Ethan Knowles collaborates with Avinash Singh
When the city-state of Singapore is mentioned, one typically thinks of its economic prosperity, its cleanliness, and its modern and tall buildings. However, behind these classic trademarks is a country filled with a melting pot of culture, mesmerizing sightseeing, and a plethora of fun activities for visitors of all ages. Avinash Singh, a member of the GA Telesis team, and his family reside in this otherworldly city-state and he shares what makes it a wonderful place to live. “Singapore is a small but prosperous island nation that has lots to offer when it comes to quality of life and individual growth. Although it seems like a little red dot on the world map, the country is ideal for families and raising kids in a happy and safe environment. Singapore has three major cultures thriving together in harmony, a booming economy, very low crime rates, minimal traffic jams, and a peaceful feeling that is unique to the island nation.”
Question: What are your five favorite places to visit in the country?
- “Gardens by the Bay – Of all of the places to visit in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay should be at the top of your list. These unique, award-winning gardens are an absolutely beautiful place to explore, or simply hang out in. The most recognizable and photographed part of Gardens by the Bay would undoubtedly be the Supertrees. There are 18 Supertrees in total, measuring from 25 to 50 meters tall, the tallest of them measuring in at 16 stories high!
- Singapore Zoo – Set in a rainforest environment, Singapore Zoo is home to over 2,800 animals from over 300 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The Park also boasts of the world’s first free-ranging orangutan habitat inside a zoo.
- Jurong Bird Park – This bird park is a 10 min drive from where we live and an excellent first step into the world of birding. The massive aviary boasts of so many exotic birds ranging from macaws to spoonbills to flamingos. The best part is they have so many bird feeding sessions and other kids’ friendly activities planned during the day that there would never be a dull moment.
- Universal Studios – Southeast Asia’s first and only Universal Studios theme park, featuring 24 rides, shows, and attractions in seven themed zones is a favorite among kids. For the adrenalin rush seekers amongst us, not to be missed are the tallest dueling roller coasters ride – Battlestar Galactica: HUMAN vs. CYLON™, indoor coaster Revenge of the Mummy™ and TRANSFORMERS The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle. Transformers the ride is a personal favorite of my 9-year-old son!
- Art Science Museum – Future World: Where Art Meets Science is a personal favorite and has Singapore’s largest interactive digital playground. Kids just love the dreamscape of sights and sounds that mesmerizes even elders.”
Question: Where/what is the most beautiful part of the country?
Avinash: “Clarke Quay – a stunning historical riverside quay with amazing waterfront views, it’s a wonderous place to visit whether you’re shopping or not. Excellent place to enjoy a romantic dinner date by the side of a river.”
Question: What is the most unique part of the country?
Avinash: “There are so many things unique about Singapore. Here is my list:
- Efficiency – everything works as planned with clockwork precision. Whether you have an appointment with a government agency or bank, it always starts on time, process and expectations are laid out clearly. The same goes if you call a cab or call a handyman. They arrive on time, do the work professionally and efficiently.
- Transparency and lack of corruption – all rules and processes are clear and public servants are courteous, open, and transparent about what can be done and cannot be done. No workarounds or corrupt practices. No need to grease any palms to get work done.
- Safety – Singapore is extremely safe and my wife or kids do not have to worry before stepping out and using public transport to commute even at odd hours.
- Multicultural environment and cosmopolitan society – Singapore is truly multicultural and there is a strong sense of respect and accommodation for all religions and cultures.
- Quality of life – apart from super-efficient public amenities, Singapore is also very green with its natural reserves, lakes, and park connectors.”
Question: What is your favorite part of the country?
Avinash: “It has to be the Hawker Centers. For the uninitiated, Singapore Hawker Centers are basically large food courts with stalls around the perimeter serving everything from full meals to snacks and drinks. You’ll usually find a selection of local dishes as well as flavors from across the world, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, and western. Hawker Centers are a unique aspect of Singapore’s culture and lifestyle. It is also an important place for social interaction and community bonding.”
Question: What is your favorite activity to do there?
Avinash: “Relishing the local food delights – there is so much to try – such as good old chicken rice, Hokkien Mee, or Char Kway Teow. And everything is so affordable, you will not feel the pinch yet be able to savor delicious food!”
Question: What is your favorite type of food that is unique/local to the country?
Avinash: “Chili crab and black pepper crab from Jumbo seafood at Dempsey Hills is one of our favorites.”
Question: What is/are the local language(s) spoken?
Avinash: “English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil are all official languages. The most unique and widely spoken language in Singapore is Singlish. It is primarily the colloquial form of English, having a distinct accent, and ignoring the basic standards of English grammar. Having a jumble of local slang and expressions of various languages and dialects of Singapore, speaking in Singlish is seen as a mark of being truly local!”
Question: What is your favorite time of the year there?
Avinash: “Singapore is just one degree north of the equator – which means four distinct seasons are absent however, each month is a time to experience a facet of Singapore’s multicultural diversity. August is a special month for Singaporeans as it gears up for its biggest national celebration, as National Day approaches on the 9th. The small city-state gained independence in 1965 and has been proudly celebrating its independence from Malaysia every year since. At the main event venue at Marina Bay, an impressive showcase of Singapore’s defensive capabilities wows the audience. The Parade begins with songs and performances, ending with a stunning display of fireworks – a spectacular tribute to how far Singapore has come since independence.”
Question: What is the most celebrated festival/holiday?
Avinash: “Chinese New Year – The first day of Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival in Singapore, falls on the new moon day. The Lunar New Year (as it is also called) is of great significance to the Chinese who clean their homes to get rid of the bad or the ill-fortune and make way for good luck. The celebration of this grand festival in Singapore continues for 14 days starting on the eve of the New Years. During this time, the Chinese locals visit their families and decorate their homes with red and gold colors. They also exchange gifts and give kids Hong Bao (red envelopes). The Chinatown comes to life through the celebration of festivities. Lion and dragon dances performed as a part of the celebration.”
Question: How do you say good morning/hello/greet people there?
Avinash: “You can say “hello” in Mandarin – Ni Hao, in Indian Hindi – Namaste and in Malay, the greeting is based on the time of day – Selamat Pagi for good morning, Selamat Tengah Hari for good afternoon and Selamat Malam for good night.”
Question: What are the most popular local pastimes?
Avinash: “Shopping and dining out/trying new restaurants seem to be the most favorite past times of Singaporeans. Going to cinemas, playing video games (yes!) and keeping fit also seems high on agenda for a nation that is always on the move and keen to catch on the next big global trend!”
Question: What is the most popular sport?
Avinash: “Football is arguably the most popular spectator sport. Singapore has its own professional football league, known as the Singapore Premier League (formerly the S League)”
Question: What type/genre of music is popular and who are the famous musicians and bands there?
Avinash: “Music is very much a part of Singaporeans’ lifestyles will almost everyone finding time to enjoy listening to music. The two most popular genres are Top 40s/Pop (61%) and Hip-hop, R&B and Soul (27%). The third most listened-to genre is Traditional Ethnic Music (19%).”
Question: What is the most common car/car brand?
Avinash: “Hondas and Toyotas rule the roost when it comes to everyday convenient sedans. Mercedes Benz and BMW are more expensive popular car brands.”
Question: What advice would you give someone traveling there?
Avinash: “Singapore is not cheap. Compared to other parts of Asia, Singapore is quite expensive, especially when it comes to rent, education, medical expenses and car ownership. This city-state apparently has the most millionaires in the world so perhaps this isn’t much of a surprise, but Singapore easily outranks renowned expensive cities like London and New York when it comes to prices.”
Question: What is something we might not know about the country?Avinash: “It’s a city of not just one island, but 64. We may not know it, but Singapore’s land area includes as many as 64 offshore islands that surround the main island. These include Sentosa (the largest of the offshore islands), Pulau Ubin, St. John’s Island and Sister’s Islands. Also, the other fun fact that many people are not aware of is that Durian fruit is eaten quite a lot here and you will smell it when visiting Singapore… especially in the markets. It sounds like a mundane fact until you smell Durian fruit. It stinks (A LOT) – which makes us wonder why people eat it. Apparently, the trick is to try it just before it starts to get too ripe and to buy it at the start of the day before it gets further ripened by the sun.”