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.