Wednesday Wishes: Singapore

Posted on October 17, 2012

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Singapore by Night

Last week I proudly announced my upcoming solo adventure: 3,5 months of backpacking through South East Asia! Because I have a limited amount of time I picked 4 countries I really want to visit. But there’s one other destination that just keeps getting more and more attractive….

Singapore!

Singapore Aerial View

Image: williamcho

I’ll be honest, the main reason is food. And visiting a dear friend. But mainly food (sorry Sam!). For weeks my friend has been making me jealous by telling stories about the 12-hour food walks he’s been organizing and occasionally gives me a little extra kick by actually posting pictures of his dinners on Facebook (Sam, if you’re reading this, seriously: STOP!). On top of all that, I came across this article the other day on Livingthedreamrtw.com, which almost had me drool all over my keyboard. By now I find myself completely obsessed with Singapore and its world class cuisine and skipping it during my South East Asia trip is just not an option anymore.

Of course Singapore has a lot more to offer than just food. And since my friend is doing such a good job convincing me to come, why not let him do the talking to do the same to you? After all, no one knows better than a local! So without further ado, I proudly present to you the very first guest post on A Couple Steps Forward, by Sam Martinez:

Singapore by Night

Why Go Singapore?
Republic of Singapore
新加坡共和国 (Chinese)
Republik Singapura (Malay)
சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு (Tamil)

First of all, why shouldn’t you? Don’t let that single red dot on the wide world map fool you. Singapore may be small, 704 km2 (272 sq mi) to be exact and a population of 5.1 Million, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and surprisingly it is made up of 63 islands all around. It is almost unnoticeable on the world map, but turning from a third world country into a developed first world country in just 40 years means there’s is something about Singapore that you have to discover.

Almost 3 million Singaporean were born locally. The population is highly diverse; the majority are Chinese, with Malays and Indians forming significant minorities. Reflecting this diversity, the country has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Tolerance is highly respected, it’s very rare to see Singaporeans being unhappy about issues concerning religion or race.

Singapore is the world’s fourth leading financial center and its port is amongst the busiest ports in the world. It’s also one of the cleanest countries in the world, which will make it a nice break in your South East Asia itinerary.

Dining, along with shopping, is said to be the favorite national pastime of the

Just look at these! Image: nicfill

country.The diversity of food alone is touted as a reason to visit the Singapore, and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism. You can always find food at any corner of Singapore, anytime of the day, 24/7. Surprisingly adult obesity is still below 10%. Hmmm..

Keep an eye out for the Singapore Food Festival, held every year in July. During the last three festivals, all visitors to Singapore smart enough to ask for them at any tourist information desk received coupons for free chili crab, no strings attached!

Coffee and tea in hawker centers go for under a dollar a cup, a fair deal if you compare it to Starbucks! To get what you want, you’ll need to learn the lingo. If you order ‘kopi’ (the Malay word for “coffee”) or ‘teh’ (Hokkien for “tea”) in Singapore, it will definitely be served with heaps of sugar, and more often than not with a squirt of sweet condensed milk. ‘Kopi-C’ or ‘teh-C’ substitutes unsweetened evaporated milk, while ‘kopi-O’ or ‘teh-O’ makes sure it’s served with no milk. To get rid of the sugar, you need to ask for it ‘kosong’, so if you want a plain black cup of joe, you need to ask for ‘kopi-O kosong’! If you want your drink cold, just add ‘apeng’ to the end of the drink name, eg. kopi-O-peng, teh-peng, teh-C-peng, Milo-peng etc. and it will be served with ice.

While you can find a place to practice nearly any sport in Singapore — golfing, surfing, scuba diving, even ice skating and snow skiing — due to the country’s small size your options are rather limited and prices are relatively high. For water sports in particular, the busy shipping lanes and sheer population pressure mean that the sea around Singapore is murky, and most locals head up to Tioman (Malaysia) or Bintan (Indonesia) instead. On the upside, there is an abundance of dive shops in Singapore, and they often arrange weekend trips to good dive sites off the East Coast of Malaysia, so they are a good option for accessing some of Malaysia’s not-so touristy dive sites.

Have you ever been to Singapore? What country is on top of your wishlist?

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