Singapore has long been one of the most travelled destinations for Indonesians. People either go to Singapore or Malaysia for their first travelling abroad experiences, and most of the people will choose Singapore over Malaysia when travelling. I can’t speak for all the people of course, but for me, I will choose Singapore over Malaysia because:
1. It feels so much like being abroad in Singapore rather than Malaysia. Indonesia shares the same Malay ancestral with Malaysia thus when we travel to Malaysia. It feels like we are not traveling abroad. Whereas in Singapore, most of the inhabitant are those of Chinese descendant with an intermix of Malays, Indians, Arabs, etc. To put it simply, traveling to Singapore feels more like traveling abroad rather than traveling to Malaysia.
2. Enormous shopping malls with a lot of brands that aren’t available yet in Indonesia. Back then, Singapore has H&M, Uniqlo, Cotton On, Sephora etc ahead of our time (And chocolates, lots of it, and Mountain Dew). Thus, almost involuntarily the ever-consumptive Indonesians (including me) travelled to Singapore to obtain the hippest stuff.
3. Sophisticated public transportation system. Singapore is a tiny country, even smaller than Jakarta, and their system are among the most efficient and uncomplicated public transportation system. Singapore’s MRT is far more high-tech than the one in Indonesia and enough to make us feel inferior but it is very simple. One month there and trust me you’ll remember all the MRT line effortlessly.
4. Singlish “Singaporeans English”. Singapore recognizes 4 languages as their official language: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. Most people in Singapore use English in everyday basis (as far as I know). However, due to their multicultural environment, all the 4 official languages have been casually mixed up and form a new English-based creole language: Singlish. Indonesians who travelled to Singapore will get the chance to speak in English while shuffling back to Malay/Indonesia language when finding difficulties.
In brief: Travelling to Singapore is not so scary as travelling abroad to some far away land with unfamiliar language, custom, and geography but it is certainly still count as going abroad.
Due to Easter falling on Friday, there‘s a long weekend opportunity for my Mamak and sister. Mamak was eager to travel abroad and insisting to go to Singapore. She wanted to travel in the budget but somewhere abroad, so naturally Singapore is the most feasible option. I agreed, after all I always have this paradigm that travelling to Singapore means budget travelling and a hell lot of shoppings.
The last time I was in Singapore was 2 years ago. I’m fully aware that accomodation in Singapore is almost always expensive even though the plane ticket is quite affordable. Sometimes it’s cheaper to go to Singapore than to go to Yogyakarta or Bali. The cheapest hostel (mixed dorm room) in Singapore could cost you about 12 SGD/night (IDR 110.000 according to the current currency). When I told Mamak that we had to stay in a hostel if we wanted to travel in the budget, she immediately agrees without even considering any other option. At that time, she wasn’t aware what a hostel really means although I did try to explain it to her. What mattered to her that we paid a small sum of money compared to our last travel in Europe (well duh, Mak) and she said “It’s Singapore. It shouldn’t be that expensive right” (right). Finally, we decided to stay at 5footwayinn Hostel: Project Bugis, a strategic hostel located near MRT with a fairly affordable price. Mamak was shocked when we were greeted with 2×2 square room and a bunk bed. She felt uncomfortable because she wasn’t expected that hostel would be this cramped, she’s mostly travelling with tour and travel agent and was always provided at least a hotel (even though it’s a 2-star hotel, at least it’s a hotel). She was further surprised when we had to wash our own utensils after being used in the kitchen area. My sister wasn’t surprise but she wasn’t quite happy either, she travelled quite often to Singapore for job and I’m certain that her office would never put her in a lousy accomodation. It was a fun experience for Mamak though, at least she now knows what a hostel really means. I bet she would never stay in another hostel after this time.
We spent 3 days and 2 nights in Singapore. We visited, the well-known prominent park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land (in which Singapore imported its’ material from Indonesia) and were built in the area of Marina Reservoir, near the Marina Bay hotel with the illustrious cruise ship landmark at the top of the hotel. Gardens by the bay‘s architecture is overwhelming, while I was there I can’t stop pondering how much money the Singapore government spent to build this kind of garden.
Gardens by the bay have no special admission, but upon entering two conservatories (Flower Dome and Cloud Forest) we have to pay SGD 28 (IDR 257.000). Cloud Forest Conservatory is especially breathtaking for me, they have managed to build a rain forest model inside a cooled dome, not to mention they build a man-made waterfall. I always regard Singapore as a tech-savvy and eco country, but this time I witnessed and comprehend what it really means. I certainly can’t help but to feel bitter over the fact that Indonesia might never have this kind of facility. Gardens by the bay is a wonderful outdoor facility; great for picnic surrounded by stunning decorative flowers and greens (it really freshens your eyes and makes you feel comfortable and tranquil), great for free of charge sports (cycling, jogging, as long as you don’t swim in the river I guess), stunning landscape with a view of Singapore flyer, Marina Bay Sands, and the river. And damn, that stylish and modern-looking architecture! If Indonesia will ever build this kind of garden, I’m not sure it will be clean and well-ordered though, not with our mentality (There will be trashes everywhere and beggars and people taking shelter).
Gardens by the Bay itself is an integral part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city.
The next highlight of my journey to Singapore this time is a visit to S.E.A Aquarium. Basically it’s an enormous and more interesting version of our Ancol’s Sea World. It is built-in Sentosa Island and regarded as the world’s largest aquarium. It has impressive collection of ocean’s inhabitants (I noticed they have jelly fish, dolphins, more varieties of tropical fishes, cool manta rays, though their shark collections are quite ordinary compared to the one in Ancol). What awed me the most was when I first stepped in to the Aquarium, they have this huge display panel that makes me feel that I’m inside the ocean itself. The display glass is so clear and the color of the water seems so blue with a glistening rays of sun peeking through the top of the Aquarium, it was beautiful and definitely one of the best experiences of my journey. Although admission is quite expensive (SGD 38 / IDR 350.000), it is definitely worth the visit more than any other attractions in Sentosa Island.
Whenever I pay a visit to Singapore, I always feel sort of dejected. Dejected by the fact that this tiny country is Indonesia’s neighbor which gain its independency 18 years after we gain ours has grown and developed into such an immaculate country. Everything in there is so perfectly built and well thought of. It‘s a city that I dream of living: clean, well-ordered and well regulated. Of course, we could defend ourselves by saying that it is certainly easier to take care of 5 billion people compared to 230 billion people but nevertheless I can’t stop comparing and feeling disheartened by the condition of Indonesia.
Here’s Singapore, our wealthy and affluent neighbor in which its’ currency risen up from SGD 1 equals to 6500 to SGD 1 equals to 9000. Event hough I only spent 3 days there, I felt like travelling in budget to Singapore isn’t quite possible anymore, not with its’ economy becoming stronger and stronger and ours becoming weaker and weaker. Upper class and middle class of Indonesia are one of the most consumptive group in Indonesia’s society classes. These people spend a hell lot of money abroad, contributing to other countries growing economy and yet here’s Indonesia, being marked as the largest economy due to our consumptions and not our productions. While other countries are getting wealthier through our activities, Indonesia’s economy stay exclusive and unshared, excluding the class other than upper and middle class.
Travel does open our eyes to an engrossing sense of unfamiliarity but in a way it also disconsolate us into thinking that we are just an inferior country with a feeble mentality.
I’m terribly sorry for not being patriotic, it’s just so hard not to be bitter about my beloved Indonesia.