For all our manicured lawns and tidy streets, this is a big city (sorry to have to point that out). And like any urban environment, there are some places that are more hellish than heavenly. Maybe it’s the heat, or the fumes, or the crowds or the noise—or a combination of all. After years of suffering in silence, we’ve decided to list the places, times and/or situations that try our patience…and our souls.
Sundays in Little India
It may be one of the best bargain shopping spots (the 24-hour Mustafa Centre comes to mind) but come Sunday, it bursts at the seams with crowds that can only be likened to a convention of sardines. Our rule of thumb: just say no to that temptation to visit on a Sunday. Rumors of molestation (you don’t want to know how) are not unfounded, as we actually saw a couple of incidents ourselves while reporting this story. If you must go, women should avoid baring too much skin. Enough said.
Upper Paya Lebar Road
Riding along Upper Paya Lebar Road during the morning rush hour is truly a test of one’s patience and nerves. Aside from the nauseatingly bumpy ride—thanks in no small part to the numerous winding curves along the stretch and the road surface being replaced by clunky metal plates—you’ll also have to deal with the grinding noise of construction. All of this, mind you, is on top of the noxious fumes from the deadlocked traffic. Add to this the propensity of some taxis drivers to take this challenging route at top speed, and you have a road not unlike a motorcross track. The evenings aren’t much better either, with the only noticeable improvement being that all the construction work is gradually winding down for the day. Evel Knievel with monster wheels only need apply.
Amoy Food Center
This popular hawker center among workers in the CBD may have some of the best and cheapest food in Singapore, but this is also one of the most hellish places to visit during lunch. Apart from the endless queues (up to an hour), which start forming as early as noon at some of the more popular stalls, this is also one of the hottest places to eat in, with lousy ventilation to boot. Then there are the narrow walkways to negotiate while avoiding steaming hot bowls of food. Add to that the abundance of unsightly tissue papers that are used to reserve seats (and those that litter the floor), and you have one seriously uncool joint. And if the ambient heat here doesn’t kill you, the heat from the numerous gas stoves will. Welcome to Dante’s Inferno.
Though we admit a soft spot for its colorful characters, they can turn from sirens to demons if you look like you’re going to take their picture—one shot us such evil eyes we nearly peed in our pants. Walking to the back of the building confirmed our feeling that this is one of the seediest places in town, with pumping techno and pop music blaring from the many nightspots in the building, while middle-aged men chatted up the young and not-so-young girls and transvestites. Mutton dressed as lamb prowled upon by wolves in sheep’s clothing—it’s a real live animal farm. Who knew Singapore could be so wild?
There is hell to pay if you want to take advantage of all the cheap food and groceries available across the Woodlands Causeway. We don’t think it’s worth it, considering the hassle that one has to go through to get to the other side. If you’re taking the car, there is the perpetually unmoving, snaking vehicle queue, especially during weekends. And if you’re taking public transport, the stampede to get onto the bus should deter you from going back there, forever. The endless construction work on the JB side is also nauseating, adding to the already unbelievable motorcycle jam and chaotic crowd control. To pass the time, get out your fly swat to take pot shots at the motorcycles buzzing by. The whole experience is just infuriatingly painful.
Toilet Inside Golden Mile Complex
One of the most disgusting toilets we have ever encountered (especially the ladies), this wet and icky lavatory gets our vote for the original lava from hell. When we visited, the sinks and toilet doors were just plain filthy, not to mention the toilet itself. To top it off, they have the cheek to charge 10¢ for entry—and that doesn’t even include paper. Pleeze! We hope the World Toilet Organization will pay them a visit soon.
Suntec City Carpark
For a truckload of insanity try entering this no-man’s land on a weekend. We know of many people who have complained about getting lost in this sprawling labyrinth of a carpark that stretches beneath a convention and exhibition centre, a shopping mall and five office towers. And with more than 10 different main exits, we’re not surprised. Heck, they even have their own private buggies to help patrons locate their “missing” vehicles. Need we say more?
Taxi Queue at Ngee Ann City
We love love love the shopping, but dread the thought of having to get a taxi here when we’re done. Not only is it almost impossible to get a cab here in under 15 minutes, but the car fumes, engine heat and constant honking from the taxis add up to one frustrating and tiring experience. Could someone please market a designer gas-mask?
Walking through the Orchard underpass, which links Orchard MRT station to Scotts Road, is generally breezy. But not on weekends, when the escalators are constantly out of service and buskers with naught talent blare out-of-tune pop songs from their jerry-rigged amps which can be heard from one end of the underpass to the other. What seems like the whole of Singapore out shopping descends into this hellhole. This way please to the Gates of Hell.
Tunnel Underpass at the CTE
Every time we drive through this underpass, especially during a massive jam, scenes from the movie Daylight—the Sylvester Stallone flick about a bunch of people trapped inside a tunnel during rush hour—flash through our minds. Not that that’s going to happen here, but the perpetual jam that stretches forever while you’re in the tunnel does invoke paranoia and claustrophobia what with the red brake lights, honking horns and build-up of exhaust fumes and tempers. Honk if you just want to scream “get me out of here.”
Lift Queue Inside Orchard Cineleisure
You know what’s really hell? You’re 15 minutes late for a movie (shame on you, but that’s another story), and you probably need another 15 just to get inside one of the four lifts filled with throngs of youngsters en route to the games arcade on the ninth floor. And forget trying to take the escalators, which require you to circle the entire floor to get from one flight to another. You end up having to dodge slow pokes meandering around the mall aimlessly. Excuse me, is this Night of the Living Dead?
Never mind the millions of dollars up for grabs. There are perpetually millions of uncles and ah kongs shuffling around, jamming the betting outlets whenever there is a big draw, soccer match or race. The vibe here is weird, but friendly enough if you’re: (a) a serious punter; (b) actually know what’s going on; and (c) are willing to strike up a conversation or two with the rest of the gang. The one pictured here at Cecil Street is just one among many. Welcome to The Twilight Zone.