a concrete jungle. The combination is lovely to see.

TheSouthBeach - 18The Contrast between skyscrapers, green and the Birtish influence  

The beautiful orchides of the  National Orchid Garden

And more, like you’ll see in João’s articles, Singapore is one of the best destinations in the world to eat. From dine dining to street food, Singaporeans take the quality of their food very seriously, not lacking good options!

We were in Singapore just for three days, but I recommend you in advance, five days. We enjoyed the city quite well, but we would like to stay more time.

Satay – street food

Basically, I have a great pretext to come back!

On the following articles we’ll travel Singapore along the three days we were there, what we visited, where we ate and everything we did in a unique Guide! Don’t miss it!

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos: Flavors & Senses

Flavors & Senses in Singapore with the support of Samsonite and of Singapore Tourism Board – #YourSingapore.

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