Friday, December 31, 2010

Uniquely Singapore

It's the last day of 2010, everybody is hilarious about the sudden public holiday which was only announced 2 days ago, because Malaysia won the stup*d football match, here you go, 1 more public holiday! Many people are quite satisfied about the long weekend, busy shopping or partying, seems like everybody is drowned in the happy atmosphere and nobody really cares about the year that will end in less than 24 hours time.

2010 is just another ordinary year, for most of us. However, I have experienced something different a few days ago. I had my "virgin backpacking trip" to Singapore! The lion city is the second foreign country I've been to. (Hongkong is not considered a country, so there was only Malaysia on my list) My staying in a hostel was absolutely by accident. Planned to stay with a friend of mine, but something unexpected happened just one night before I left KL thus I ended up staying in a hostel in Chinatown.

I've never thought of how a hostel would look like, the one I chose was very cozy, fully furnished with IKEA furniture, the staff were great, friendly and helpful. My first conversation with a Singaporean was in English as I'm not sure whether she can speak Mandarin, however later I found out that most Singaporeans do speak Mandarin. Every time I asked for direction in English, people would answer me in Mandarin. There accent is different from Malaysian, they are more inclined to Taiwan accent. The owner of my hostel speaks authentic Taiwan style Mandarin which made me adjust my Malaysianised tone to adapt him.

People were surprised to know that I'm from China as I'm just too "Malaysian". Both my English and Mandarin are totally gone, I use Cantonese and Hokkien words from time to time. Therefore I got my nickname there: Fake Orang M'sia. It was fun to stay with many other guys and girls from all over the world. Majority of them were travelling alone, typical backpacker, travel is an indivisible part of their life, like the blood in their veins. I've met plenty of interesting people and now we became friends. It's really a blessing in disguise that I was not able to stay at my friend's place!

I had tons of unforgettable memories during my stay there. I got lost on Christmas night when I was looking for the Merlion. Alone, wandering in the pouring rain in the empty streets. Frustrated, yes I admit there was a little , but meantime I enjoyed the freedom and kept on snapping everything I've passed by. As a result, I discovered some places many people have never been to: National Library, Management University, Chijmes, St Andrew's Cathedral etc. I was walking around the city hall area round and round, finally I reached Fullerton Hotel. Really had a nice time walking along the Singapore river, knowing nobody around, having no direction, not being disturbed by cell phones, just randomly looked up in the sky and take a look at all the office buildings at Raffles Place, imagining I may work there soon. I was devoured by thoughts, so was rain. I really learnt that umbrellas don't work at all in South East Asian countries. When the thunder and wind starts, everything is useless. So it's better to enjoy the rain rather than being afraid of getting wet. ( I got a water proof camera, so no worries for me :p)

Singapore is a highly developed and organised country. Tap water is drinkable and water is really precious there. 2 things you are absolutely certain, it's clean and safe. So I'm not worried at all hanging in the street alone at night. There are plenty of rules, you can't litter, you can't drink or eat at MRT station (and that's why you can't find any rubbish bin in every station, I have to put the used tissue in my pocket and I got 3 or 4 "dumplings" in my jeans after a whole day) Chewing gum is prohibited in the country, which really bothers some western backpackers, they feel like there is no freedom at all, the rules are just too strict.

However, there are pros and cons, if you view it from another angel, the strict rules give rise to high efficiency as well. All the pavements are fenced and only the entrance of pedestrian crosswalk are open, which literally curb those people who love to cross the road randomly at anywhere. It reduces accidents, improves the image of the city as a whole. Another interesting thing is, you can find a 60-year-old waiter in fast food restaurant! That's because their retirement age is 65, the senior citizens have the equal right to work as youngsters, there is no discrimination, either ethnically or sexually. I kind of like the "fair play" policy after being treated so unfairly for so many years.(When I entered Singapore custom, the officer greeted me with a big smile and he answered my question regarding to my multi-entry visa politely. However, when I came back to JB, the Malay guy at the custom scrutinized me from head to toe after seeing my China passport. It took a long time for him to decide whether to ask me questions or just chop and let me go. Finally he didn't say anything and just let me pass. I said "happy new year" to him and he didn't even raise his eyebrow!)

Singapore is like any big city in China, full of high-risings, the real estate price is incredibly high and it's almost crowded everywhere. The big difference is it's much cleaner and comfortable with the tropical weather I love. It's a nice place to work and to live. Food, transportation and garments are at very affordable prices. ( I can never forget I took bus for 27 stops and the fare was only $1) I bought 2 "I love SG" souvenir T-shirts at Giordano, hopefully I won't be beaten up if I wear it in KL :p

A lesson learnt, the globe is just a village, there are many different families inside the village, each of them has their own traits. It's worth visiting other families, gain more exposure and learn the different culture. Don't ground yourself in your comfort zone, you may experience pleasant exploration!

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