From Indonesia, we flew to Singapore and we had 3 days before going to the Philippines. it seemed exactly right amount of time to discover that multicultural city-state. We landed in Singapore in the afternoon. Kaija had found a Couchsurfing place for us and our host, Nizar, came and meet us in the Airport.
But before we got into the country, we had to survive some formalities and paperwork. Although we had heard about Singapore, you must be very cautious about what to bring into the country. Violating the rules might end with a big fine or even some time in jail. We knew that you should not bring any alcohol or tobacco to Singapore but also, for example, chewing gum. So we all destroyed the chewing gum before. But what we didn’t think was the fact that we get into trouble because of pepper spray. We were already through security controls and customs, and at the last moment when we wanted to take our baggage, our luggage was sent back for another checkup. We thought it is just some routine check because we knew we have not violated any rules. … Then one of the customs staff asked that if we have one of the following items in the luggage, and the picture he showed us was pepper spray. We had 2 pepper sprays, one larger one and the other one smaller, and we have had those during the whole trip. Because Jaanus’ bag had his pepper spray in a rather noticeable place and he thought maybe the security check had noticed it, he thought he will be honest and said yes. We initially thought it would just be taken away from us and they just let us go. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so smoothly.
We were sent to a separate room and had to wait for the police. At this point, we were already quite worried. In the room where we were, there were signs on the wall that, in violation of the Singapore customs rules, fines start at $ 20,000 or a year in prison or both. More worrying was that we were still had another pepper spray hidden and we hoped they won’t search our bags again. Finally, the police came and had to fill a lot of papers and explain why we have a pepper bag in the bag. It seemed that the explanation that we had it for self-defense was enough to save us from the worse. However, we had to agree and sign a paper clearly stating that if there will be any other violation of the Singapore law then charges will be pressed. Happily, this time it went well, but in the future when entering Singapore, we, unfortunately, have to be more careful.
Fortunately, our host was very patient and waited all the time for us to resolve our problems. When he arrived at the place, it turned out that the home of Nizar is a real Couchsurfers mecca. In addition to us, we had another Polish couple in a 4-room apartment, a German and a Vietnamese girl and an Italian guy. For the first couple of nights, Kaija slept in the girl’s room and Jaanus got a living room sofa. Although there was a lot of people in the apartment, the home of Nizar was cozy and we felt good there.
The first thing we got to know was the local food court. This is a typical place where the locals eat. You can choose from dozens of different Asian-made or even European-based foods that don’t cost more than 3-4 euros. Immediately on the first night, we got a good food experience.
In the evening, Nizar invited us to listen to his favorite local band. Though we were tired of the flight, we decided to go because we hoped we could enjoy local live music. We heard live music, but it was a cover band that sang well-known music at the audience’s request. Nonetheless, we danced and the mood was nice.
The next few days we had planned to discover the city. Despite the hot weather, we went through some of the most important sights: Little India, Chinatown, Haji Lane, Arabic Street and the mosques there, Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, Clarke Quay, etc.
Since Singapore is much more expensive than the surrounding Asian countries, we tried to avoid places where there are entrance fees. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities in Singapore that don’t cost anything. The subway is also quite inexpensive to travel around, and there wasn’t much too much food to eat, as we mostly ate at the same food courts. In the city center, they were the best Lau Pa Sat Food Court and Maxwell Hawker
If you are already in Singapore, we recommend that you visit the light show at Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay fountain and the laser show.
Singapore is also known for its many skyscrapers with a swimming pool and wonderful views of the sea and city. We also examined how expensive it would be to spend the night at the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel to access the infinity pool of the famous ship-shaped hotel, the so-called infinity pool. We learned that at least 300-400 euros should be spent on this and that our budget did not go with that in any way. We agreed that next time we come to Singapore, we go to that hotel. For compensation, we went to the rooftop bar of a nearby skyscraper to a Level33 cafe. This is one of the few places where you can enjoy a view of the whole Bay of Marina with the coffee and cocktail.
Tourists also have free admission to the Marina Bay Casino (locals have to pay up to 150 dollars). This casino is a real game hell where are no window or clock so the sense of time will completely disappear. Guests can enjoy snacks and refreshments to make them feel as good as possible. There, Kaija also tried her luck and got rid of $ 10 there,.
In Singapore, we also managed to meet some friends. Namely, Jaanus friend Maiko happened to be there at the same time for his start-up business. It was nice to speak Estonian for a long time with someone else.
We also met one of Jaanus’ former business partners, Chris, and his wife, and went with them to eat at the East Coast Lagoon Food Villages. For the first time, we got a taste of the famous Singapore Chilli Crab.
But perhaps the most exciting thing about Singapore’s daily life. Namely, the Singapore government has regulated quite a lot of local life, and many things that are common to us are unthinkable in Singapore. For example, buying a car is expensive because of taxes. Up to 70 thousand Singapore dollars must be paid for conventional Toyota. It is the most expensive country in the world to buy a car. And you can buy an apartment only if you are married or very rich.
Getting a job as a foreigner is also complicated because local people are preferred. However, as Singapore is a well-known shipping company and financial center, it is somewhat easier to get into these areas through job offers from international companies. At the same time, the country is carefully limiting migration to top specialists.
All in all, we enjoyed the short time in Singapore. We were positively surprised and one of the few big cities that we really liked. Singapore is a very green city. The trees and plants are met at every step. Public transport is convenient, fast and relatively inexpensive. We also enjoyed diversity in many different cultures and districts.