I’m Singing about Singapore

By Elaine Ballard
This item appears on page 48 of the January 2013 issue.

It is my pleasure to announce the winners of — and prizes for — our latest essay contest. On the subject “I’m Singing about Singapore,” many of you were inspired to write. Judging was tough, and it was decided to give out three prizes this time.

The winners are MARVIN FELDMAN of Jacksonville, Florida; CAROLYN A. VON KUTZLEBEN of Avon, Connecticut, and ELAINE BALLARD of San Antonio, Texas. Each will receive a 50-dollar gift certificate from Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943). The essays of all three appear below.

The essay contest currently in play for ITN subscribers is titled “Greece is Great.” If you have been there, then — in no more than 300 WORDS — write on Greece and your interest in visiting it and send your essay to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is Jan. 31, 2013. At least one prize will be awarded. — Editor

Since I am a widow in my mid 70s, my family was shocked when I told them in October 2010 that, instead of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I was going to Singapore alone for a week with no tour or agenda. A city/state/island/country, Singapore is one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world, and, with its more than 50 parks, it deserves the title The Garden City.

Asians respect their elders, and when they found out I had come alone from Texas to explore Singapore, the locals gave me the royal treatment, even upgrading my hotel room!

I discovered that Singapore is easy to explore, especially with the hop-on/hop-off bus (a bargain for $12).

There are many diverse and interesting sights in Singapore. Some of my favorites were the Botanical Gardens, with its National Orchid Garden and the largest display of orchids in the world; Resorts World Sentosa, which is Asia’s answer to Disney World; the famous Singapore Zoo, where the animals are in natural settings; the port, with ships as far as you can see, and the newly opened, fabulous Marina Bay Sands resort, with swimming in its impressive infinity pool on the 57th floor, overlooking the Singapore skyline. The adjoining world-class, 4-level casino is an architectural gem and worth seeing even if you do not gamble.

Enjoying the exquisite and different cuisine at indoor and outdoor restaurants, taking a harbor cruise, relaxing with a Singapore Sling at the famous Raffles Hotel, and talking to people of many nationalities who live and visit there are great memories!

The award-winning Changi International Airport makes it a pleasure to fly in and out of Singapore.

Singapore is now on my list of “favorite cities” in the world.

Elaine Ballard, San Antonio, TX

I have been singing about Singapore since our first visit in 2007. Can there be a song that captures my feelings about Singapore? It might be “Unchained Melody,” as my passion for this city is never-ending.

My husband and I first saw Singapore out of the windows of a bus on an excursion from the Sapphire Princess. I was immediately enraptured by the city. The streets are sparkling and the people so smartly dressed. I am not talking about designer or expensive clothing; I am speaking, rather, of the pride and energy that the people of Singapore exude.

In September 2010 we returned to Singapore and stayed at the YWCA Fort Canning Lodge. A lively hotel, it was full of friendly international travelers with whom we enjoyed exchanging information at the daily breakfast buffets.

We valued our time spent at the Changi Chapel & Museum, which has an extensive collection of artifacts that belonged to military and civilian prisoners held at the POW camp there from 1942 to 1945. I was particularly drawn to a quilt on display and the story of how quilts like this were designed to carry hand-sewn messages and information from the women’s side of the prison to the men’s side.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is what I might have considered singing when we found myriad silk shops on Arab Street. Filled with glimmering silks of every color, texture and pattern, these shops are a paradise for anyone who loves exquisite fabrics.

Just like the threads of a very fine tapestry, the people of Singapore — of many races, cultures and religions — are intricately woven with harmony and mutual respect for each other. The diverse character of the city is what first drew us to Singapore and is what will bring us back again.

— Carolyn A. von Kutzleben, Avon, CT

My wife and I have been to Singapore dozens of times, and each time we return there we find it exotic, safe, clean, exciting, interesting, comfortable and ever-changing!

Nowhere in the world do we feel as safe as we do in Singapore, whether we’re walking down the streets at 1 in the morning, without fear, or drinking the water and eating local foods at cafés, food courts or street stalls.

There are four ethnic quarters to Singapore, each neighborhood with its own culture, music, food, and lifestyle: 1) Chinese, 2) Malay, 3) Indian and 4) Arab. We know of no other country in the world with such variety of sights and smells!

For example, “Little India” is full of small shops with colorful clothing and souvenirs plus thousands of food stalls with exotic selections. Our favorite eatery there is the popular King of Biryani. We were the only Westerners having lunch there, but the Singaporeans were lined up by the dozens to dine at this wonderful but inexpensive local favorite!

The MRT is an example of how everything works well and efficiently in Singapore. This high-speed subway system has taken us all over the country for a low price. The signs and audio announcements are in four languages, including English.

At one’s destination, don’t forget to cash in on the refundable token, which can be obtained by simply putting it into a machine for a cash refund. We saw many foreign tourists simply walking away from the MRT stations without collecting their refunds.

Singapore is the hub of that part of the world, and we have used it as a “springboard” to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Bali by taking budget airlines flying from its ultramodern airport.

I’m singing about Singapore!

— Marvin Feldman, Jacksonville, FL