singapore.JPGSingapore is a small but vibrant city. Perhaps it’s because I’m on exchange but almost every day is filled with something to do, and by contrast Seattle is a very boring place. The national pastime of Singapore is eating. The city is littered with food courts (AKA hawker centers) inside malls and out in the open. Speaking of malls, Singapore has an abundance of them despite its small size, and most of them combine shopping with dining and other activities such as movies and karaoke.

Being an international city, Singapore has many big international banks (pretty much none in Seattle), corporations, and perhaps too many foreigners. This is probably one of the reasons Singapore offers great nightlife. There are many hangout places all over Singapore and it has a big club scene. Many students (mostly exchange) go clubbing every Wednesday as it is the ladies’ night, meaning no cover charge for ladies at clubs and bars. Aside from partying many people also go to late night movie showings and sing karaoke until three in the morning. Singapore is also a very safe city, going home alone at late hours is probably no problem – a stark contrast from the crime infested University District. Entertainment in general is very expensive, especially on weekends or holidays. Singapore also has very high taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Food on the other hand is very cheap comparing to the States: a meal at a hawker center will cost around five Singapore dollars (around 3.5 USD). However restaurants are very expensive, a meal would often cost around thirty Singapore dollars. Transportation is also relatively cheap and public transit is very convenient (except during rush hours when they are like sardine packers). The MRT (light rail/subway) system covers almost the entire city and buses come very often and go to just about anywhere. If that’s not enough there are also many taxis, there is no need to call for one, simple walk down to any main street and you can flag one down very easily; they are also cheap compared to the States.

ndp.JPGDue to its small size, Singapore has relatively few tourist attractions; it is mostly a hub for traveling around Southeast Asia. Singapore heavily promotes the few attractions it has, such as the Night Safari, Bird Park, or holiday events such as the National Day Parade (NDP). It’s probably better to see them but don’t get your hopes up too high. For instance, the 2008 NDP was heavily promoted with signs, t-shirts, and all sorts of hype everywhere to make it seem like the biggest event of the year. We sat by the Singapore River next to the symbolic Merlion for three hours on that day and all we saw was a few jets flying by and less than fifteen minutes of fireworks. Getting in and out of the crowd took more time than the event itself.