Is Singapore sterile and boring?
I asked myself this question and wrote this post as a response 4 years ago, but somehow I forgot to publish it. So when I stumbled upon it in my drafts folder recently, I decided to repair that omission now, four years later.
A widespread stereotype about Singapore is that it is sterile and boring, only interested in economic growth. People believe there is nothing authentic left and that Singapore merely consists of skyscrapers and shopping malls.
|Marina Bay, Singapore’s five-starred area.|
|Night view of the lights of the CBD. In the front we see Marina Bay Sands; hotel, casino, shops, restaurants, and an infinity pool and viewing deck.|
|On top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel there is a huge infinity pool with spectacular views. In the background we see the harbor and the sea.|
|Hotel guests enjoying the MBS pool. You can see the Singapore River, lined by traditional shophouses, nowadays converted into restaurants and bars.|
Until recently we lived in one of the most glossy, new skyscrapers around the bay: The Sail. We lived on the 28th floor.
|Our building is the tower with the sharp point and curved outline. At least it was ‘our’ building, because we moved out 6 weeks ago.|
This all seems to confirm the stereotype, doesn’t it? Yeah, it sure does.
Still, I would like to show you another side of Singapore. After living there for more then four years, I have seen a more divers city.
|I am “NOT a TOURIST” and therefor feel that I can show you another side of Singapore.
This picture (with me in the right bottom corner) was part of an add campagn of SingTel, one of Singapore’s telecom company’s.
Singapore’s three main ethnicities (numbers wise) are: Chinese, Malay and Indian. That diversity is visible in the daily life.
It comes back in the people you see around you, in the range of food choices that are widely available, in the different the places of worship, the rituals and ceremonies. The variety is huge.
|Pierced flesh, hooks in bodies. That is part of Thaipusam, a yearly Indian festival, that you can witness in Singapore. Very interesting and pretty authentic, as far as I’m concerned.|
|In two minutes you could pass by people in traditional Indian attire, Chinese aunties in their pajama style suits and high heeled girls in miniskirts. I very much like that mix. It gives a cosmopolitan vibe.|
|Indian women at a temple in Singapore, in their beautiful sarees. I love the strong colors in this picture.|
|With Chinese New Year, a lot of rituals are followed. Like bringing two mandarins over to people you visit during those days. And receiving two mandarins back from them.|
|Chinese boy in traditional suit with Chinese New Year.|
There are still some old, historical places that you can visit and explore. Like the quirky and abandoned Haw Par Villa aka tiger Balm Gardens, my favorite site in Singapore.
And the enormous Chinese cemetery Bukit Brown, situated -neglected and threatened (by development)- in a tropical forest.
A forest filled with a rich flora and fauna, like Kingfisher birds and wild monkeys.
Singapore is not a beach destination, yet there are some beaches. Ok, they are man-made, and a bit further at sea, freightships will be queueing in front of you. But still, isn’t this sunset pretty?
|Sunset at Sentosa Beach, Singapore.
Do you see the freight ship in the background?;-) About in the middle, on the right side of the parasol.
Due to the different cultures there are a lot of holidays to be celebrated. Now, for the upcoming Chinese New Year, the streets of Chinatown are already decorated with gorgeous horse lanterns (Year of the Horse). And with Deepavali, festival of Lights, the streets of Little India were very nicely decorated. The whole year round there will be something celebrated somewhere.
So no, I don’t find Singapore so boring and sterile, and yes, there are still authentic places and rituals.
|Walk around in whatever neighborhood and you will come across offerings, small improvised altars, incense burning and so on.|
|Festivities at one of the many Indian temples in Singapore.|
|Graffitti at one of the skate parks near where we live now.|
It is often thought that Singaporeans are workaholics without a sense of humor. I don’t experience it that way; I met many nice, interesting locals.
During the last week several of the taxi drivers I had were talkative and funny, like the one who sang me Elvis songs. How fun is that?!
And sometimes you have an unexpected street encounter with a local with a weird and quirky sense of humor, like this guy and his two dogs. How cool are they, in the home-made hero-outfits that they are wearing?! Hilarious, don’t you think?
There are trees everywhere, and parks. There are park connectors, paths that lead from one green space to another, for bikers and hikers.
Ofcourse,if you compare Singapore to Vietnam, Thailand or India, then there is a big difference. Yes, Singapore is way more clean and developed, and yes, those other countries are way more ‘authentic’, wild and rustic.
Does that degrade Singapore to nothing more then a sterile, characterless consumer trap? No, not to me at least.
As so often, it is all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?! You may have to dig a little deeper and look behind the obvious. And then you will be rewarded by lots of interesting discoveries.
So give this city the benefit of the doubt, dear travelers, and check it out for yourself. And don’t hesitate to drop me an email, if you are planning your trip and would like some advice on what to see and where to eat!
Disclaimer: no, this is not a sponsored post. I just genuinely like Singapore;-).