It’s our final full day in Singapore and it has been quite an experience here. It’s my first time being away from Pittsburgh for this long and though I love it here, I’m ready to go home. I thought it may be appropriate to share a bit of what have been my favorite experiences and what I will miss from here.
The food – Is anyone surprised by this? Didn’t think so! Although food isn’t necessarily a part of our syllabus, we eat three times a day and with all the different dishes here in Singapore, there was always something new to try. Makeda and Ricky have both blogged about some of our experiences. Hawker centers are definitely something I wish we had in the United States. It is rare that you spend more than $6 SGD on a dish and there is always plenty of food. Having the freshest food, produce, and fruit is something many Singaporeans might take for granted. Getting a cup of fruit on the Pitt campus costs around $3.50 USD but here it is just $1 SGD, about $0.76 USD. Foods from many different regions- Malay, Singaporean, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Muslim, and more can all be found easily here. Even the local food chains were popular with our group, like Bread Talk or Island Creamery. Milo, a sort of chocolate drink, is something we will all miss. Fresh lime juice? That is going to be the hardest for me to part with, personally.
The people – Okay, there are people in Pittsburgh too, but not the kind of people we’ve met in Singapore and Malaysia. We’ve encountered some of the most genuine and nicest people here that were so happy to share their knowledge of the region with us. Mandy and Georgie may have been the most influential locals on our experiences here. They showed us the best foods to try, best places for shopping, where to go in our free time, and even taught us some “Singlish”. I know Ricky will be missing his friends from the Dorsett Regency lobby in Kuala Lumpur. Nelly, a baker from the Red Garden in Georgetown is someone we will all miss, she was very sweet to us and made the best cakes. Actually, all of the people from Penang were great to us. Everyone was so excited to hear we were all the way from the United States and I never tired of hearing “welcome to my country”.
The MRT! – It is so easy, inexpensive, and fast to get around this country! I have never been lost on the MRT (ok, so we missed our stop once, no big deal…) and it is rare to find a destination not serviced by this subway system. It’s efficient, clean, and convenient. How am I ever going to drive or take a Port Authority bus again? Even the buses here are more efficient, the card system that they have in place is much simpler than scrambling for exact change and the buses have two floors so they’re not as crowded. Public transportation in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Pittsburgh are all very different, and the latter two cities could definitely use some improvement!
Beaches – The only time we went to a beach in Singapore was yesterday at Sentosa Island with Mandy and Georgie. Sentosa is very artificial and not a natural beach; it’s a tourist location and more of an amusement park than much else. It is much warmer here than I prefer, but I can’t get over the fact that the people who live here can go to the beach any time they want! It only cost us $3 SGD to get to the beaches, and there are no other costs. Imagine heading over to the beach in February instead of shoveling the snow from your driveway! The lack of changing seasons and constant heat wouldn’t be the ideal weather for me, but I’d appreciate having a beach as an inexpensive and fun place to hang out for anyone of any age.
The (built) environment – Taking a walk or a drive through Singapore is a lot more pleasant than in the Steel City. Everything is very well maintained here and complimented with trees and gardens. It’s not a necessity, but it’s nice. And there are NO POT HOLES here! Everything is constantly under construction, much like Pittsburgh, but Singapore seems to have their priorities in order. Issues with roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure maintenance reported by residents have to be dealt with by the city in a matter of days. The MRT, sidewalks, public spaces, and the city in general is a very clean place. I love Pittsburgh, but a little more maintenance really would make a world of difference at home.