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Jan 29, 2006 - Chinese New Year, SINGAPORE

Reported by JoMar All rights reserved.

Singapore -- City, Island, Country,

When last we left our two heroes, the dynamic duo, they were walking... yes walking the treacherous and dangerous causeway from one country to another in the searing heat with debilitating backpacks on their shoulders and only two chocolate bars and two small bottles of water for nourishment...

We did actually walk across the causeway that connects Malaysia with Singapore. It wasn't all that dramatic but it was very hot and not as beautiful or adventurous as we were led to believe. We stopped halfway and sat down and ate our chocolate bars and water while the truckers in the traffic jams stared at us like we were circus freaks !! (my apologizes to all of our friends out there who actually are circus freaks. hee hee)

Just before we got to customs there were a bunch of laminated Singaporean newspaper clippings documenting the harsh penalties for; drug trafficking, immigration law infractions, etc... They made it very clear the consequences before you reach the powers that be for any infraction of the strict laws. If that wasn't warning enough, on our arrival card in BIG RED LETTERS, it states that the law regarding any drug trafficking will result in DEATH. So you could imagine how fast we got rid of our dope and crack before we made our way to immigration :-) (kidding)

Oh FYI It's not a myth. It is actually illegal to chew gum here, you can't buy it anywhere as it is banned. When they incorporated the rail system, people were sticking their gum to the doors so they would not open. So the government banned gum!!   How's that for immediate efficiency!!

When we said "goodnight" to our new friend Dawn after she gave us a guided tour our second night here, we told her to be careful on the way home as it was late at night. She just looked at us, and with a smile said; "this is Singapore" I found this statement very interesting. Not too many places in the world would you hear someone say that.

Actually Singapore has very strict and swift laws regarding any criminal activity with harsh punishments such as canning, lengthy prison sentences, large fines, and for drug trafficking and other serious crimes -- death!  As a result Singapore has very very little crime; Something to think about, huh?

Losing focus, where was I? Oh yeah...

It took us a very long time to find our way to our guesthouse/hostel and one of our plastic bags with all our souvenirs and stuff broke in the middle of the street!! (we bought a new cloth bag:-)) Anyway we did eventually get to our hostel and it was very warm, welcoming and nice :-)

I know I have said this a lot about other cities we have visited, especially in Europe, but I will say it again here: Singapore is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever been too!!! It's a bit conservative, so it's not one of the most fun cities we have been to but it sure is gorgeous. From Little India with all it's sounds and sights and smells to The Singapore River with all it's lights and Merlion (that's a half lion and half fish which sits in the river spouting water from it's mouth) with all it's fabulous modern architecture and breathtaking lights to the huge Chinatown with all it's spectacular and unusual food... Singapore never fails to astonish!!

They say the biggest attraction in Singapore is the food. We have tried so many unusual and different food and snacks in Little India and Chinatown. I cannot even begin to pronounce the name of any of it, so don't ask! But it sure was delish:-)

We both fell in love with Little India. The temples and marketplaces and all the people. It is such an exciting place that really has a vibe and a buzz of it's own. You really feel like you have been transported to India itself when you walk down there. Little India is also, not surprising, a huge backpacker's heaven.

We met up with Dawn, whom we met originally in Vienna, Austria, when she and her mom were vacationing there and staying in the same guesthouse as us. Dawn took us on an amazing walking tour of the city our second night here. We went to one of the hundreds of hawker food stalls in Chinatown and piged out on some really delicious food and snacks the likes of which we have never seen before. Thank you Dawn for treating us and hopefully we can return the favor when you come to Beautiful British Columbia!

Then we went down to The Singapore River!!!  It was here that Singapore reminded me of some of the great European cities that we visited like Paris and London and Prague; in that at night Singapore, like some of the great European cities, just comes alive with colors and lights. So much so that it is a wonder unto itself completely separate from the city that you see during the day!!!

Another thing about Singapore that reminded us of Europe's great cities is that when you wonder around the city on foot, you turn a corner or walk down a laneway, and you feel like you have been transported to another city altogether. There are so many colorful and distinctly different areas and facets of this city that you could never get bored just wondering through the side streets!!

Another area of this tiny country is called Arab Street, or as we like to refer to it as Little Egypt. It contains the largest Mosque in the city and the area is so charming, instantly we were "homesick" for Egypt!

We went to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year celebrations and it was pretty wild. Thousands of red and green decorations all up and down the main and side streets. A huge television screen in the center of the street showing everyone all the festivities that some of couldn't see because of all the huge crowds around the stage. They did the countdown on the side of this huge building and of course everyone went nuts!! The fireworks display was pretty cool....well you get the picture. Hello to Angela who we met on the metro and who rang in the new year with us. Angela we are going to get in touch when we reach Sydney and visit. It was very cool to be in Singapore for Chinese New Year. Oh yeah, Marc is a Rooster and I am a Rabbit!

All around this city you can see the influence of the early English colonization in the buildings before independence. The contrast between the old and the new is as marvelous as it is significant. You go for a walk, or sit at a cafe, and look up at the beautiful roof of a white or gold mosque or the red roof of an ancient Chinese temple, adorned with intricately detailed dragons and serpents, and as a backdrop are all these very cool, very tall, modern buildings with fantastic architecture and you just marvel!! One would think that the modernization mixed with the ancient would somehow spoil the history, but somehow it compliments it!!!

Singapore doesn't have a Heritage Committee or anything like it to help preserve it's history and despite the Singaporeans apathy regarding their heritage, the city has still managed to retain much of it's charming history in the wake of an increased desire for capitalism.

Singapore gets our bid as one of the best places we have visited.

We have found ourselves with a little more time and have decided to fly to Bali, Indonesia

Singapore is a wee bit too expensive and small to spend that much time here. So we are off to Bali on the morning of the 31st and this will be our final Southeast Asian country. Then off to Australia and the beginning of our fourth leg of this amazing race!!

Dawn and Family we both want to thank you for getting up at the crack of daylight and coming to our hostel and driving us to the airport and holding onto some of our bags while we go gallivanting in Bali and then coming back to the airport and dropping off our bags yet again!! Mee Lian thank you so much for taking us to that amazing authentic Singaporean food stalls and treating us to some delicious food. We loved eating with the locals!!!!

john :-)

and of course markie too


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