Last year I made a declaration for my life that in 2019 I would do more international travel and explore other cultures as a way to broaden my view of the world. So when an opportunity fell in my lap for business trip to Singapore, I knew it was a sign that my manifestations for travel were on the way.
I will be honest and say that while I was excited for this trip, I didn’t really know what to expect because outside of seeing the movie Crazy Rich Asians I knew nothing about the island, the people, or the culture. I mapped out in advance a few tourist attractions that I wanted to see during my 7 day stay there, but I had no idea what I was really in store for. What I thought would be a cool trip to a small beautiful island in Asia, turned out to be a life changing eat, pray, love type of moment in my life. Let me explain…
When I first arrived to Singapore it was about 7pm and a storm was brewing. By the time I collected my luggage, made it through customs, and caught a taxi the storm was full-blown and I was surrounded by harsh rain, strong winds, followed by the loudest thunder and brightest lightening I’ve ever seen in my life. Knowing that this is Monsoon season, I held my breath and closed my eyes for most of the ride over to my hotel because I couldn’t see 3 inches in front of the taxi, so I couldn’t understand what my cab driver was relying on for guidance as we drove for the next 30 minutes from the airport to a small part of town known as Little India. Upon arrival I stepped outside the cab to collect my things and that’s when the heat hit me. My mind was so confused as to how it could be over 90 degrees outside during the pouring rain, because it’s just not something you experience living in Sunny Los Angeles. However the heat coupled with the humidity is something I quickly learned to adapt to during my stay because it was ALWAYS HOT & HUMID.
I barely slept that night as I was still on Pacific Standard Time both mentally and physically, and I was also just amazed at the view from my room. I finally gave in and took a sleeping pill and managed to get in about 4 hours of sleep, but once the sun came up the next morning so was I. The first thing I went to go see were the Botanic Gardens. I could show you a zillion images of the beautiful gardens and it will still never, I mean NEVER live up to what it’s like to see it in person. To be outdoors in Singapore is like walking in a steam room that never shuts off. You will be hot, dripping in sweat, and soaking through your clothes but you won’t care because 1) Everyone else outdoors is also hot AF and dripping in sweat, and 2) The sights that you will see all around the island will be worth sacrificing being all dolled up (trust me).
I walked around the Botanic Gardens for over 3 hours and still only saw about half of it because it’s that huge. The best part about this attraction (like many attractions on the island) is it’s free with the exception of the National Orchid Garden, which has a small fee of $5 SGD ($3.68 USD). While I loved seeing the Rainforest, Ethnobotany Garden, Healing Garden, Ginger Garden, Botany Centre, Sun Garden, and Learning Forest – I do have to say that the National Orchid Garden was my favorite and I can see why that one has an entrance fee. Walking through there is like walking through a Disney dream come to life. Birds are chirping all around you, the sun is shining just a little brighter than it does anywhere else on the grounds, and the orchids are slightly swaying all around you. It was surreal!
After I was done soaking up the beauty of the Gardens, it was time for me to check out of the Hilton Garden Inn Little India and check into the hotel I would be in for the remainder of the trip – The SO/Sofitel Singapore. Both hotels were great, but I do have to say that the So Sofitel completely surpassed my expectations and I will write a separate review on both in the near future. I was starving and had no idea that my hotel was conveniently located next to the famous La Pa Saut which is basically the grande dam of street markets in Singapore. The food was amazing with a cool vibe to match, as the street was filled with rows of people gathered around to eat local dishes like satay, chili crab, chicken rice, and kaya toast. I ate here more than once not just because it was convenient to hotel, but because the food was that good. Also as noted in the movie Crazy Rich Asians, it’s one of the few places in one of the few places in the world where street cooks have earned Michelin Stars so if you’re ever in town check it out! Singapore is food lovers paradise, so heare are some other great places I ate during my stay were:
Din Tai Fung *Note: There are locations in America as well*
I learned from a couple of my co-workers that were born and raised in Singapore that religion is heavily embedded into the culture of the island, which is easy to see because there are quite a few beautiful temples and churches considering the island isn’t very big. I was fortunate to be able to stop by and take in the peacefulness of a few them including: The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, The Lian Sang Shuang Lin Temple, and the Sri Mariamman Temple. What’s also important to note is that backed by the rule of law, the State is secular, but not against religion. The four main religions in Singapore are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
However respect for different religions and personal beliefs is heavily emphasised by the government and everyone has the right to practise their religion freely. The commitment to this is so important that racial harmony is imparted to even children in school. Singapore celebrate Racial Harmony Day on 21 July annually. Students come to school dressed in various ethnic costumes, and some even prepare performances regarding racial harmony.
As an American I feel that true respects for others beliefs is something we preach, but don’t necessarily live by and it creates a huge divide between people both socially and politically. Which leads me to love…
I did not fall in love with a person while on this trip, but rather the country itself. Spending time with natives of this country and being immersed in the culture taught me that Singapore isn’t just a special place because of the amazing scenery, it’s a place unlike any other because of its dedication to cultivate a harmonious society. Since their five decades of independence from Malaysia, Singapore has worked hard to instill the value of multiculturalism in its citizens. The Country encourages ethnic groups to come together as one united people without giving up their cultural heritage or beliefs. Singapore’s aim is integration and not assimilation.
One way this is handled is through control of the racial grid in neighborhoods. The government restricts neighborhoods from having too many of any one particular ethnicity in a district of the island. This conscious effort has been made to prevent majority nationalism that has threatened pluralism in many other postcolonial societies. I mean think about it, how can a nation of people truly respect and accept their differences if they are segregated? Makes perfect sense to me.
Coming from the “melting pot” that is America, the longer I stayed in Singapore the more I felt ashamed to be from a country where the above values live largely in pretense but not in our actions. I’m not saying America is the worst country in the world, and there is no such thing as a true Utopia, but in my opinion Singapore is pretty close to it. I can’t wait to visit again.Loading Likes...