Life in TransitA Digital Nomad in Asia

Happy 47th National Day Singapore 2012

Soldiers march by during the closing ceremonies of the National Day Parade in Singapore.

I apologize for the slideshow breaking, but we are transitioning to a new theme and the slides show will be back asap

I had the pleasure of attending the National Day celebrations at Marina Bay today. The event featured acrobatics by police on motorcycles, the customary display of Air Force might and Navy boats weaving their way in the water. I felt it was a rather low key birthday celebration.

Still, there were many people out to lend support to this island nation on its 47th birthday.

Singapore has been my home away from home for the past eight months. While backpacking across South East Asia, I always find myself on this island. Friends, family and a great infrastructure have made me feel welcome.

I thought I would commemorate this day by listing the five things I like about Singapore.

1. Transportation

While Singaporeans frequently complain about their commutes by public transit, I am in love with this transit system. There are many busses and I frequently find more than one way to get to a destination. Each stop along the way is clearly labeled at every bus stop so it is easy to see where you can reach from your current location.

The MRT or subway system is equally impressive as many of my destinations are within walkable distance of a subway station. If it isn’t walkable, subway stations are frequently tied to a bus terminus or at least a bus stop with many travel options.

Fare payment is simple with a NETs or EZ-Link card. These RFID cards allow you to tap in and tap out when entering or exiting a bus or MRT station. The fare distance is automatically calculated, along with transfer costs.

I can’t say I particularly enjoy taking the transit system back in Canada yet I have no problems hopping on a bus or MRT train here in Singapore.

In the Heartlands, or the main residential communities, feeder busses take you around for a little more than SGD$0.70 with some of the newer communities even having light rail instead of busses.

2. Housing

These Heartland communities are very well planned. They are usually comprised of affordable housing called “HDB Flats”.

Dense HDB Flat style housing usually surrounds a playground and a commerce center with a grocery or convenience stores and other facilities where you can go about your daily errands. Doctors, dentists, barbers and more are only a stones throw away from where you live. Not much further away, there will be a central mall with even more options to customize your personal style.

Unfortunately, while housing is great for the locals, the costs of hotels and hostels are far more expensive than many of the other Asian countries.

One benefit a visitor can share with the locals is the food.

3. Food

You can always find cheap and good food at the local hawker centre. For only $2.50, you can enjoy a delicious serving of Chicken Rice. Wonton (dumping) noodles, Nasi Lemak, Laksa and other awesome varieties of local food can also be found in the $2.00 to $3.00 range.

If you can’t take the heat in the open air hawker centres, especially with so much chili in the food, you can also enjoy this cuisine in the air conditioned, more modern versions of these centres like Kopitiam, Food Republic and others. You can expect to pay about $1.00 to $1.50 more for a similar dish for the air condition comfort and more restaurant or shopping mall food court like atmospheres.

I personally think having chicken rice in an open hawker centre combines a great food and atmosphere of the Singaporean way of life. It’s something you have to try as a tourist.

While standard common sense and caution always apply, Singapore’s food and safety laws are about as high as that of North America so I never have second thoughts about where I’m eating.

4. Safety

Besides food safety, Singapore is a place you can trust with your personal safety, again with the proper use of common sense. There are strict gun laws and I have never seen anyone walking around with a weapon, except for maybe a camera monopod.

I feel safe walking anywhere in Singapore at 4 am in the morning. I feel more confident in my safety here than I do in other countries, including Canada.

I frequently empty out my pockets and have nothing worth stealing and walk around towns I visit in the middle of the night just to see what life is like in that town when most people go to sleep.

5. Infrastructure and Technology

I mentioned the NETs and EZ-Link cards previously. These cards are ubiquitous around Singapore. They can be used for busses, as library cards, to purchase items at 7-11. Using similar technologies, when you travel along certain roads, toll fare is automatically deducted. The same applies to entering and exiting a parking facility.

Being a cashless society is one of it’s goals and it might be the first country in the world to achieve it.

As for the city infrastructure, I was impressed with the array of technologies used to implement the Marina Bay area. Twenty years ago, this land did not exist. It was part of the sea. After reclaiming the land, new city planning technologies and theories were put into play. For more information on that, visit the Marina Bay Gallery.

Even a friend who once never saw a need to see Singapore was impressed by its technological advancement when he came for a visit.

One of the quotes on the National Day Fun packs really resounded with me.

It says “Identity is knowing who we are and what we can be.”

I think that’s a great part of being Singaporean. Knowing that this island is your home, and that its youth gives you the opportunity to play a key role in the shaping of its history.

Happy 47th Birthday Singapore! I look forward to many more years visiting you!


Tagged: Singapore
Posted in: Features