Update (19 Jun 10pm): This post was written in the afternoon on 19 Jun 2013, before the crazy escalation of the haze in Singapore to 290 at night. Seriously folks if the PSI is 290 which is teetering on hazardous level, you don’t want to be outside at all. Stay indoors as much as possible or escape to another part of the world for now!
Update 2 (19 Jun 11:07pm): it’s now officially hazardous at 321, whutttttt
You only realize what you take for granted when you’ve lost it, and damn you Haze, I miss the freedom of fresh air.
Singapore has always been known as the clean and green garden city, but the recent haze caused by the annual Indonesian forest fires has left us shrouded in uncharacteristic greyness and a rather persistent smokey cloud. Once I leave the comfort of air-conditioning, it feels like a heightened seventh-month experience where it perpetually smells like something is burning; my throat is awfully scratchy and my eyes smart from the air. The weather seems extra warm and dreary, and people around me hurry from place to place to get out of the open, hacking as they go, generally miserable as a whole.
Now I’ve been to cities like Taipei and Hanoi where the air in the city doesn’t feel so clean, where you generally just don’t feel like taking too deep breaths, and the stuff you blow out of your nose is blacker than what you’re used to. Maybe people might think us Singaporeans whiny, our citizens floundering from a little bit of haze and smoke, but we’ve always been proud of our high standards of cleanliness and this haze is just wreaking havoc on all our lives.
So for visitors who have the misfortune of being in Singapore during this period, here are some suggestions on how to make the best of your rather hazy time here.
Avoid being outdoors for too long or too much strenuous outdoor activity, especially when the PSI goes anywhere above 100. While lots of Singapore attractions tend to be outdoors, most of the buildings in Singapore are already air-conditioned because of our year-round tropical heat, so you can hide from the haze by hopping from building to building. Just remember to stay hydrated and moisturized because air-conditioning is drying!
Anything that involves checking out our cityscape or view is a bit of a lost cause at this point, but other stuff you can check out:
- Gardens by the Bay is a godsend as you can enjoy our garden greenery without the worry of haze in the comfort of the enclosed greenhouse environments of the Flower and Cloud Forest Domes. The S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World will also provide a nice 1-2 hour respite from the haze, or catch a performance at the Esplanade. I would still recommend checking out our historical and cultural areas like Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, but suggest keeping an eye on the PSI and mixing that up with time spent indoors instead to mitigate the effects of the haze.
- Our local Museums are often overlooked in favour of the bigger attractions like the Singapore Zoo and bumboats along the Singapore River, but are definitely worth a visit – check out the full list here. I would recommend the National Museum as well as the Singapore Art Museum. The Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands usually has popular international exhibitions showing, but if you want a taste of the local arts scene, stick with our local museums.
- Foodwise, our outdoor hawker centres may not be the most inviting now as they can get smoky and stuffy, but Singaporeans will brave the weather for good food, by hook or by crook, so don’t be surprised if those long lines don’t subside – al fresco dining at cafes and restaurants though are likely to see less people. Singapore is also home to a whole host of shopping malls, and the good news is that many shopping malls nowadays have food courts that host branches of these famous food stalls – it’s not the most ideal for an ‘authentic’ experience, but I rather be able to breathe. Here’s a list you can consider, but besides hawker food we have a whole host of other cafes, restaurants and eateries that will still give you a taste of Singapore.
Wear a mask
The N95 mask gained popularity in Singapore during the SARS outbreak some years back, so it’s an easily available option that won’t draw too many weird looks these days for those who need to be out and about in the open air for long periods of time. Singapore doesn’t have as prevalent a mask-wearing culture as places like Taiwan and China, so while you put on your fashionable leopard-print or Hello Kitty masks for your own health, don’t be surprised if you get the odd look from people around you. But who cares, it’s more important that you can breathe!
If masks are not your thing, make do with a thin scarf or hankie that you can cover your nose and mouth with if it really starts to get choking.
Hop on a plane
It might be a little extreme, but perhaps it’s the right time to scoot off some place else with open skies and fresh air while you wait for the Indonesian government to sort this mess out. Sumatra and even neighbouring Malaysia is out, and you’ll probably want to avoid major Asian cities like Beijing, New Delhi and even Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia according to this Slate article, which apparently rank among some of the most air-polluted places in the world. Consider instead Westernized nations which have much stricter rules on air pollution, or just staying out of the city – most countries have countryside escapes that generally have much fresher air.
Anyone have tips on places to go in Singapore while avoiding the haze? Share them here!