Intercultural city-state of Singapore

Before arriving in Singapore, I already knew I wasn’t really going to spend a lot of time here. Mainly because there isn’t much to see, but then again, it really depends what you’re into. But I think for the average tourist, there isn’t much “new” to discover. Even when I told some of my local friends that I was going to stay about 9 days or say they already questioned me, why?

First impression of Singapore was that it was so neat and clean everywhere. There wasn’t a single piece of trash on the ground this mainly because of the many strict rules of the government. If they catch you littering, you could be fined. Actually, there are tons of ways you could get fined: jaywalking, having unmarked cigarettes, importing fake goods, no eating and drinking in subway areas. And of course, no durians in subway areas either but you don’t really get fined for that. But the fines are not just your average $20-$50 SGD. The fine for eating or drinking in subway is $500 SGD. So you better watch out what you do in Singapore.

One of the many shopping malls with excellent architecture

One of the many shopping malls with excellent architecture

Old colonial buildings in contrast to the high rises in the background

Anyway, Singapore itself is really a major commercial country/city. It’s relatively small and has a booming economy. My impression of Singapore is that everything seems to be man-made and artificial. I know that every major city is like that, but Singapore seems to be really well made with careful urban planning and a keen eye for details. You can find great architecture all over Singapore and each of them is a piece of art by themselves. If you want some culture and ethnic differences you can check out Chinatown and Little India as well. Seeing how it used to be part of Malaysia, the ethnic mixture still exists in Singapore as well.

Chinatown in Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore

Old colonial buildings in contrast to the high rises in the background

Old colonial buildings in contrast to the high rises in the background

Old colonial buildings given a new look and commercial function

Old colonial buildings given a new look and commercial function

 

There are 3 main ethnic groups in Singapore, them being: Chinese, Malays and Indians, but there are tons of other ethnic communities spread all over Singapore

  • Arabs: Arab Street, of course
  • Burmese: Peninsula Plaza, on North Bridge Rd
  • Chinese: Waterloo Street (Singapore’s ‘new Chinatown’)
  • Filipinos: Lucky Plaza, on Orchard Rd
  • French: Serangoon Gardens
  • Indonesians: City Plaza, near Paya Lebar MRT
  • Japanese: Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay, especially the Liang Court shopping mall, plus Cuppage Plaza, opposite the Somerset MRT and Takashimaya along Orchard Road
  • Koreans: Tanjong Pagar Rd
  • Peranakan Chinese: Katong
  • Scandinavians: Pasir Panjang
  • Thais: Golden Mile Complex, Beach Rd
  • Tibetans: Beatty Lane, near Lavender MRT and Pasir Ris
  • Vietnamese: Joo Chiat Rd

So whether you’re visiting or living in Singapore as a foreigner, you’re never far away from “home”.

Impressive looking Tooth relic temple and museum

Impressive looking Tooth relic temple and museum

Inside the study hall of the Buddha tooth relic temple and museum

Inside the study hall of the Buddha tooth relic temple and museum

First couple of days, I went around Little India and Chinatown a bit seeing how my hostel was in Little India. As I said before, for a real tourist who wants to see some “new” cultural sights, there just aren’t many of them. The majority of the sights are commecial sights and shopping malls. In Chinatown we visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and museum. A five storey Buddhistic temple which apparently housed a sacred tooth of Buddha.

1000's of Buddha statues on the wall inside the tooth relic temple and museum

1000's of Buddha statues on the wall inside the tooth relic temple and museum

Great wooden craftsmanship

Great wooden craftsmanship

Secret garden on top of the tooth relic temple and museum

Secret garden on top of the tooth relic temple and museum

Thian Hock Keng temple, oldest Hokkien temple

Thian Hock Keng temple, oldest Hokkien temple

Afterwards we went to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hokkien building. The interior was rather interesting seeing how they renovated it a few years ago and the paintjob inside looked like it was painting in gold. We also visited the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu house of worship. I didn’t take any pictures of it, since you actually had to pay to take pictures inside and well… I’m a cheapskate. The temple itself wasn’t that impressive though, but it was still worth it to stroll around. Entrance was free anyway.

Panel doors of Hock Keng Temple

Panel doors of Hock Keng Temple

Weirdest looking tour I've ever seen....

Weirdest looking tour I've ever seen....

SkyPark of the Sands hotel in the background

SkyPark of the Sands hotel in the background

One of the study areas of the university

One of the study areas of the university

On another random day, I met up with Phae Sia, a girl whom I met in Vietnam a few months ago with her friends. She’s a student in one of the Universities and I asked her if she could show me around her Uni. Since I crashed a class the last time I was in a foreign University, I wanted to check out how the schools in Singapore were. I didn’t end up crashing a class, but still got a tour around the campus and Phae Sia’s student housing appartment thing.

Interesting architectural structures in the university

Interesting architectural structures in the university

One of the Mac rooms with meeting rooms in the back, free to use for all students

One of the Mac rooms with meeting rooms in the back, free to use for all students

One thing I can say is that they don’t save up on money when it comes down to education. The buildings are all pretty high tech and student facilities are top notch. They even have mac rooms where they have these HUGE 27″ screen iMacs for students to use. Some were just watching TV on them but still! They had small meeting rooms and other study areas with electricity plugs everywhere and of course, wifi all over the campus grounds.

The reason why I’m so amazed by this was mainly because back when I was “studying”, our school was an old hospital which wasn’t even renovated, eventhough we were multimedia major, we were using slow and old equipment. We even has asbest in our school attic apparently. They’ve moved since a few years tho, but just makes me kinda envious of seeing such great school environments.

Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

Panorama of Marina Bay

Panorama of Marina Bay

Continues in part 2

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About Alex Yip

Alex Yip is a web enthusiast who put his online marketing career on hold to travel around the world for a year. This blog is his virtual journal and logbook to keep people updated on his backpacking adventures on the road.

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