Singapore: From Street Food to Skyline
Singapore is a small island country that consists only of the city of Singapore. Candy, Customer Service & Marketing Executive, and Bryan, Sales & Application Engineer at Metrohm Singapore, tell me: «There’s not a lot to do in Singapore except shopping and eating. When we want to do outdoor activities, we usually go to one of the nearby neighboring countries.» It doesn’t help that the Singaporeans are not particularly fond of their climate: most days, temperatures reach about 34 °C at 80% humidity, and locals retreat to air-conditioned places whenever possible. Still, Singapore is in many ways a unique country, and there are lots of observations to be made!
Singapore Food Adventures
The first thing I noticed about Singapore was its skyline. Singapore’s strong finance sector sets it apart from other Southeast Asian countries. Glass towers and malls dominate the cityscape. But when you look closer, you’ll find there’s much more to the small city state.
Similar to its neighbor Malaysia, the population of Singapore consists mainly of three ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, and Indian. This has influenced local culture, languages, and food. The so-called «hawker culture» is an indispensable part of Sinagapore life: hawker centers are permanent street food markets with dozens of stalls selling Malay, Chinese, and Indian foods, including various fusions of the three. They are true melting pots of culture and cuisine. Just a few days ago, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally that hawker culture would be nominated for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Many locals eat at hawker centers once or even twice every day because they offer a vast choice of local foods as well as a quick and cheap meal. According to our colleagues, only large families cook at home on regular work days. For singles, couples, and smaller families, it is simply too cheap and easy to eat out, especially at hawker centers.
This large variety of food influenced by Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisines, is typical for Singapore. But the country also has its very own signature dish: chili crab. Walking through the seafood restaurant Jumbo, which is famous in Singapore, you can see a chili crab on almost every table.
The Gates of Hell Have Opened
A walk in Singapore’s Chinatown is impressive evidence of how different cultures and religions coexist peacefully in the small island country. You’ll find a mosque, a Hindu temple, and a Chinese temple, all within a few meters. The Chinese population of Singapore is currently celebrating the Ghost Festival, an ancient Chinese tradition. It is believed that, during this time, the gates of hell open and ghosts enter the world of the living. To keep them happy and make sure their ghosts won’t haunt them, people will make offerings to their returning ancestors. They do so, among others, by burning paper representations of material goods, including money, food, and clothes, which they believe will thereby become available to their ghost ancestors. There are even paper phones, iPads, and laptops for the tech-savvy ghost of today.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Being the small island country that it is, Singapore is poor in natural resources. Not even drinking water is available. To a large extent, Singapore depends on its neighbor Malaysia for drinking water. The country does a lot to become more independent, including water-saving programs, collecting rainwater in reservoirs, and even reclaiming sewage water! Even though I knew drinking water was reclaimed from sewage water on the ISS, using it on Earth is unique to Singapore as far as I know. Candy, Bryan, and Jia Qi from Metrohm Singapore took me to NEWater to see this unique Singapore facility.
Research into reclaiming drinking water from wastewater started in Singapore as early as the 1970s, but it took another 30 years until the Public Utilites Board started producing reclaimed water under its NEWater brand. Nowadays, reclaimed water covers 40% of Singapore’s total water needs. A small portion of Singapore’s tap water, which is potable, is NEWater. It might be bewildering to some to drink water reclaimed from sewage, but NEWater actually exceeds WHO drinking water standards and it’s quality is better than that of all other Singapore drinking waters.
Unfortunately, while taking the tour of NEWater, my stomach started to revolt against all my recent food experiments and continued to give me a hard time for several days. This made me miss most of my upcoming Singapore activities! And it’s also why I have just this one picture of the NEWater facility. Our colleagues from Singapore will be helping me out so you can read some more about Singapore and our local Metrohm company!
An Indoors World: Cloud Forest and Flower Dome
I would like to introduce one more thing to you that is very Singapore! As I wrote earlier, Singaporeans like air-conditioned spaces. Very different from many other Southeast Asian countries, where life happens on the streets, in Singapore there’s a lot going on inside. Like in the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. These artificial environments are basically a zoo for plants, where visitors can admire plants that normally wouldn’t grow in Singapore’s climate. The two glass structures offer a habitat for thousands of foreign plants and, of course, Singapore’s national flower, the orchid. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy!