Before arriving in Singapore, we had heard about some of the country’s notorious laws and the hefty fines if you break them. Namely, that chewing gum is prohibited, there is a hefty fine for littering, and drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty. These strict laws, while some a bit strange, are part of what sets Singapore apart from many of its Asian neighbors. Singapore is an affluent, highly developed country that feels more like a western society than a far east Asian country.
We stayed in Robertson Quay, one of the neighborhoods that runs along the Singapore River, in area aptly named Riverside. When we checked into our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our room had a view of the river.
Along the river was a nice pedestrian pathway. I set off running on it early in the morning and found that it stretched on for miles and offered some spectacular views of the city. I saw the sunrise behind Marina Bay Sands – one of the newest symbols of the Singapore skyline. It’s a massive hotel/casino resort developed by Las Vegas Sands. We ventured there later in the day to have a look inside. From the property, there are nice views of downtown Singapore.
Singapore sits just above the equator, giving it warm and humid weather all year long with no distinguishable seasons. It does cool off slightly overnight, making the evening and early morning a bit more comfortable. The country is ethnically diverse. It’s a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and expatriate cultures. The majority of the population is Chinese, so it is no surprise that this small country has a massive Chinatown. And, correspondingly, the biggest holiday of the year in Singapore is Chinese New Year. We were there just a few days prior, and the place was already a buzz.
The cheapest places to eat in Singapore are Hawker Centers – street food vendors that operate out of large complexes. We had lunch at the Maxwell Food Center. There were so many different vendors and food options, it was hard to decide what to eat. In the end, I decided on a fruit shake and Hainanese chicken and Jay went with a beef with vegetable noodle dish. It was all delicious.
After our time in Chinatown, we headed to the infamous Orchard Road. It’s a street lined with shopping malls. Jay found a little spot to get a haircut. Afterward, they gave us mandarin oranges – a traditional gift for the Chinese New Year as they are considered symbols of abundance and good fortune.
Next, we headed to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The gardens fill nearly 200 acres with 10,000 types of plants. The main attraction for me was the National Orchid Garden, which has one of the most comprehensive collection of orchids found anywhere in the world.
After a full day of exploring the city, we had a long night ahead of us – a 1:45 AM flight to Sydney. We found a restaurant at Riverside to relax at for a couple of hours before heading to the airport. Although we could have easily spent the time at the airport which boasts both a movie theatre and a pool – seriously, only in Singapore.