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January 18, 2021
Life

The PNG Traveler: Singapore

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Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers; it joins the ranks of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan and together, their rapid growth and industrialization throughout their developing stages accelerated their transformation into advanced, high-income economies by the 21st Century. On a cultural basis, this is often credited to the hard-working, loyal and respectful values that Confucianism instilled in the people.

Being such a condensed, yet multi-ethnic society, Singaporean cuisine is lavishly blended with Eastern influences. Along with influence from their native Malaysian roots, range in cuisine strays from Chinese to Indian to Western traditions, with further influences from places such as Thailand, the Middle East and the Philippines. This, along with the burgeoning state of globalization, boasts a unique experience at the average food court.

     

With a surface area of 710km², natural resources and arable land are scarce. The manufacturing and electronic sectors are major contributors to Singapore’s economy, making shopping for electronic gadgets and accessories a popular to-do.

 

One’s first foray into the metropolis that is Singapore is a pristine and polite hub of bustling Singaporeans and an endless array of shops that send nagging ‘shop till you drop’ signals flying through your head. The convenience is how I arrived here, rather than the cheaper and shorter flight to our neighbours down under. The convenience, mainly, of ease of passage as no visa is needed for a stay less than 21 days; a highly tempting offer considering the difficulties and time frames one is faced with while obtaining a visa in Papua New Guinea.

 

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My taxi driver was lively and friendly, instantly putting my tourist head at ease with snippets of Singaporean history including its population, the mix of people and the must-see sights.

 

As my eyes take in the business district skyline of Singapore, in all its size and grandeur, the Four Asian Tigers come to mind and not for the first time, I am in quiet awe at what this country has accomplished with such finesse. 

 

My hotel was awesome; it is the York Hotel, conveniently close to wicked attractions such as the sprawling Lucky Plaza which is jam-packed with shops, nightclubs and services, and ION Orchard, an elaborate shopping mall containing flagship stores like Armani, Prada and the infamous Louis Vuitton.

 

I didn’t dare venture into any of these, although a Prada bag I glimpsed made my knees weak, and a fountain pen I passed devastatingly looked like something I’d save up for years for. It is quite a shopping experience, let alone a window shopping experience. Treatment of tourists and visitors are right on point, reinforcing the importance of top customer service and the streets at night are safe to prowl. We visitors were treated with utmost preference and respect – an excellent impression for a country whose tourism sector caters generously to their economy.

 

I never like reading maps at all but my train rides were surprisingly simple and the cab fares I clocked up were very cheap and reasonable; between 3-7 dollars at a time but quite expensive after midnight. Inside the trains, there were active electronic maps with lights to show what stops you are approaching. Jumping on connecting trains didn’t take long to get the hang of.

 

The food spots that were the most crowded was definitely the food courts because of the mass amount of commuters stopping by every day on their respective routines. I could see sushi (I can spot sushi from miles, see), Japanese, European and Western cuisine all on offer, all smelling great and all confusing my stomach. As I am a sucker for cakes and sweet food in general, the desserts and bakeries left an impression on me that my stomach will never forget. A favourite of mine was the bread and butter pudding and vanilla bean custard which had my tastebuds partying.

 

A notable occasion was my experience at The Night Safari which was a 45 minute trip by bus.  I have never been a fan of zoos but to see the animals in their natural habitats was fascinating, especially since I had never seen rhinos, lions or deer before.  A visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium, situated in the Marine Life Park, was more what I was looking forward to, and the world’s biggest aquarium did not disappoint. I was stuck there, engrossed for a while in a bluish, lush wonderland, taking in the languid and peaceful lifestyle of the subdued aquatic life (there are over 100, 000 marine animals featured!).

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All in all, my stay was a pleasant and easy one; pleasant because of the treatment and humbled attitude of the everyday people inhabiting this stunning, bustling hub of a metropolis. Easy due to the lack of visa complications, transport worries and over-spending as the prices of goods were very reasonable. I hope to travel back there and not just one more time; the miracle of Singapore’s development serves as an inspiring example of how to successfully fine-tune and tap into the tourism industry, along with pleasing the boots off people with customer service to the point where they willingly splurge their money. 

 

FAST FACTS

  • Safety: It’s perfectly safe to walk around at night
  • People are polite and friendly – they have public etiquette such as standing to one side of the escalators to make way for people in a rush, or standing in two neat lines to let people off the trains
  • Food: It is cheaper to eat out in Singapore than it is to eat at home/ hotel. An average meal is between 4 to 6 dollars  
  • Taxis will stop for you if you flag them down, however be sure to note their status in the taxi cab roof sign which can read either ‘Busy’ (they have a customer on board), ‘On Call’
  • (someone is calling them to come and pick them up), or ‘Taxi’ (available to pick up customers)
  • Taxis are relatively cheap – between 3-7 dollars, although quite expensive after midnight
  • Some stores stay open for 24 hours such as the Mustafa Centre. Some great perfumes can be found here at good prices and it’s a definitely worth stopping at for something to eat after a night out
  • Asian size shoes & clothes may be smaller for the average Papua New Guinean so you might want to try stores that carry larger sizes like department stores
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  • Take note of Bugis Street, where you can buy a bulk of stuff for cheap
  • Weather is the same as a cool day in POM in the summer months but it does get cooler during other times of the year and the country is also prone to electrical storms
  • Must try: the Singapore flyer, garden by the bay and the reflexology fish spa where fish will eat the dead skin off your feet- a unique experience!
  • Taxis are relatively cheap – between 3-7 dollars, although quite expensive after midnight.
  • Visa: For a visit under 21 days, Papua New Guineans do not need a visa
  • Tax Back on Receipts: You can claim back all tax charged for items bought in Singapore on your way out. Make sure to organize it at the airport upon arrival before your departure when you present your receipts to get your refund!

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