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Monday, May 14, 2012

Sight-seeing In Singapore

Thanks to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, and Sri Lanka's general reluctance to work, I had a solid 12 day holiday in the middle of April, and it's about time I blogged about it! While I was more than content to laze around at home and devour whatever my mother cooked up, my parents decided to organise a small trip to Singapore to coincide with one of Dad's business trips.

I'm sure many of you have been to Singapore, as it is one of the more popular destinations within South East Asia. I've only been there once back in 1999, which meant this trip would basically be a second 'first' time.

However, I know a lot of you will testify that going on a vacation overseas is extremely different when you're doing it with family. There are less adventures and more tours, less exploring and more shopping, less drinking and more eating. Needless to say, my brother and I was slightly wary of this trip to begin with.

Anyway, here are a few of my thoughts on the more 'interesting' points of our trip.

The Flight

We left Monday morning via Sri Lankan Airlines, flying direct to Singapore. Thanks to Dad's miles, we were in business class, and me and bro used the opportunity to finally watch 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows', in spite of the pitifully small screen and poor quality. The movie was excellent, but nothing beat the hilarity that ensued when my father, headphones firmly clasped on his ears and oblivious to how loud he was, turned to my mother and said in what he thought was a discreet whisper, "Oh look, that stewardess spilled the whole thing on him!". Sure enough, the stewardess in question stopped mid way through her attempts to clean off the juice that had spilled on to the passengers lap, and gave a rather un-airhostess-like stare at my father. It's been 3 weeks and my brother and I are still laughing about that one.

The Hotel

The hotel we stayed in was a good, 4 star hotel right along the famous, and very expensive, Orchard road. Bro and I were sharing a room, and for some reason they had booked us as Mr. and Mrs,. However, this wasn't the biggest surprise we had in store for us.

While the room was nice and looked extremely comfortable, the bathroom left me feeling quite the opposite. Sure, it was very plush and well lit, but for some reason the wall separating the bathroom from the bedroom had a large 6 foot tall glass window in it.

"You missed a spot..."

Yes, this meant that whoever was in bed at that time could watch the other person showering. I have no idea why they would have this 'facility' in a regular room (and yes, it was a regular room and not a honeymoon suite) but at least they have a waterproof curtain that could be rolled down for the less adventurous. Bizarre. Bro and I refused to discuss it.

The Shopping

One of the only items on our Singapore agenda that was written in stone was a trip to the fabled Mustafa's Shopping complex.

Shopping at Mustafa's is a singular experience that can't be replicated in Sri Lanka. I'm not exactly a shopping 'expert', but I've never been through anything quite like those 4 hours we spent there among the mountains of goods laid out before us. It was shopaholic-heaven, and consequently, our worst nighmare.

Oh dear.

That is kind of what shopping at Mustafa's is like. It's a two building complex with 3 basements and 3 floors, designed to be so maddeningly confusing that once you enter it, you're almost compelled to buy something just to distract yourself from how lost you are. They not only have everything, they have a lot of it. We were completely overwhelmed with it, so much so that it was almost impossible to pick anything, due to the vast array of choice available to us. Shoes? Sure, just this way sir; we have millions of shoes all stacked one on top of the other. Electronics, sure we have all of them in this entire floor ranging from cell phones to 3D 50-inch TV's. Food items, perfumes, curtains, watches, ceramics, jewelry, footwear, computers - it was just too, too much for us to handle. After Bro and I wandered around bewildered for a while, we managed to find a few sunglasses and a pair of shoes, but in the process we had managed to get ourselves completely and utterly lost. So, we did what anyone would do in this situation: we ran in every direction as fast as we could, screaming for help. Well, not screaming, but we just randomly ran up and down stairs and along corridors until we finally found the exit to the road. Then we realised we had somehow crossed over from one building into the other across the street! To this day we have no idea how this happened, but luckily we managed to get to the road and send a text to our parents to meet outside.

Guitar Heaven

We stumbled on to some 'unconventional' stores too. Read carefully.

Universal Studios

The weather cleared up for the one day, and we were lucky enough to be spending it at the Universal Studios theme park in Sentosa. After two days of shopping, my Bro and I were looking forward to some enjoyment. Frankly, Universal Studios blew our minds! The park was so well done, with the themed sections being unbelievably detailed. There was a Hollywood section, complete with a Hollywood walk of fame and a sound stage with a video intro from Steven Spielberg. Then there was "Madagascar", themed after the animated movie, and "Far Far Away" themed after Shrek. Till here it was very low key and interesting, but I was psyched about the next section - "Waterworld", themed after one of my favourite 'bad' movies from back in the 90's. We were just in time to catch the live-actions show, which was 15 minutes of a small enacted and choreagraphed scene from the movie filled with jet skis, boats, explosions, fights and some very cool stunts.

From there we moved onto the Lost World section, and then moved to Egypt section. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After a good lunch, we went through 1940's New York, a Sci-Fi section, and of course the famous 3D Transformers ride. Honestly, I don't have words to describe how great that was; it was so amazingly real, and done so well that the transition between real walls and the 3D screen lent the ride a fantastic feeling of reality. Being hurled through buildings by Megatron and falling out of the sky, only to be scooped up at the very last second by Bumblebee, talking to Optimus Prime - all done to perfection. Easily the highlight of the day.

The People

I found the people of Singapore rather interesting. Here they were, surrounded by all this wealth and affluence, and yet most of them were eager to complain about government taxes and increasing prices. Our cab drivers, quick to spot we were tourists, were an abundant source of information and witty humour regarding the state of the government, often lamenting how expensive it was to buy a car or cab in Singapore.

And yet, after all the complaining, one cab driver had to admit that he was still able to take care of his family and his children quite comfortably. After all the deductions, he said he takes home SGD 5000 per month, which in Sri Lankan Rupees is roughly Rs. 500,000! As for the price of vehicles, one can only imagine the wealth in the country when we saw four Lamborghini Gallardo's, a McLaren F1, and at least 10 Mercedes AMG's in a span of 3 days.

Yes, Singapore seems to be a vibrant, modern city, as is evidenced by the crowds of fashionable, well dressed men and women on their streets, clutching their expensive handbags, wearing their slick suits or rushing in their bright red high heels or bright red Mercedes. Yet, I seemed rather unnerved by the lifestyle here. I wasn't there long enough to be sure, but there seemed to be a strong materialistic aura that hung around most people I saw, especially the women. While many of my friends told me there would be lots of "eye-candy", I was slightly put off by the over-dressing stiletto-wearing girls I happened to notice. Personally, I see no reason for Asian women to be envious of the freedom Singapore women live under; while they may be able to wear and do most anything they choose to without condemnation, to me they seem to be living under a different type of bondage all together.

Yes, so that's my wrap-up of Singapore, finally! It was definitely a very interesting visit, and I am quite looking forward to visiting again. Perhaps when I do my Masters? Time will tell.


T said...

Singapore used to be my dream country when I was small because it was so clean, but when I visited last year I was deeply, deeply disturbed. The levels of materialism and capitalism I saw were frightening; the landscaped flora and fauna made me sick; the land reclamation around the entire island was horrifying. People live on top of each other in an every increasing number of condos with little or no garden or breathing space.

Though I know S'pore has a really cool underground art/music/club scene, not to forget tons of cool bands visiting, and it's proximity to and possibility of travel to other Asian countries is awesome, I could never imagine living there.. I don't even like visiting.

Jack Point said...

The Chinese tend to be more materialistic, than say, some Westerners, so the wealth may be more on display than in other parts of the world.

There is plenty of materialism right here at home, but it is a small minority so it is not as noticeable. The political class are fast becoming the riches and most ostentatious section of society.

In Singapore's case the average man in the street is well-off and is not self conscious about showing it, so, in a way it tends to hit one in the face, but this is the way they are.

At least, for the great majority of those people, their wealth was honestly earned.

scrumpyandherheart said...

When I went to Malaysia, the hotel room had the same glass divide. However, we noticed that there was a roll down blind that was operated electronically - maybe you guys missed that?! :P

Gehan said...

T - Singapore is pretty rich culturally, and yes the land reclamation is very alarming, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I wouldn't like visiting. There is a very different aura about living there though; something that I would have to get accustomed to.

JP - It's not so much about 'showing it' as such. I got the feeling that the materialism is just on another level there. My friend who works there was telling me how most girls she knows actively look for Western boyfriends, as they are more likely to be able to finance their 'standard of living' so to speak. Like I said in the post, perhaps I was there for too short a time to make a proper judgement.

Scrumpy - Yes yes, we found the curtain, but it just threw as for a while when we first saw it! My conservative hill-country nature couldn't take it.. haha!

Dee said...

I loved Singy! Especially taking the tube...so convenient :') but then living there...mm...dunno...but if it was for a multinational and a stint, hell's yeah!! whew!!

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