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Trip Report: How I Avoided Death in Singapore

Night Of Good Dreams

Night Of Good Dreams

Singapore is both a country and a city (kind of like New York is both a state and a city), which leads to some confusion. When people say “I’m going to Singapore”, listeners will typically assume they mean the city just as when people say “I’m going to New York”, unless it’s been otherwise qualified. I visited the city of Singapore inside the country of Singapore early this year, but sadly didn’t have the opportunity to see the rest of the country of Singapore.

Singapore (the city) is filled with an amazing set of buildings, set around the edge of a beautiful bay. The architecture will impress you with its engineering, and the culture will shock you with a mix of foods, styles and dress from around the world, all thrown together in a single place. You’ll love walking (safely) around at night through its amazingly lit up cityscapes.

Crime in Singapore

Visiting Singapore brings about an odd mix of two feelings: absolute safety combined with a distant fear. You see, Singapore’s government is rather strict on crime and some crimes carry pretty severe punishments (e.g. caning). What does this mean to the average tourist? There is (almost) no crime!

Consider for a moment, what percentage of laws you know and remember in your own country vs those in the other countries you visit. And when the punishment level goes up, your nervousness about your ability to cross your t’s and dot your i’s goes up as well. Think twice before doing anything from J-Walking on up. And that’s where my troubles almost began…

Is chewing gum littering the street with sticky messes?
Solution: ban the sale of it! Done! [Oddly, you can bring in a personal supply and use it, but you can’t sell it].

Drugs getting out of hand?
Solution: Ban them all! And I don’t mean just the dangerous ones, but nearly all of them altogether. Many common over-the-counter and prescription drugs available in the rest of the world are flat-out illegal in Singapore. Seriously: check every single medication you might bring in against the current list of banned substances, as you don’t want to make mistakes in this country. And apparently the list changes frequently.

My Near-Death-Experience

That brings me to my adventure with Singapore, which happened long before I even got to the border. You see, I had a nasty cough. So, my doctor prescribed a stronger-than-average cough syrup that contained codeine. “By the way,”, I started, “I’m going to Singapore. I’m not positive that this will be legal to take into the country”. “Oh yes”, he assured me, “it’s a very common medication and is legal everywhere.” So, I took him at his experienced word and boarded the first plane, complete with cough syrup in pocket. During my layover in Japan, I decided to double check this wisdom and pulled out my phone and looked up the list of illegal drugs in Singapore.

It turns out that Singapore has 3 categories of drugs that are illegal, classified into “A”, “B” and “C” lists. And Codeine is on the A list, being a heavily controlled narcotic. And violating the A-list means, believe it or not, a death sentence. I was suddenly very glad that I had checked the list while waiting for my next plane, and promptly threw away my precious cough medicine just in time.

So, the moral of this story: check everything you might bring before entering Singapore. Supposedly there are exception forms you can fill out, but I didn’t realize this until far too late (and I’m not even sure if my cough syrup would have been “excepted” anyway). And even then, I’m not sure I’d want to risk a death sentence for filling the form incorrectly.

But, on to the good stuff: it’s a beautiful city!

All that being said, when you walk around through the beautiful, glowing city at night you won’t worry at all about being safe because it’s strangely obvious that crime just doesn’t exist here. In fact, you typically won’t even see any law enforcement officials (although they’re definitely around. Just not in uniform.) Tourists and residents wander the clean, gum-free, streets without worry. And for those wondering about language: everyone speaks English fluently. It all makes for a marvelous experience. At least if you don’t have a cough.

Things you should do in Singapore

  • Visit the city at night. Sure, it’s pretty during the day, but it’s just not comparable to the nighttime version.
  • Walk around the entire bay. The entire city is full of interesting things, and its all centered around the bay itself. Every once in a while you’ll notice something off to the sides, and don’t hesitate to leave your path to explore the areas nearby before returning to your jaunt.
  • Walk across the Helix Bridge (at night of course!).
  • Eat dinner in one of the many wonderful restaurants. I didn’t have a single meal in Singapore that wasn’t enjoyable. So if you enjoy good food you’re in for a treat.
  • Marvel at the engineering of the ship in the sky (AKA “The Marina Bay Sands“).
  • Go shopping in one of the endless numbers of stores in the shopping districts and malls.
    • (And if you have children with you, most shopping centers have play structures inside them.)
  • Visit the Art Science Museum.

Enjoy Singapore if you make it to that area of the world, as it’s certainly worthy of a visit. Just obey the rules.

For Photographers:

Bring your tripod! Expect to take some long exposure images at night, and a tripod is a must if you want to keep them blur-free.

Besides the obvious stops mentioned above, also be sure visit:

Pictures of mine from Singapore

Besides the images on this page, please visit my website for other pictures of Singapore

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