Singapore

Singapore is one of the last 3 remaining City-States in the world, along with Monaco and the Vatican. It was a British colony and was ravaged during World War 2. It got independence from Malaysia in 1965, after Malaysia got independence from Britain. Known for being the economic powerhouse of Asia, it's a hugely modern city with primary economy based on banking, finance, shopping and services.

The Arrival

I flew in from Hong Kong on Cathay Airlines in Premium Economy. It was a 4 hour flight, and only 1/3 full in that cabin. Since it was 1am to 5am, I was attempting to adjust sleep still. I landed at 4 something am, and since I was only there for 2 days, I just had my carry on, and off the plane, into customs, and into arrivals. The Cathay terminal doesn't have a train connection, so I had to wait for the bus to show up to shuttle me to the primary terminal. Then it was a walk to the train, and a 20 minute ride downtown.

I had a mixed bag of experiences during my stay at the JW Marriott South Beach, and you can look at that review there. It was 6am or so and obviously my room was not ready, as that's just insane to expect, but they did give me a keycard to go shower in the workout area. So up I went to the 21st floor and showered and changed, took some pictures of the city. Then I stored my bag, got early access to the Executive lounge and had breakfast.
Downtown Singapore


Walking around Singapore

I then headed out to Singapore proper on foot. I passed a few remnants of the colonialism and of world war 2 as I made my way to the Marina Gardens by the Bay. It's a pretty nice green space near the Sands Hotel on the southeast side of Singapore. It has many many acres of gardens, local plants, a bit of historical fossil evidence, stunning views of the city and the Marina Sands hotel, and a lot of open green space with pathways. It was very pleasant and lots of families out on a Saturday morning.
War Memorial
Sands Hotel

More walking

I walked back into the downtown area, and along the river to the tourist drinking area. Obviously this is geared towards Aussie and other western tourists, and at night is quite lively if not exceptionally casual. Lots of bars and restaurants with various gimmicky and highly priced, items.
I continued back towards the JW, and saw that the Raffles Hotel, a Singpore and SE Asia institution for 100 years, was under major renovation and was a bit sad as the Longbar is world famous for it's drinks. I walked around the hotel and discovered that the marketing people at Raffles are genius and kept the bar open during construction! So, being a tourist, one does what a tourist must in Singapore, and have a $35 Singapore Sling which is made out of like a dozen ingredients and was originally made for women to be able drink, and bypass the stigma of the time period, as it didn't appear to be alcoholic back in the early part of the century. It is a very easy beverage to drink and in 90 degrees a welcome one.
Raffles Hotel
Interesting note, is the floor of the Long Bar is one of the only places in the entire City/State that you can litter.

I finally at that point got ahold of my friend Teck and we made our plans for that evening. One of them being the Sands Casino, so I realized I needed more Singapore Dollars. There are two good options in Singapore for money exchange, one, a bank ATM, which will give you a good rate, minus your non-brand atm fee, or... the Money Changers arcade downtown. I decided for the money changers, as they had a tad better exchange rate than an ATM. On the way, as it was getting quite warm and I am basically on the equator, I took the pedestrian subways downtown which are full of shops and food stands, and lots and lots of fruit, then when near the arcade I went above ground. There I stumbled upon one of the coolest things I have ever seen, a 40 foot high map of the world build out plants.
I went to the money changers, and found there were a dozen of them, all run by Muslims, which is a good thing, because based on texts from the Koran, they can't screw you over, and each one with a bit of a different rate depending on the quality of the money (yes, if you have a ripped or wrinkled bill, you get less!), or the size of the bill. I found the one that had the best rate for a $100 bill in crisp condition.

The Evening

By then, the day was waning on, and I had agreed to meet Teck for dinner around 6. I went back to the hotel, which had texted me a couple hours earlier that my room was ready, and checked in fully, went to my room and changed out for the evenings activities.

First we went out to dinner at a Japanese BBQ. These are places where you order different marinated and seasoned meats, vegetables, seafood, etc, and cook it yourself. They are mighty mighty tasty places and a good social shared cooking experience. After that we went to Teck's local Karoke Bar, Limelight where we fettered away a lot of time and a good portion of his stored bottle of scotch. Linda, the owner is just a delightful woman and it's a nice, completely local and authentic Singapore experience.
Then it was off to the Sands and the Casino. This is the building where the top looks like an ocean liner. The bottom is a very high scale mall with strange features borrowed from around the world, like the canals of Venice, and casino. As a Singapore resident, Teck had to pay a $100 sgd "tax" to enter with me. Us foreigners get fleeced for free. We went to the main floor, and it was a very Asian experience with lots and lots of card games. Asian casinos are very business like. Only in the VIP area's usually do they have better decorative features and intimate layouts. Also, typically Asian's prefer card games where they have more choice through the course of play, and take some time gambling each round. My favorite is Roulette, so we went to the $10 table and proceeded to place our bets. Not so fast... that $10 was ONLY if you bet on a single number. If you wanted to bet lines, colors or odds evens, you had to bet $40 (insert massive eyeroll here). So, that wiped out us rather rapidly and overall the casino was a mundane and stark affair. I don't understand how it's listed as in the top 10 casinos in the world honestly.
Venice anyone? Casino from upon high
We then kicked around for a little while longer. It was now about 2am and I was ready to crash. Teck was also tired, so we called it a night but it was so good to see my good friend again.

I slept pretty well, and got up the next morning, packed up, hit the lounge for breakfast and then back off to the Airport and the Cathay First/Business Lounge

Summary

Singapore is an incredibly rich and safe modern city and country. They are primarily ethnic Chinese and an Asian economic powerhouse that can dictate the policies of neighbors just by sheer financial clout. The downtown is heavily geared towards banking during the week, and around it, tourists and locals on the weekends. It has a fairly well preserved colonial area of old British administrative buildings. There is a very large shopping area called Tang Plaza which is much more your normal type of malls and stores. The safety is without comparison. You can walk drunk with money sticking out of your pockets and the most that is likely to happen is someone will help you to find your hotel. A lot of Singapore is geared towards the ultra rich, but you can experience that for a few days for not an insane amount of money. Hotel deals are around, but not near downtown. It is on the equator, so it's always hot hot and humid humid. I enjoy Singapore but I can only take a few days at a time, as I run out of activities after 3 or 4 days.



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