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a hospitable arrival in Singapore

April 12, 2010

It was a two hour flight from Bangkok to Singapore. The best kept secret, which is no longer a secret, to fly for great prices around Southeast Asia is Air Asia.

 Singapore is so small that it’s a country, a city, an island… its identity kind of blends in simultaneously into all of these definitions.

Touristic attractions in Singapore start as early as the airport. You might not notice that as you arrive, as you storm out to discover the city, but perhaps on your way out when you have more time to explore. As bizarre as it may sound, Changi airport is not just a place to catch your flight. Other than the expected duty free shops, there’s a movie theater, comfortable TV lounges and very well kept gardens to walk around while you wait for the plane. If you’re excited about duty free shops, Changi has numerous of them, including expos featuring what is new in the tech world.

Singapore is known for organization, cleanliness and impeccable infra structure. During my first minutes there I was already able to experience that.

As I tried to buy my metro ticket, a very nice lady, head and body covered (15% of the population is Muslim), who worked at the airport, approached me and asked if I needed help sort of simultaneously already helping with the ticket machine.

I had just exchanged some money but had no change, only a 10 Singaporean dollar bill. The machine only accepted fives. She kindly offered to get change (coming from Brazil, if I was in any other place, I would kindly say I would do it myself). A minute later she returned with change, bought my ticket, handed it all while saying “have a great stay” as she smiled. I was just wowed with such great service, that wasn’t even paid! I had recently been living in Spain, where even if you pay for a service you can deal with rude people in restaurants, taxis, etc. So that was my first, wow, great impression of Singapore.

My second nice surprise was the hostel – Tresor Tavern was clean, quiet, free internet and ok breakfast included – all the backpacker needs.

Before I go on with what there is to see, do and eat in Singapore, a brief introduction to the city/country.

When we think of Southeast Asia, we often think of developing countries battling social gaps – the traditional stereotype. Singapore just happens to be the exception.

Despite a physically small country, Singapore is one of the most important Asian Tigers, a commercial and financial hub with great economic growth. The country is made up of a main island and around sixty other miniscule islands, most of them uninhabited.

Due to its geographical location the country was occupied by Portuguese, Butch, Malay, British, Japanese and Chinese. Therefore it is a great ethnic blend, where Chinese, Malay and Indians cohabit with Arabs and British and expatriates from all over the world.

This blend is not like the tradition melting pot, it is rather like a salad, where the individual ingredients can be identified and separated. Ethnicities in Singapore have each a neighborhood or district where they live and celebrate their culture, religion, food and clothing, such as Little India and Chinatown. The great part of all of this is to go to each neighborhood, explore temples, try the food, and people watch different worlds in such a tiny country.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 10:08 pm

    Great intro to Singapore! I can’t wait to visit one day. 🙂

  2. May 16, 2010 8:10 pm

    I’ve been to Changi airport too when I flew out after backpacking through Southeast Asia for a month. You are right about it. The airport is something to check out. It is regularly in the top airports in the world to see. The last list I saw it in listed it at the number two airport in the world to check out.

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