The Land of the Merlion

2019 was the year I got to travel to Singapore. I usually have one defining trip every year of my life (Mexico in 2017, Russia in 2018 and planning Japan in 2020) but Singapore was different because I changed my mind about where I would love to settle down when I went there. Like, I started looking for how to go back to school there in my old age.

My travel agent and I put together a group trip built around the Formula 1 weekend for Singapore. About 16 of us were in my batch (batch A lol) and we all landed full of expectations from all the lovely things we’d heard about Singapore. We didn’t have time when we landed at the airport to explore because our pickup was waiting but it didn’t matter. We were here and had time.

If we had any sense of anticipation when we landed, it was doubled on the way to the hotel as our tour guide tried to explain our programme of events to us. We were confused at all the things she was reeling out, so she resolved to give us the plan one day at a time the night before. We had the night safari, formula 1 day, the local markets, the malls, the Singapore Eye (I couldn’t make it) and amusement parks at Sentosa and Universal world.

The roads were wide, the living apartments were lovely and all the places we visited were clean – all the time. The stuff that struck me apart from the normal were stuff I had never experienced anywhere else.

The night safari was a bit scary. I was sitting on the edge of the open car seat, meaning I had no barriers between me and any stray lions that might escape their enclosures. If it were daylight, it wouldn’t have been so bad but I think if I saw a scarecrow too close that night, I would have jumped in someone’s lap. It felt good to hear little pieces of information about the animals we were driving past.

I loved the gardens in Singapore. The Gardens by the Bay were simply amazing. You could feel the temperate climate carefully controlled complemented by the calm crowds that were flowing through. Everything seemed like an education that I had missed growing up. At a point, I stopped reading the panels that were everywhere and focused on taking pictures and breathing the fresh air in there.

Singapore was in the middle of their own air pollution crisis at the time we visited. I was struck by how different the news is in Singapore. Every evening, we listened to how schools were being shut down all over Asia because of the smog (something you’d never hear a line of on CNN). It was a totally different world. They had these emergency phone numbers to call and an air quality monitor reading at the top left of the screen that showed no matter what programme was on – 24/7. Obviously, they take the environment very seriously in Singapore which was something that endeared me to the city. There was no eating allowed on public transport, no overflowing waste bins and almost everywhere smelled nice (if you don’t mind the smell of food you don’t like).

The food in Singapore was an exploration on its own. We set about trying all the Asian food we could remember and the new ones we met on ground. Singapore is a city-country by the way but everywhere we went, there were food courts and the local street food places (large rows of food places not big enough to be called restaurants but with outdoor chairs to sit and eat). They also had documentaries about their history and how they were in danger of going extinct on TV every evening. I enjoyed watching these for some reason. Then in the morning, we would go looking for that one place in a thousand that we were wowed by the previous day or we would be distracted by the aroma from somewhere else and just settle there to be wowed (or disappointed) again. It was a real food adventure.

I stumbled on the best fruit juice and smoothie stand in the world and right there and then, I seriously considered a change in career entirely. Why not just move to Singapore, buy smoothie and fruit juice makers, hook up to unlimited power (or solar power) and start selling cold fruit juice and smoothies to tourists from all around the world?

My Singapore trip was my second trip to Asia. Most times, when I used to think of tourist visits, it would be Europe or America or somewhere western. But now, I have started looking at the ring around Singapore (Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand). I have started looking for how to move to Singapore or New Zealand, so I could go live in these countries from time to time. The matter was that serious, please.

I loved the Botanical gardens. I saw people jogging there in the mornings. I saw couples sitting and taking pictures. I rushed through the Orchid garden and couldn’t even make it to the Children’s garden. I heard afterwards that there is a natural tropical forest older than the garden nearby (the Singapore Botanical garden is 160 years old). I have a list of all the things to go back to Singapore for.

On our way out, we finally had the chance to visit the Jewel Singapore Airport. I think it’s something everyone should experience once in their lives. It touched my soul. I didn’t take many pictures there because I was just focused on taking it all in. What’s a flight delay when you’re at the Jewel? Delay my flight, please! In fact, build a house for me here!

Singapore was really nice and I enjoyed the group I went with. The one week was barely enough but I think I will be back soon enough.

Love Singapore.