Singapore: The Lion (City) Roars Tonight!

Travel Destination

Michael Taylor flies from Hong Kong to regional rival Singapore on assignment to cover the Singapore Human Capital Summit for an English language newspaper in Hong Kong.

It’s my first trip to the self-proclaimed “Lion City”, as Singaporeans like to refer to their town. What will I turn up?

Do first impressions count? If so, these are my first impressions of Singapore.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a former British Crown Colony. Like Hong Kong, Singapore is predominately Chinese.

Unlike Hong Kong, however, Singapore – at first glance, at least – seems significantly more multi-cultural. Not everyone looks the same. Singapore is definitely NOT Hong Kong!

Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? I have yet to find out.

Chek Lap Kok International Airport

Singapore International Airport, which I’ve heard so my about, seems amazingly laid back compared to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok!

Where are all the food stalls? Where are all the shops? Where are all the people?

But Singapore International Airport DOES seem rather STRESS FREE – unlike Bangkok or Bali  … Not so many hoops to jump through …

The terminal that I arrive at (I think there are four) has more the feel of a hotel than an airport.

I can’t quite put my finger on it. But I don’t get that same adrenaline rush arriving in Singapore that I always get when I arrive in Hong Kong.

Singaporean English, La!

Singapore arrival sing - please hold! (1)
Signs at customs, but what do they mean? Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The lines at immigration are short. And there’s this sign that tells you to “Please Hold”. And I’m thinking, like, “Hold what?”

Am I supposed to hold my passport, my boarding pass, my ticket, my arrival card, my pen (in case I didn’t fill out my arrival card correctly) … my temper?

The words “Please Hold” are put next to a fist enclosed in an octagon – you know, like on a stop sign (with a fist in it?)

I decide that the sign is supposed to mean, “Please Wait”. I think that this is what is known as “Singlish” – you know, Singaporean English.

No Confirmation Letter – Now What?

We are greeted by a greeter. He is polite. He asks if we have letters verifying that we have reservations at the hotel that he represents. We all say, “No”, but it doesn’t matter.

Our greeter leads us through the terminal outside. It’s a ridiculously short journey from baggage claim to pick-up point. It takes, like, two minutes!

When we get outside, I am somewhat stunned to see the open air parking lot – and there are trees situated between the cars! It kind of reminds me of Oakland Airport in the 1970s.

Hong Kong Media

On our ways to the hotel, I chat with my two fellow journalists from Hong Kong – reporters from Chinese language newspapers. And I look out the window of the van that was sent to pick us up.

There is a cluster of stylish high rise office towers here, a smattering of low-rise colonial era buildings there. But most of all there is this sense of space. It all seems very low key.

First impressions of Singapore? Hard to say. Hong Kong and Singapore seem to have so very much – and so very little – in common. Maybe this is why we travel.

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