Many people I met in Thailand made Singapore out to be a culturally sterile place, but I found that wasn't the case at all. (I guess for the hardcore backpacker set, it just wasn't exotic enough). It's definitely extremely modern and "Westernized" compared to the surrounding region, but there's quite a diverse mix of Chinese, Malays, Indians and expats. But nowhere is this mish mash more evident than the food scene.
Singapore is renowned for its street food delicacies prepared by hawkers that are held to rigorous hygiene standards and have been organized by the government into food centers scattered around the city. For dinner my friend took me to one of her favorites, Newton Circus. As she explained (and I later witnessed when venturing out on my own near the CBD), the street food here is very democratic - everyone indulges in it, even the financial heavyweights. And why wouldn't they? It's delicious.
I took the boat cruise around Singapore River one afternoon, which juxtaposed the country's two faces: beautifully preserved colonial buildings and bridges as well as sleek, ultramodern skyscrapers. I wish I could have photographed the architecture more, but it was drizzling constantly and I've already ruined one camera by exposure to water.
Singapore also prides itself on being the greenest city in Asia - both literally and figuratively. The expansive Gardens by the Bay, a vast climate-controlled greenhouse complex that recycles water and runs off of sustainable energy, epitomizes this mentality. Scattered throughout the garden are little videos and informational checkpoints because, as my friend joked, "Everything in Singapore has to be educational."
Despite the dreary weather I went to the zoo on my last day. I suppose what makes this one so unique is that there are no cages. All the animals are in open enclosures, sometimes alarmingly so (i.e. what's stopping this lion from leaping over and attacking me sort of a feel). An hour after the zoo closes, the nearby Night Safari opens. As a kid going to the local Woodland Park Zoo, the small section for nocturnal animals was always my favorite. So an entire park dedicated to night creatures? I felt like I was reliving my childhood.
1. Gardens by the Bay with Marina Bay Sands in the background.
2. Retro building in Tiong Bahru.
3. Dinner at Newton Circus: chicken rice, sugar cane juice, vegetable roll and barbecue chicken.
4. Orchid garden on the roof of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.