Singapore is not a police state that many expect to see but it is different from the rest of SE Asia. Sure it's clean, has lots of air conditioned malls, Western food chains, so so food again offered at malls or at semi indoor hawker centers, and little air pollution. Dig a little deeper however and you'll find more than just a sterile city. The public transportation is great, I guess being a small country help. Lots of buses, extensive MRT (subway) system, and taxi drivers who don't tout or try and cheat you to pay more.
Singapore for a country of 5 million has a sizable Muslim and Hindu population often with many in close proximity of each other and witnessing the huge Eid celebrations was a surprise as we did not expect parts of the city to be so lit up and decorated.
We spent the month of Ramadan here at the oldest and biggest mosque, known as Sultan Masjid built in the 1800's. In our observance, found the hospitality of the Malays, one of the few ethnic groups along with a predominantly Chinese and Tamil Indians to be curious and friendly. Our time spent during Ramadan was one of peace and a regularity to a day usually filled with lots of decision making and running around. We would wake up each morning at 5, have our morning meal and then go back to sleep after praying. In the afternoons, it was usually too hot, so we would take a short stroll to a park or spend time at the wonderful National Library nearby.
The evenings we really looked forward to because we could break our fast and finally eat. All the mosques like many around the world, provide free meals, so we would go to our favorite (Sultan) and sit with hundreds of people on long tables and share our evening meal of chicken, rice, sambal, gelatinous rice pudding, lamb porridge, tea, dates, and fruits. It was a great way to spend time with the locals and get to know a few familiar faces.
While Singapore for us didn't present any awe inspiring moments, we enjoyed the every day, such as cheap and tasty food at the hawker centers, where the two of us could get a meal for about 6 SGD, walks in parks, botanical garden, and even mundane things like grocery shopping. We also got to know a few people from our time spent at the Mosque and had a wonderful week spent with our friends Nadia and Adnan who had great views of the harbor and nearby East Coast Park from their high rise apartment.
The highlight was visiting Astana, the Presidential Palace, open only four times a year. We happened to be there at the right time, so were able to check out the site with its expansive manicured lawns, fountains with swans, and a sea of calm in an otherwise fast moving city.
Singapore would be the last country on our year long trip, so we both looked forward to but also with some hesitation about homecoming.