1.) Dress code
Although shopping is a daily activity in the life of a Singaporean resident, the dress code remains very chilled and casual. Unlike London, Paris, and Beirut, Singapore did not strike me as a place where people were very concerned with their daily attire. It’s more like the States in that it is perfectly okay to go to the supermarket in your pajama bottoms, wife-beater, and flip flops – and that’s without it being your “look” like the ensemble was intentionally chosen. It may be difficult due to the weather.
To make this clearer, in Beirut, you have around 5 basic levels of attire based on where you’re going that increase in snazziness gradually: Home/Teta, Work/Hamra/Uruguay St, Gemmayzeh, Clubbing, and Wedding. When in SG, I did not go higher than Level 2.
There are so many rules and laws in SG that I was missing the chaotic corruption of Beirut (I got over it). Gum to SG is what pot is to Amsterdam in that you can have it but you can’t import it. Most travel to Amsterdam because you can order hash like it’s a non-hash hashbrown – or is it? Not exactly the same thing with gum in SG. You are not going to travel to SG just to chew gum because a.) it’s gum b.) unlike Amsterdam’s pot, it is not sold in stores and c.) people will give you disgusted looks while you blow bubbles and chew like a camel. What can I say, I’m graceful.
Besides gum, the people are also pretty strict on each other. There are websites where people tattle on each other for doing god-awful things like murals…which were commissioned by their own government. Fail.
Unless you stick to local beer and whatever you managed to bring in from the duty free, booze in SG will cost you. Don’t worry, there’s Ladies Nights and affordable supermarket wine. In Beirut, you can have a good bunch of drinks for under $50, enjoy happy hours galore, or just go to Ahla A’lam and drink alcohol straight up out of plastic turkish coffee cups – if you survive, you’ll have a hangover for 48 hours.
4.) Public Transportation
SG has a subway system. And public buses. And cabs. And merlions that take you to school when it’s raining. Okay, that one’s not true but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened by next year since they’re development projects come to life so quickly. I love any city that has a functioning subway – and every time I remember that Beirut doesn’t have one, I cry. On the inside. Of my car.
SG is actually a long lost jungle that happens to have roads and a metro. It’s not even a joke. You can be sitting having a club sandwich at a cafe in the middle of a rainforest except it’s not the Rainforest Cafe, you’re just in the middle of the Asian Amazon. Some of the most visited attractions are tributes to plantlife and flowers like the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Botanic Gardens. On the other hand, the greenest area in Beirut would be the AUB campus or the ABC parking lot at 9 am. Yes, I mean the parking sensors.
1.) Rooftop Bars
Perhaps because the central district has such a great view, SG rooftop bars are popular but not practical. Unpredictable rain doesn’t help outdoor terraces but the drizzle doesn’t stop anyone from taking it all in anyway. Without mentioning music preferences and ambiance, the better weather and cheaper alcohol may put Beirut ahead of SG in this category.
2.) Religious Melting Pot
Pagodas and Hindu temples are the equivalent to Beirut’s collection of churches and mosques. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam – there’s a whole mix of sects too. Sound familiar? Yay, three cheers for coexistence!
3.) Actual Melting Pot
Food tourism is a big similarity. In SG, you have the choice to eat from all kinds of Asian cuisine: Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Malay, Japanese, Indian – there’s even a large selection of Western chains including California Pizza Kitchen and The Cut by Wolfgang Puck. If you’re not too adventurous, you can have the Teppanyaki Chicken Sandwich from McDonald’s – just a small dose of Asian on top of a chicken burger you’re used to. Beirut has the same array of food to choose from with a complete set of Mediterranean deliciousness. No CPK or Puck here yet, but we do have Gaucho and Le Relais de l’Entrecote. Even Asian is taking over in a not-just-sushi-way; however, I still would prefer a whole bowl of tabbouli over a wok of stir-fry. Represent.
4.) Compared to Dubai
Much like Beirut, Singapore has been compared to the city of Dubai except that their comparison is more accurate. Singapore went from an infertile island with no natural resources into a “highly developed Asian megalopolis”; a lot like the city that rose from the sands in the Emirates. A colleague of mine once said that if you visit Dubai, the skyline looks as if someone copied the outline of Singapore and pasted it in the Arab world. Regardless of how true that is, both have been artificially constructed to some extent – how much? I can’t say for I have yet to go to Dubai.
5.) Size Doesn’t Matter
Singapore and Beirut are both ridiculously tiny but that just goes to show that kilometers are just numbers; it’s how you use them that makes all the difference.