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SINGAPORE (updated 10/2012):Entering as pedestrian via Johor Bahru/Woodlands ('Causeway', from Malaysia)Usually no problem, but humiliating random checks. Waiting time on average 30min, Fridays and Sundays much longer. No duty free importation of cigarettes (except one open pack).Entering with car via Johor Bahru/Woodlands ('Causeway') and 'SecondLink'/Tuas (from Malaysia)Camping cars (anything with cooking/sleeping facilities) are prohibited. Show stopper in my case was the print 'camper car' in my Carnet de Passages. If you can avoid the impression of a camper car, regulations apply (see roads).Both border crossings are toll roads: Causeway (busy) EUR 3 upon entry, SecondLink/Tuas EUR 10 upon entry and exit.For temporary vehicle importation you need (in this order):1. Singaporean car insurance (about EUR 200/week, Malaysian policies are not accepted even if valid for SG), available at Singapore Automobile Association (AA) only if your papers don't state anything like 'camper' or 'motorhome' anywhere. When you have insurance, you apply for 2. anICP (International Circulation Permit, charges apply), available at AA only with AIT Carnet, not with ATA Carnet. 3. For left hand drive vehicles: an LHD (left hand drive) sign at the rearRoadsDrive on the left. Conditions are excellent, heavy but moving traffic. Various tolls apply: VEP (Vehicle Entry Permit) for all non-SG plates, but you have ten free days per year. ERP (Electronic Road Pricing), depending on time of day and road used. For ERP you need a prepaid card (Autopass, EUR 6) which requires an on board unit that you have to buy or - instead - pay a flat charge of EUR 3/day (flat charge n/a for trucks). Parking fees similar to Germany, pay at metres or display prepaid punch cards. Radar checks (fixed/mounted, red light, speed), high fines.FuelPetrol and diesel are always available, Unleaded 95 costs EUR 1.31/L. Upon exiting with a Singapore car (incl. rentals) the tank level needs to be at least 75% full (rarely checked).MiscellaneousThe price level is lower than in Europe but higher than in the rest of South Asia. You can get cheap food at 'Hawker Centres' or street stalls. If you have time you may consider staying in Johor Bahru (Malaysia) to commute into SG. Few open wifi networks, very fast connections.In case you only get to see the airport: Good, local food for everybody is available in the Staff Canteen (no signs, ask staff, payment in SGD cash only).All information subject to change (note time of writing).
March/April, 2012 -- It feels like a milestone: 35.000 kilometres behind the Bosporus, a bridge marks the end of the overland route across a giant, diverse continent. After one and a half years on the Asian mainland, I am now 'welcome to Singapore'. Turns out it's one small step for a man, one giant leap for vankind.
Singapore: Some want to get in, some want to get out.
Campers not welcome(Johor Bahru/Malaysia)
Marina Bay Financial Centre
The Merlion,Singapore's heraldic chimera
ArtScience Museum, hotel, casino, convention centre: Marina Bay Sands Resort
Sophisticated architecture around Marina Bay
Singapore Flyer, the world's largest ferris wheel
Drying laundry takes time.
Spotless metro floor
Sri Mariamman Temple, established in 1827, is a national monument.
Colourful crowds atop the gopuram towering above the entry to Singapore's oldest Hindu temple.
He's playing the Nadaswaram, a south Indian oboe.(Sri Senpaga Vinyagar Temple)
Typical Singapore condos
Apply grafitti without an order and you'll get the cane.
Gardens by the Bay, the new botanical gardens
These traditional houses are part of a museum.
After work happy hour
'Caution, leaves may fall.'
Inside 'the Helix'
50 floors, two sky bridges for running: This, too, is public housing in Singapore.
Thunderstorm over Sentosa Island
Slave market in the newspaper
'The Helix' bridge
The world's largest container hub
Temple of a Buddhist-Taoist-Confucian sect(Kuan Im Tng Temple, Joo Chiat)
Buddha (at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)
A Chinese shop house against the backdrop of 'the Pinnacle'
Signs in a shopping centre
Cycling through the underpass may set you back 1,000 Dollars (~ 300 Euros)
'No religious activity'
Always in good shape: Traditional Chinese shop houses, like these on Neill Road, are part of the architectural heritage. 'The Pinnacle@Duxton' rises in the background.
Part of a Malay wedding ceremony
Grill Zone(East Coast Park)
Hosted by Hafiz and Yathi for an unforgettable Biryani
Sailing to Indonesia (in the Straits of Malacca)
No pirates in sight
Half a day later it becomes clear that this 'welcome' wasn't to be taken all that serious. The van doesn't get allowed in. On Singapore roads, camping cars are banned without given reason.So I park in Johor Bahru (Malaysia) and commute into the city state for about two weeks every day. That means four hours on the bus every day, getting through the checkpoints every day, and four new stamps in the passport every day.Apart from this harassment, Singapore provides for a more than decent reception: The view across Marina Bay makes up for pretty much. I am greeted by a composition of sound, laser and water shows. And as if that weren't enough yet: my buddy Walter, on his way to Australia, brings me some Bavarian sausages.
A city like a showroomSingapore is stylish, innovative and extremely diverse. Architects and city planners seem to test out new limits. Year after year new fancy buildings add their touch to an already ultramodern silhouette, often emphasized by colourful light designs.The classics, too, are well manicured. Churches, temples, mosques and old Chinese shop houses look impeccable. The government forces owners to maintain and care for old structure.Almost everything in Singapore is thought through, spotlessly clean and working perfectly. Wherever you go, you get the feeling that someone cares.Construction workers clean their boots before entering public space - only after they have covered all puddles to prevent mosquito breeding of course. There are no missing manhole covers on streets and walkways. Metro trains are comfortably air conditioned but not ice cold. You don't see any litter anywhere. Nothing is 'temporarily out of order'.
For many hours I walk through the city, look into its different faces and fill my plate at the typical 'Hawker Centres' for a few Dollars. Chinese, Indian, Malay, Arabian? Yes, please.In some ways Singapore, like Malaysia, offers a certain 'best of Asia'. Order and cleanliness, however, are rather non-characteristic for the continent. Even Little India and Chinatown seem almost sterile here.
Singaporean SpecialtiesCharacteristic for the small republic is its ethnical mix and its model of a strong state.Both does not only leave a mark on the cityscape but also on the behaviour of Singaporeans. They enjoy a very high standard of living (unique in the region), but are submitted to a system of strict social control. In the eyes of many neighbours this makes them partly admired, partly crazy weirdoes.
Ultimate UrbanismThere is no doubt that Singaporeans are the ultimate city people. It's full: In some areas 200,000 people share a single square kilometre. The majority of the five million inhabitants live - following a special ethnic distribution key - in huge public housing blocks. Sink estates or even slums don't exist, neither do dodgy corners, unregistered scrap cars in the parking lot or loitering troublemakers. This may be due to the fact that people buy their apartments rather than rent.Agriculture and small fishing villages are a thing of the past. A touch of nature can only be felt on one tiny island and in the national park. Everything else is the result of land reclamation, landscaping and modern city planning. Rigorous land use regulations prevent urban sprawl and a waste of space. They assure that, even in a small and crowded city state, there are plenty of greens and recreation areas.Should you really happen to find yourself away from escalators and mowed lawn, then countless signs will remind the endangered Homo Urbanus of the threats of wilderness.But with (water and air) temperatures around 30 degrees you're unlikely to feel any wanderlust anyway.
Chinese lead the wayWhile you can call Malaysia a melting pot, this is true for Singapore even more - just that here it is the Chinese leading the way. But Malays and Indians as well as a few Arabs, Australians and Europeans live on the island, too. Still today the mix of peoples reflects the trade relations of the British founding fathers during colonial times. Like in Malaysia, intercultural mingling is limited. For social and religious reasons, cross-culture marriages remain more of an exception.Since the day of its independence in 1965 the small state worked its way up from a developing country to an industrial nation within just one generation. This makes it one of the so called Asian Tiger States. For a perfect infrastructure, stability and a qualified workforce, high tech companies are willing to pay costs that are substantially higher than in neighbouring countries.
Rules, laws and prohibitionsSimilarly to Germany, Singapore is highly developed and highly regulated. Who ever complained about German regulatory rut and sign jungle has never been to Singapore. Here, this regards private life more than business. Severe sentences await all those deemed to behave unsocial.Cleanliness and respecting public property have a high priority. It is a punishable legal offence to spit, chew gum (except dental care gum with doctor's prescription) or not to flush after using a public toilet. Whoever gets caught vandalising or applying graffiti will get caned.Furthermore it is illegal to discuss politics in public (without license), to walk around naked inside your home and to own porn. All this aims at maintaining peace and harmony in a conservative, multi cultural society living on little space.
The reverse of the medalAs of today, the people accept the deal, which says: Wealth in exchange for obedience. The state takes care of order and security, an immaculate infrastructure and functioning public services. The downside of the deal is an authoritative government, limited citizens' rights, the absence of freedom of the press and a strict judicial system.Too bad for those who don't agree to this deal, who criticise for example the surveillance state. Those who demand freedom of speech and independent media, who even dare to criticise the system in general, quickly find themselves in prison.Bad luck, too, for all those doing the dirty jobs in successful, stylish Singapore. Thousands of immigrant workers slave away in the sweltering tropical heat on construction sites or dwell as practically owned maids in the closet - 365 days a year and often without off-day (which is the law since 2013). They come from the Philippines, from Indonesia or Myanmar. If they lose their jobs - for whatever reason - they must leave the country immediately. This makes them susceptible to blackmail, to make them work no matter what. Singapore authorities barely care about their situation which often includes molestation, unlawful detention or violence. The Asian Tiger is always on the move - but leaves quite a moral turd.
The freedom on four wheelsIf you wish to enter with your vehicle you get an idea of Singaporean bureaucracy. Locals, however, get the full program. The government does everything it can to make people use public transport instead of their cars in order to avoid congestion, keep the air clean and cash in. All three goals are being successfully achieved, by the way.If you want to buy a car, you need to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement first, costing around 40,000 Euros. Only then can you make the deal - if high import taxes for new vehicles (200 percent) don't scare you off, that is. Getting it on the road will add another 110 percent to the total vehicle price. Off this fee, you'll get 25 percent back if you get your car scrapped within five years.You'll have to pay much more for petrol than in neighbouring Malaysia, and filling up across the border is strictly limited. Electronic Road Pricing (ERP, commonly dubbed 'Everyday Robbing People') will suck further money out of your pocket with every beep you hear when passing a toll gantry: beep, a dollar here - beep, one fifty there - and beep, another two bucks over there.After ten years your Certificate of Entitlement runs out and you need to buy a new certificate. You will also have to pay a 50 percent higher road tax if you want to keep your vehicle. In consequence, most people scrap their cars after only ten years on the road.Happy driving.
Off to new horizonsGiven all that hassle it is alright that my van is parked not in Singapore but across the border. After two weeks I have commuted enough across the border and return to Malaysia.Later I have me and the van pulled across the Malacca Straits - alone, but with a thousand concrete pipes. Never mind the piracy concerns of the tug boat crew ('well, they dont show up every time, but...'), a very stressful week later I arrive safely at the port of Dumai on Sumatra island, Indonesia.
The ornate roof of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple set against typical public housing towers
ERP toll gantry
Living quarter near Singapore River
to the PHOTOSET No, no, no - Singapore Signs