On having a fine time in Singapore

Anyone who travels a lot will inevitably, from time to time, fall foul of those quaint local customs sometimes referred to as laws. I clearly remember, for example, being severely reprimanded by a policeman on Orkney for birdwatching without due care and attention. Apparently, in that beautiful northern outpost of Great Britain, it’s illegal to stop your car on a blind bend in order to gain a better view of a Short-eared Owl on a fencepost, even if it’s a very good looking owl. Have these people no souls?

Then there was the time when I was searched by a plain-clothes policeman in Prague who accused me – falsely I hasten to add – of smuggling Albanians into the Czech Republic. For god’s sake, where did he think I’d hidden them? And what about that time in Virginia when a cop pulled me over for contravening one of those incomprehensible American laws on how to proceed at a road junction?

If hell is other people, then hell with knobs on is other people’s laws. Jaywalking for instance. How can it be illegal to cross the road? In Hawaii, we discovered, if you cross in the wrong place they call it jaywalking and try to fine you $130 each. In defence of the Hawaiian cops they did let us off when we said we were English, though whether this was out of respect or pity we couldn’t quite decide.

Jaywalking is pertinent to the main thrust of this post, as it’s one of the things you can also be fined for in Singapore. But if you drive everywhere don’t worry, there’s plenty of other things they’ll fine you for if given half a chance. Other offences include:

  • Feeding pigeons
  • Selling gum
  • Annoying people with a musical instrument
  • Singing rude songs
  • Walking around naked at home with the curtains open
  • Not flushing the toilet
  • Urinating in a public elevator
  • Eating durian fruit in the gardens of the Malay Heritage Centre


Don’t get me wrong, I rather like Singapore and its people, and could forgive most of these laws which suggest to me a country that’s more idiosyncratic than repressive.

But also, shockingly, gay sex between men is technically illegal there, although apparently the law is ambiguous and not enforced. Sorry guys, it’s the 21st century, this is not acceptable and you are hereby off my Christmas card list.

I was so horrified by this discovery that I felt I had to make a public protest, so I sang a rude song in the hotel lift, but very, very quietly in case they had it bugged.

You just can’t be too careful in Singapore, a country where annoying people with a musical instrument can cost you a $1,000 fine. Visitors beware!

Author: Platypus Man

"Platypus" is a red herring: I'm English, although my blogging career began in my record of a 2016 road trip to Tasmania. Other blogs followed covering road trips in Newfoundland (2017), the Yellowstone area of the USA (2018) and New Zealand (2019). My current project is "Now I'm 64" , a weekly blog covering UK travel and wildlife, along with bits of history, social commentary and moans about the injustice of aging. I can guarantee a few laughs, and also the occasional rant. Some of it's even quite well written!

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