Some practical information for those who is going to Singapore
Here are some observations we made during our stay in Singapore:
1. Unique modes of transportation within the country
Singapore’s public transportation system is comprehensive, efficient and cheap.
• Trains. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system started in 1988 and has grown to 131 air-conditioned trains serving 63 stations along three lines. There is also a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system that serves a couple of neighboring towns. Depending on the station, the first train rolls out at about 5:15am, last trains run until around 12:50am. The system is easy to use; fares are easy to figure out and collection is automatic. Cost for a single trip is between 80 cents and $1.80.
• Buses. Around 11,000 buses operate on 256 routes covering practically every corner of the island. Buses run from around 6am to 11.40pm. Fares are cheap: minimum 70 cents on non-airconditioned; maximum $1.70 on air-conditioned buses). Bus drivers are generally helpful and will tell you the exact fare when boarding.
• Taxis. More than 18,000 taxis ply the roads and are a popular mode of transport. However, be warned that during morning and evening rush hours, as well as rain falls, it is almost impossible to get one if you haven’t book ahead. Singapore’s taxis are clean and generally in good condition. Most drivers speak or understand some English. Tipping is not necessary. Most taxi stands are found just outside shopping centers, hotels, and other public buildings.
• Trishaws. The quaint trishaw, a bicycle with a side car, has virtually disappeared from Singapore’s streets. Today it exists only for tourists who want to experience something of the old days. For the information on trishaw tours, ask your hotel concierge or tour desk. A tour around town, including China town, Arab Street and Little India for around 30 to 45 minutes should cost about S$25
2. Unique types of accommodation
• In terms of accommodation, amenities and service standards, Singapore’s top-end hotels easily compare with the best in the world. Deluxe, first-class and business-oriented hotels have all modern technological facilities as elsewhere.
• If you intend to stay longer, you might want to consider checking into a serviced apartment. Singapore’s serviced apartments generally offer all the amenities of 4- to 5-star hotels, but come with the added facilities of a fully-equipped kitchen and dining area, for significantly lower rates than a hotel room.
• The number of backpacker hostels has decreased with the recent demolition of old buildings on Bencoolen Street, the once traditional backpacker haunt. What’s left is rather dismal, and for the price you pay in some, you’re probably better off in a good budget hotel – it costs only marginally more, but in return you get much cleaner beds and greater security.
3. Local etiquette and customs
• If you are invited to the home of a local, it is customary to take a small gift along – whether some cakes or pastries, fruit, chocolates or flowers. Never bring alcohol, wine or beer to a home of a Muslim though;
• Most Singaporeans remove their shoes at the door so as not to bring dirt into the house. No host would insist that visitors do the same, but it is only polite to follow this custom;
• Asian meals are usually served family-style in large bowls or plates placed in the centre of the table, with diners helping themselves to a little from each bowl or plate. Piling up your plate with food is impolite.
4. Regional food and beverages
The combination which really has its own identity and provides Singapore with its most indigenous cuisine is Peranakan food. Peranakan are descendants of early migrants from China who settled in Singapore and married the locals. The product of this union is the unique Peranakan culture and a cuisine which deftly blends Chinese ingredients with Malay spices and herbs – resulting in a cuisine that is both imaginative and tasty. Look out for dishes such Otak Otak, a blend of fish, coconut milk, chilli paste, galangal and herbs wrapped in banana leaf. Another is Spicy Fish Head Curry. Despite the somewhat unappealing site of a giant fish head floating in a thick sea of gravy, the succulent flesh and the accompanying hot and sour gravy flavored with curry powder and tamarind juice is a delicious and satisfying taste sensation.
As for the beverages, Tea is somewhat traditional. There is the Indian Te Tarik which is very strong and sweet with lots of condensed milk and made to froth by pouring the mixture from one pot into another from a great (arms length) distance. There are also many Chinese teas available, and you can indulge in a leisurely ‘tea ceremony’ at several of the shops. Be warned that the ‘heavier’ black teas are nothing like what you normally find in a bag.
• Jade. Chinatown and Tanglin Shopping Center offer a wide selection of sculptures, amulets, bracelets and rings in auspicious jade.
• Antiques and Crafts. Regional and Oriental antiques and crafts can be found at Tanglin Shopping Center, Holland Road Shopping Center, Chinatown Point and nearby shophouses, and Arab Street.
• Gold. Little India and Chinatown are the best locations for cheap gold. Gold is sold by weight, workmanship adding relatively little to the price.
• Oriental Outfits. Different versions of the Oriental outfit are available. A happy coat is a great for lounging at home.
• Carpets. Among the dealers in antiques and craft items at Dempsey Road are several specializing in carpets. The prices are very competitive by international standards.