About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.

Location

Chinatown, Singapore

One week in the capitalist metropolis and garden city, Singapore

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Tags

AsiaSingaporeTravel
The Super Grove behind Marina Bay Sands
The Super Grove behind Marina Bay Sands - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Introduction

Wel­come! My name is Josh Fuglsang, and I am cur­rent­ly un­der­tak­ing a mas­sive trip: from Sin­ga­pore to Mo­roc­co over­land. I am per­mit­ted to use any mode of trans­port: be it train, bus, car, bi­cy­cle, or on foot. I’m just not aloud to trav­el by plane. I plan to com­plete this trip over a pe­ri­od of eight months to one year. This ar­ti­cle rep­re­sents the first chap­ter in my jour­ney. You can read an in­tro­duc­tion and some notes on the plan here.

A Week in Singapore

Singaporean skyline over Chinatown
Sin­ga­pore­an sky­line over Chi­na­town - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

This chap­ter was writ­ten about my time in Sin­ga­pore, the first stop of my over­land trip. I spent one week in Sin­ga­pore stay­ing in a Chi­na­town hos­tel.

Arrival

Check­ing in to my hos­tel, a bare bones her­itage build­ing, the first thing I ask the man­ag­er is where can I get some­thing to eat? He re­spond­ed by di­rect­ing me to the near­est Hawk­er Cen­tre. What is a Hawk­er Cen­tre? Well, it is ba­si­cal­ly a food court with more bus­tle and bet­ter meals. Hawk­er cen­tres are one of the key rea­sons to vis­it Sin­ga­pore, for Sin­ga­pore is a melt­ing pot of mul­ti-cul­tur­al cui­sine, a fu­sion of South East Asian, In­di­an, and to a cer­tain ex­tend, West­ern food. That’s a big rep­u­ta­tion to live up to, and I was gid­dy with an­tic­i­pa­tion to give it a shot. On the hos­tel man­ag­er’s sug­ges­tion, I de­cid­ed to try Hainanese Chick­en Rice, a fa­mous Sin­ga­pore­an dish. He sug­gest­ed that I should walk past all the booths, and stop on­ly when I spot a line. The longer the line, the bet­ter. Fan­tas­tic! I found a huge line. At least thir­ty peo­ple were stand­ing in it, most­ly en­grossed with their iPhones, but some tak­ing pho­tos of the line. I shame­less­ly took their lead to cap­ture some snaps as well, for it was sure­ly a cul­tur­al ex­pe­ri­ence to re­mem­ber. I think that a third of the peo­ple in the Hawk­er Cen­tre were lin­ing up for this par­tic­u­lar booth, so it must be great! Thir­ty min­utes lat­er, I am tuck­ing in to some de­li­cious steamed chick­en, steamed rice, and steamed Chi­nese veg­gies.

A street bursting with activity in Little India
A street burst­ing with ac­tiv­i­ty in Lit­tle In­dia - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Be­yond Hainanese Chick­en there are many oth­er great dish­es in Sin­ga­pore to eat. The Chi­nese cul­ture is the most com­mon one in Sin­ga­pore, with 80% of the pop­u­la­tion trac­ing their an­ces­try back to main­land Chi­na, so ac­cord­ing­ly there is a strong Chi­nese in­flu­ence in the meals. How­ev­er, there is still a strong Malay and In­di­an in­flu­ence. For ex­am­ple, some Chi­nese restau­rants sell tra­di­tion­al Malay dish­es fused with Chi­nese notes. An ex­am­ple of this is Nasi Lemak, a com­mon break­fast dish, can be found at many Chi­nese restau­rants.

Break­fast was pos­si­bly my favourite time of the day, all due to one set meal: kaya toast, half cooked eggs, and kopi c! This meal is def­i­nite­ly a must try for those vis­it­ing Sin­ga­pore. The cof­fee is strong and sweet due to be­ing served with con­densed and evap­o­rat­ed milk. The toast is heav­en­ly sweet and served with a shame­ful amount of but­ter and kaya; a jam like paste made of co­conut and egg. Next there are the two “half cooked” eggs; which have run­ning yokes, translu­cent whites, and should be mixed with a dash of soy sauce. Egg and sauce should be whipped to­geth­er to give an even con­sis­ten­cy, be­fore you dip in the toast. The com­bi­na­tion of sweet and savoury, crunch and smooth, cou­pled with a strong, sweet cof­fee, is ab­so­lute­ly di­vine. I have a sweet tooth and a pen­chant for strong flavour, so ab­so­lute­ly fell in love with the meal.

I con­sid­er my­self to be quite open to oth­er cul­ture’s cuisines, how­ev­er there were some things which even I wasn’t game to try. For ex­am­ple, I of­ten found pig brain soup, pig or­gan soup, and tur­tle soup as op­tions on the menu. Pig or­gan soup in par­tic­u­lar was very com­mon to see. Chick­en feet is a pop­u­lar one too, but it’s not unique to Sin­ga­pore­an cul­ture.

Architecture

The towers of Singapore
The tow­ers of Sin­ga­pore - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

One of the de­lights of Sin­ga­pore, and a big rea­son for me to vis­it, was the ar­chi­tec­ture. The city has the ul­ti­mate blend be­tween old and new. You can see world class, am­bi­tious­ly en­gi­neered, cre­ative­ly ar­chi­tect­ed tow­ers, loom­ing high above both colo­nial and Chi­nese mi­grant build­ings. Through­out Chi­na­town there are her­itage build­ings from sev­er­al pe­ri­ods of Chi­nese oc­cu­pan­cy. From the orig­i­nal sim­ple two sto­ry build­ings of the ear­ly set­tlers, to the more re­cent three sto­ry shop fronts with or­nate­ly de­signed fa­cades. I spent a day in Chi­na­town just look­ing up at the build­ings and con­sid­er­ing the his­to­ry which they must have seen.

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
Ma­ri­na Bay Sands in Sin­ga­pore - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

For mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture it is hard to beat Ma­ri­na Bay Sands. Ma­ri­na Bay Sands is pos­si­bly the icon of Sin­ga­pore. The com­plex has three curv­ing, asym­met­ric tow­ers, with a flat 3 acre(!) plat­form atop span­ning across all of the tow­ers. The build­ing is ab­so­lute­ly in­cred­i­ble, and dwarfs ev­ery­thing around for kilo­me­tres. Read­ing on­line, the build­ing cost a cool $8b SGD to com­plete, which in­cludes the land cost of $1.2b. What is most amaz­ing about the build­ing is the fact that due to Sin­ga­pore­an prop­er­ty law, the build­ing will fall back in to the own­er­ship of the Sin­ga­pore­an gov­ern­ment in 99 years. All prop­er­ty in Sin­ga­pore fol­lows these laws: you don’t buy prop­er­ties, you buy a lease to them for 99 years, then the gov­ern­ment takes them back and can do what they wish with them. So, I hope the own­er gets their mon­ey’s worth.

Reflections at Keppel Bay
Re­flec­tions at Kep­pel Bay - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

One of my oth­er favourite build­ings is Re­flec­tions at Kep­pel Bay. The com­plex con­sists of a group of build­ings, each bend­ing and twist­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Atop the build­ings are webs of steel gird­ers, giv­ing the build­ings an in­com­plete and in­dus­tri­al look. I found a great van­tage point for these tow­ers from the Hen­der­son Wave Bridge in one of Sin­ga­pore’s parks, where you can see the group of build­ings twist their way out of the sur­round­ing jun­gle.

History

Old juxtaposes new in the colonial island state
Old jux­ta­pos­es new in the colo­nial is­land state - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

On my fi­nal day in the gar­den city I vis­it­ed the his­to­ry mu­se­um, for I find Sin­ga­pore­an his­to­ry to be fas­ci­nat­ing. For a young coun­try Sin­ga­pore has par­tak­en in many con­se­quen­tial world events, and has seen a tremen­dous amount of change.

To start, Sin­ga­pore large­ly ex­ist­ed in ob­scu­ri­ty un­til on­ly a few cen­turies ago, when the British se­lect­ed it as a trad­ing port due its ide­al lo­ca­tion be­tween In­dia and Chi­na. Ini­tial­ly the British had no in­ter­est in mak­ing Sin­ga­pore a colony, and was on­ly in­ter­est­ed in the is­land as a place of trade to end the Dutch mo­nop­oly over east asian trad­ing routes. They made the port tax free, which was a mas­ter stroke of the pol­i­cy mak­ers for it brought in traders and mi­grants from all over the re­gion. How­ev­er, the ad­min­is­tra­tors large­ly ig­nored the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion so pover­ty, crime, opi­um, gam­bling, and pros­ti­tu­tion were ram­pant. In the years lead­ing up to WW2, the British for­ti­fied their po­si­tion and in Sin­ga­pore made a pow­er­ful base. How­ev­er, they lost the city quick­ly to the Ja­pa­nese in a high­ly suc­cess­ful land as­sault start­ing from Malaysia. In the en­su­ing years it is said that the Ja­pa­nese mur­dered be­tween 20,000 and 30,000 of the lo­cal eth­nic Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion. When the Ja­pa­nese even­tu­al­ly lost the war, Sin­ga­pore wel­comed back their for­mer British over­lords with open arms. How­ev­er, in a wave of de­coloni­sa­tion the British soon gave up Sin­ga­pore and let them form a union with Malaysia. How­ev­er, the Malay and Sin­ga­pore union was not to be. The Malay oust­ed Sin­ga­pore with­in two years, with the par­lia­ment vot­ing 126-0 to ex­pel Sin­ga­pore, mak­ing the city the first coun­try to ev­er force­ful­ly re­ceive in­de­pen­dence. Fac­ing mass pover­ty and hav­ing no nat­u­ral re­sources, the new state over the next few decades fo­cused heav­i­ly of hous­ing, trade, and for­eign in­vest­ment, giv­ing Sin­ga­pore a boom the likes of which has not been seen be­fore. The pol­i­cy mak­ers were over­whelm­ing­ly suc­cess­ful and brought us to the mod­ern day where the city now has the sec­ond high­est GDP in all of Asia.

Conclusion

Thanks for read­ing. If you have any feed­back on my work, then please men­tion it in the com­ments be­low. I thor­ough­ly en­joyed my time in Sin­ga­pore, and can whole heart­ed­ly rec­om­mend it as a trav­el des­ti­na­tion. You can find plen­ty to do for at least a week.

Singapore to Melaka by Train

Diesel powered Malaysian train pulled in to Tampin station
Diesel pow­ered Malaysian train pulled in to Tampin sta­tion - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

In the next ar­ti­cle I trav­el from Sin­ga­pore across the Jo­hor Cause­way to main­land Malaysia, and then through the Malay coun­try­side to the his­toric town Mela­ka. Read about it here here.

Tags

AsiaSingaporeTravel

About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.