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stories

The City of Lions: Singapore

I had no idea when I would visit Asia let alone where I would go. I've worked my way through a good portion of Europe through my previous summers, hell I've seen more of Europe that I have of the United States. But after receiving a very generous $1000 voucher from American Airlines after giving up my seat for a later flight back from a family vacation, I knew I wanted to use it for as big of a trip as I could.

A friend from high school as well as university now, decided to study abroad in Singapore for her spring semester and I figured why not just casually go to the other side of the world for spring break and pay her a visit. 

 
 

After finishing up my two final midterms, I ran back to my room to finish packing and get ready for my first time traveling international on my own. Was I ready for the trip? Absolutely, especially after those midterms. Was I ready to travel for just over 24 hours to the literal opposite side of the globe? Not necessarily, but let me just say melatonin was a huge help for that 16 hour flight.

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Two layovers and a leap over the North Pole and Russia later, I had landed at Changi airport ready for the week ahead. We hit the ground running, wasting no time on my first day in The City of Lions. Getting in around noon, my friend and I got lunch in Chinatown and then met up with some of her friends and walked around downtown Marina Bay. 

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Because Singapore is a city-state, it's size really only warrants about three or four days to do and see everything. Since I was there the entire week I had more than enough time. Most of my days there, I spent just walking around the different neighborhoods and taking it all in. Again, this being my first time in Asia I was exposed to a completely different culture and overall way of life. There was the busyness of a major metropolitan city with the numerous hawker stands and crowded side streets lined with different vendors.

 
 
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Aside from the hustle and bustle of downtown, it's very easy to take a quick trip more inland of this Southeast Asian island. Crossing the island on the metro on our way to Malaysia revealed a very tropical, open suburban area in which we also stopped for a quick day hike through the Treetops in the center of the island. I generally knew which direction was which and where we might find downtown Singapore or ever Malaysia, but all we could see for miles was the vast green landscape. 

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Another bonus of visiting Singapore is it's closeness to so many other countries. Sadly, I didn't do enough planning ahead of time to be able to country hop but we were able to make a quick day trip to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. We took the metro straight through the center of Singapore up north to the bus stop that would take us over the Johur Straight which separates Singapore's main island, Pulau Ujong, from Malaysia. We had no idea where we were and what there was around to do so we just walked around the downtown area, got some amazing Vietnamese coffee by the water and walked through different shopping areas so I could find my Malaysian key chain of course (much more of a difficult task than you would imagine).

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Overall, it definitely was an interesting and fun first time over in Asia despite it being just a short break to two cities. My first time in a new continent, exposure to another new culture, and definitely some well-deserved downtime mid-semester.

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Ethan Stoler