Singapore: Botanicals, Breakdancing, and Beyondness

We both came down with an acute case of culture shock when we disembarked in Singapore after visiting India. The sudden transition from chaos and contradiction to cleanliness, order, and efficiency surprised us, but was certainly not unwelcome. Two days is not enough time to really take in a country, even a country that is only 26 miles wide by 14 miles long and therefore feels more like a city than a city-state. As our friend Holly commented, “It’s a half marathon or a full one–your choice.” Trying to take it in, however, was loads of fun. Here’s what we learned during our too-short stay:

  • Life-size cardboard cutout Singaporeans welcome ship passengers and direct them out of the cruise terminal and into the first of hundreds of malls in the city.
  • The subway queue ladies teach Singaporeans and foreigners how to line up to board the trains. They also urge those in the queue to stand aside when the subway doors open in order to allow passengers to exit the train before those trying to board squeeze through the small opening. The subway queue ladies make it pretty clear that following these simple rules can turn subway passengers’ frowns upside down. The lesson: if you need to teach people manners, be cute, be funny, and wear awesome dresses.
  • Indian superstars are just as fabulous in Singapore’s Little India as they are in Bollywood.
  • Hindu and Buddhist temples are beautiful in different ways.
  • Hosting visiting students and faculty from the National University of Singapore for a fancy dinner, giving tours of the ship, and telling them all about Semester at Sea is, seriously, the best way to spend an evening in Singapore.
  • Tiger beer is delicious.
  • Coke slurpees from 7/11 are even more delicious.
  • Singaporeans like to bowl. The proper ceremony for celebrating after rolling a strike or spare is badass break-dancing.
  • Breakdance Bowling in Singapore from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

  • The cutest, friendliest, and most effective kite salesperson in the world works in Singapore’s Chinatown. We were more charmed by this young lady than anyone we’ve met to date. Here’s hoping she grows up to attend to the National University of Singapore and sail on Semester at Sea someday…when we are also working on the ship again so that we can have the pleasure of her company for a much longer period of time.
  • The Singapore Botanical Gardens are stunning, peaceful, and good for the soul. The orchid collection is mind-blowingly beautiful. Fellow shipmates, world travelers, and orchid enthusiasts Tom and Brett informed us that these gardens beat the pants off any botanical gardens they’ve ever visited.
  • While shopping you need to watch out for the Snatch Thieves, make friends with Bobby the white dog, and try to comprehend Beyondness of Singing at K Box!
  • An observant eye can spot a great set of knockers.
  • Bathroom locations are clearly marked.
  • Buddhist warrior statues are intimidating.

Singapore is a very fun city(-state). The people were warm and welcoming, and we managed to stay on the good side of the law by not spitting (FINE), selling chewing gum (FINE), performing acts of vandalism (IMPRISONMENT and/or PUBLIC CANING), or possessing any reefer (DEATH). The bottom line? If you don’t steal, spit, sell gum, steal, vandalize, possess drugs, or do anything worse than all that, having a fantastic time in the (mer)Lion City takes no effort whatsoever. We loved it and would visit again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

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