After spending a month in Indonesia biking around the islands of Bali and Lombok our 30-day tourist visa was coming to an end and it was time to begin planning the next leg of our adventure. We knew we definitely wanted to see Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand so we figured the best route was to fly to the north end of Vietnam, travel south across the country and once finished simply take a bus west into neighbouring Cambodia. So Hanoi was our destination. We booked a flight for $200USD (a little on the higher side but it seemed average with yearly rates) with Tiger Air. The flight time was only about 6-7 hours, and featured a 12-hour layover in Singapore, which would give us ample opportunity to check out this small but prosperous country.
On Nov 1st we packed our bags, printed our approval letters and boarded our plane bound for Singapore. After a solid 4-hour jaunt we came to a rough landing at Changi Airport in Singapore. Since our layover was from 9pm-9am we knew we really wouldn’t be able to see much more than the nightlife in the beautiful city, so we sought after the most bustling nightlife district on the tourist map – the Quays. Once we’d checked our bags, we boarded the MRT (Mass Rail Transit) and headed straight for the heart of the city.
The first feeling you get from Singapore is that of cleanliness. There doesn’t seem to be any garbage anywhere. The asphalt roads are new and pothole free, trash bins are at every corner, and of course there’s no gum anywhere since it was banned by the country in 1992. Under the rule, no gum is allowed to be bought or sold inside Singapore (aside from a prescription) and there is a $500 fine for spitting out gum on the streets. We thought about this little rule as we realized we’d brought in a pack of gum, wondering how much we could potentially sell the pack for! As we walked around admiring the clean streets and fresh infrastructure of the city the next thing we really began to notice was the prices. The cheapest option at the small street diner we stopped at was $7/plate (a drastic change from the $1-2$ meals in Bali). We’d taken out the equivalent of $90USD, which we assumed would afford the two of us a fun night on the town, with some to spare for airport goodies – we couldn’t have been more wrong.
We rounded the corner to find our destination at the Quays and were pleasantly surprised to see a bustling bar and club area with many options, lots of people, a vibrant atmosphere, and a human slingshot for those that’d built up enough liquid courage to be launched into the air. We decided we’d start with a few beers, happy hour had ended but we weren’t worried. The first menu we looked at the cheapest beer was $10 – TEN DOLLARS?! This had to be some kind of mistake, we figured it was just a fancier bar, so on to the next on we went, but again we found exact same pricing. This is about when we realized that $10/beer was the happy hour price, and that regular price beer started at $13 dollars and up – WHAT?! After a meal, a train ticket, and a water from a 7/11 we literally could afford 2 beers each, maximum. We decided on one beer each just to say we had one and instead walked around the neat village of the Quays, admiring and wondering what an average income in Singapore must be to have a Friday night on the town that probably is anywhere from a $150 night to a $400 night.
While we’d spent more than anticipated, Singapore truly was a fascinating place and we’re happy to have seen it. At 2:30am our eyes began to droop and our bodies began to crash from the Red Bull we’d had a few hours earlier and we knew we better get to the airport. After a short cab ride we were back. Changi Airport is an incredible airport that actually features a number of different forms of entertainment; there are botanical gardens, sunflower gardens, media rooms, a massive slide, and a movie theatre to keep you busy. We decided to head for the darkness of the movie theatre at 4am where we plugged in our Ipods, lay down on the carpet and slept listening to Scary Movie 3 in the background until it was time to board our flight. Although our stop in Singapore was short, I’m not sure we could have afforded to stay any longer and I feel content enough having spent one night out in the cleanest and most expensive place I’ve ever been.