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by Johanna Levenius, staff writer

The Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel is what comes to mind when many people think about Singapore. It is a tiny island at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, and it is both a country and a city. Its strict laws are occasionally in the news, especially if an American is found guilty of a crime. (Michael Fay, 18 at the time, was caned four times for vandalism, mostly spray painting cars.)
It’s hard to find a cleaner island than Singapore. No one is allowed to publicly chew gum; its not even sold in stores. And forget about spitting—it’s prohibited. There are penalties for everything, so when you go, read your visitor’s guide carefully and avoid doing anything foolish.

Singapore is a model of upscale Asia, a mixture of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures. In Little India, a small neighborhood in the central part of Singapore, you can experience not only the Hindu way of living, but cultural practices that are actually prohibited in India (as well as most other countries in South Asia, Malaysia and Thailand excepted.)

The Thaipusam is an annual Hindu festival that has elements of our Thanksgiving and the Jewish Yom Kippur. It falls during the full moon in the tenth month of Tamil, this year Feb. 11. To atone for their wrongdoings or show of appreciation, those who take part in the ritual walk with their families through the town physically punishing themselves. Some stick fishhooks weighted with dangling limes through their skin, walk on spike shoes, or perforate their cheeks with spears. Others carry heavy portable steel mantles decorated by peacock feathers mounted with 108 steel rods that pierce their chests and backs.

These rituals are undertaken to cleanse themselves of guilt from wrongs done in the past year, to give thanks for a safe birth, a new job, or some other success, or to give themselves strength and courage for the coming year. The participants are in a trance, and their wounds barely bleed. It is amazing to watch, but requires a strong stomach.

Singapore’s Chinatown is the center for annual Chinese New Year festivities that are held all over the island, as majority of Singapore’s population are of Chinese descent. Chinatown offers great architecture, a variety of Chinese-style shophouses, narrow houses built to accommodate both work and living. The shop is on the bottom floor, while the living quarters are found above. It is a interesting place for an afternoon stroll.

Animal lovers can enjoy the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Imagine polar bears on a tropical island. The Zoo takes great care to maintain a cool environment for them. Other animals include kangaroos, white tigers, and white rhinos. Eating breakfast with the orangutans is a possibility.
Interested in shopping? Head to Orchard Road, where you will find the big malls and such globally popular stores as Giordano and Ralph Lauren.

After a full day of shopping, enjoy a great night out down at the Quays, which offer a variety of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Make sure not to forget the memorable Singapore Sling at The Raffles Hotel.

The famous Raffles Hotel. Make sure to stop by the Long Bar for a delicious Singapore Sling.

Photo by Jan Derk - Wikipedia

The exquisite white tigers at the Singapore Zoo.

Photo by Nachoman - Wikipedia

The restored shophouses on Bussorah Pedestrian Mall in Kampong Glam on the way to the Masjid Sultan Mosque.

Photo by Johanna Levenius

This man bears a heavy steel mantle decorated with peacock feathers during the annual Thaipusam Festival in Little India.

Web photo

The Singapore Skyline.

Internet Photo - www.fns.sg



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