For those of you who have spent too long in one place while travelling, you will be all too familiar with the fine art of VISA refreshing. For certain countries with restrictions on temporary visa stays (for instance Indonesia’s 30-day limit), a simple hop over the border and back through the country’s customs will suffice as a renewal on that 30-day cap.
My stay in Indonesia, Jakarta, had come to a point where I either move on in my travels, or jump across the border and flash my passport on a fresh page to be remarked with new ink. I had a desire to stay in Jakarta as I will learning a few words in bahasa and was enjoying the local culture, but as a typical westerner I was missing the dazzling display of Christmas festivities that I grew up with as a kid. Thankfully, just around the corner in Singapore is one of the world’s most decorated streets, so I took my visa refresher holiday for two nights in Singapore.
Orchard Road is Singapore’s main shopping district, it was also the first place I went to as soon as I left the airport. You see, Orchard Road isn’t just any normal shopping district in South-East Asia; it is the the cream of the crop of centralised hubs of fashion and accessory labels for the south-east. Along the Road there are the age-old labels that appeal to so many in the fashion world: Gucci, Prada, Dolce, Rolex, Tiffany’s and the rest. These stores were a little out of my reach as a backpacker though, given, one jacket would be my week’s spendings on food and drinks – so I was cautious not to get too close to any stores. Singapore as a general can sting some people who have been travelling around South-East Asia. Its currency, the Singaporean Dollar, is fiscally very strong and prices are similar to those of what you would pay in a western country.
Singapore’s financial strength is a sign of its strong trade industry and its presence as the banking, finance and trade hub of South-East Asia. You can easily be reminded of this by having a look out over the port, which is always lined with moored trade shipping liners stretched out over the horizon. Even the appearance of Singapore is reminiscent of its yearning to be separate from the rest of Malaysia. The city employs thousands of street cleaners to uphold the immaculate presentation of the streets, gardens and buildings to ensure its image is unlike any other bustling city in the south-east. The Singaporean government has also upheld this standard throughout its communities by imposing strict laws on littering.
The clean streets and and synthetic beauty of the city revolves around the class of its landmark tourist sites as well. The Raffles Hotel is one well-kept Singaporean hotels that guests visit just for its nostalgic value. The hotel was started up by Armenian hoteliers in 1887. It is rumoured that during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Japanese soldiers found diplomats and officials dancing in the Raffles ballroom, and allowed them to have one last dance before they were shot. However, that story remains in contention.
The other, and more recent amazing architectural feat is the hotel Marina Bay Sands, which when seen in the distance from the city, has a ship-like structure sitting on the top of it where the pool area and bar is. This ship-like structure is reminiscent of the trade vessels that are always present in Singapore’s port. Marina Bay Sands infinity pool is now the hotspot for travellers keen on taking their photo as it overlooks the amazing city. On your way to Marina Bay Sands we looked at the aquarium, which was very impressive, however it is one of those places that will always be crowded.
If you’re a traveller and in need of a break from the steamy streets of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, or any other south-east city, consider Singapore as a visa refresher. But be mindful of your finances.