22.03.2012 - 22.03.2012
View Semester at Sea on MVVincent's travel map.
So this blog entry is considerably shorter than the other ones I am writing about and that is because I was only in Singapore for one day so I don’t have a lot to talk about, unfortunately. Anyway just as a note, I will not be posting blogs as soon as I can because I only have 3 ports left and they are all really close together. So, because of this, expect blogs for Vietnam, China and Japan probably after I visit Japan so mid-April. Sorry about this, but in order to keep up with sleep and schoolwork this is my only option. Also expect pictures when I am in Hong Kong because I should have adequate internet and be able to post lots of pictures from all of my previous ports. Now, on to Singapore!
I woke up in the morning feeling great and ready to take on my short day in Singapore. We all had to collect our passports and then when we were off the ship had to go through a very long customs and immigrations process. I decided to go traveling in the morning with Brynn, Eleni, and Ana-Sophia. Once we got through customs we saw that we were in a very large shopping mall. I stopped at the ATM and we made our way to the monorail to take us to Sentosa island, there we were going to check out the aquarium. We made our way through part of the mall and came outside and the first thing I saw, and for the first time on this trip, was a Starbucks! We had to stop for Brynn because she was starting to feel sick from not eating breakfast so I decided to get a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappacinno. This was the first time in three months that I had such a drink and was actually just as satisfied as if I had ordered in Colorado. The Starbucks was adjacent to the Harbor Front Shopping Mall and inside the Vivo Shopping mall. This mall was even larger, actually the largest mall I have been in, and was full of a lot of boutique shops ranging from Gucci to National Geographic. I of course had to check out the NatGeo store because I had never seen one and was so happy that I almost bought a t-shirt from there, but as I found out about the rest of the mall, was too expensive. We browsed a little in this huge shopping mecca, but then found ourselves at the ticket station for the monorail. I bought the ticket and headed for the station stop where I was greeted with a very high-tech device where you just pressed your ticket to a button and the terminal would open for you. I think we were all so amazed by this because we were so used to laser scanners or a ticket puncher when we were taking public transportation. We boarded the monorail and made our way to Sentosa Island. This island had a few casinos, lots of resorts, Universal Studios and the aquarium situated on it. We passed by Universal Studios and could only see a few roller coasters and I was not that impressed. We came to the final stop where we had to board the free bus to the aquarium. I really felt like I was in Orlando and for good reason, this place had a claim to fame as the “play center of Asia” and it certainly was living up to its claim. Everyone we encountered was very helpful and could speak English, mostly because of colonialism. A lot of the signs that I noticed were in four languages, English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese Mandarin. I could see that there was a lot of immigration to Singapore for work, but that there was also a heavy reliance on tourism as part of the economy. We finally got to the aquarium where I think we were all quite unimpressed. We had all been to many aquariums, and this one turned out to be mediocre compared to the New Orleans aquarium or even the one I visited in Cape Town. The aquarium did have a couple of really interesting exhibits though and I thought that raised my first impression a little. I got to see the embryos of bamboo sharks at each stage of life and was fascinated at seeing life and little movement in the egg sacs that were contained in this small tank. I also got to see the largest fish in the world, something I should have seen in the Amazon. However, if I had seen this in the Amazon I am pretty sure that I would have been lunch. This fish, which I have a magnet of, is absolutely gigantic, the size of most sharks. I also got to see a nautilus which I thought was amazing. I had never seen this creature before but once I saw the small shelled being it seemed almost surreal. The coolest part of the aquarium was a rotating walkway that brought you through the shark tunnels. I took a couple videos documenting the experience, but once we were through the tunnel we were at the end of the aquarium. I would definitely not go back and pay the $26 Singapore dollars to see the aquarium and when I left was a bit confused on how this place could be world renowned.
Once we left the aquarium, Ana-Sophia and I went back to the shopping mall to meet up with Dave. He had been on a historical trip going around the city and was meeting us back at the mall so that we could go get some drinks and dinner and see anything that was not a part of the tour he was on. We left the mall, this time on the MRT, the subway for Singapore. Here was a very clean subway station and form of transportation and I really felt safe using it, plus it was nice and cheap and was a fast way to get from place to place. The first stop for us was at Clark Quay (pronounced key). There we found a large tourism area filled with lots of restaurants and bars. We ended up at the Pump Room to the recommendation of Dave’s brother. There we all ordered the beer sampler because they had their own brewery and it was also happy hour. I got to try some fantastic beer, although I still don’t like an IPA so I had to give that to Dave. Once we all tried our beer I got to try the national drink, the Singapore Sling which is a fruit cocktail with gin and rum. I didn’t like the drink too much and probably would choose beer over that any day. If they had a Long Island Ice Tea though I probably would have been in heaven. We ran into my professor that I traveled with in India and his wife and daughters and it was sort of funny for them to see all of this beer in front of us, especially after having a talk about drinking with him in India. He just laughed because they had just left a wine bar and I think were probably a little tipsy and really enjoying themselves. After finishing up at the Pump Room, the three of us left in a taxi to the Newton Hawker Center. This was an area with many restaurants and looked a lot like a food court. You could pick up a little food from each of the places and then sit in the center and enjoy Singapore. When we first walked in I was greeted by a man with red-pink hair who asked if I liked seafood. I am of course in love with shrimp and crab so I nodded my head and he showed us to our seats where Dave and Ana-Sophia were able to order a typical chicken dish. I ordered a nice cold Tiger beer and then got the chili crab, a national dish, and then some tiger prawns. As soon as I took my first bite I was living the dream. I can honestly say that I have not had crab that good in my life, and will be getting the recipe so that I can make the dish when I get home. The tiger prawns were also to die for and were smothered in garlic and chili sauce. I think there a quite a few pictures showing the excitement and pleasure on my face when I am eating these dishes.
Unfortunately we had to be back on the ship relatively early so the three of us hired a taxi to take us back to the ship. We finished up our shopping for small gifts at the mall and then went back through the line of customs to get back on the ship. As I stood on the deck of the ship saying goodbye to Singapore my reflection of the country began. I was in a very modern city, more modern than any I have been to before. The city and country itself has many regulations such as no chewing gum, no spitting, and no jaywalking, but I felt very comfortable and was not worried that the police were going to be after me for everything I did, although I obeyed the law so that was probably why. I also noticed that Singapore is a very clean city and a very, very rich city. There is a fee to own your own car so most of the vehicles I saw were BMW’s, Audi’s, Mercedes-Benz’s, and Jaguars. I also rode around in the nicest taxis, they were the new Hyundai Sonata and were decked out in every modern technology that comes with cars. I was very pleased to have visited Singapore but it was much different from any port, really any city that I have ever visited. I saw a lot of business potential there, but not a business for me. I could not see a lot of potential for eco or service tourism because there was not a lot of ecology and there was not a lot of poverty. I think the Singapore government is doing a fair job at maintaining labor regulations and keeping its citizens safe and wealthy. I do not find myself working here in the future, but I could see a visit with family or friends at some point in the future, but not until I make a lot of money because of how expensive the country is.
I am now in transit to Vietnam and will arrive there they day after next. I have been watching a lot of war movies and think it will be interesting to see how American travelers are perceived after only 40 years of chaos. I plan to have a suit made because of how cheap the country is supposed to be and I also plan on visiting a lot of the war memorials and sites that are situated in the country. Look forward to my blog post on Vietnam and know that for now I am very happy and honestly having the experience of my lifetime. I love and think about you all so much and am waiting to see your smiling faces when I get back on May 2nd!