Singapore (1st to 5th April)

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Friday, April 4, 2008

April Fools day, for us, meant an alarm clock to wake us up  (only the 2nd time this year!), so that we could catch the early train to Singapore.    Just for fun, we then sat for 7 hours on the train (reminding Clive of a typical commute to work) to take us from Malaysia into Singapore.  The train stopped  for a short time so that we could hop off and  go through all the neccessary immigration controls and hop back on to go on to the central city area of Singapore.

Singapore is a small country on a small island  (only 43 km x 22 kms) but is crowded with 4.5million people living here  -  1 million of these are foreign expatriates.  85% of people live in the capital, with only 5% of these living in houses rather than apartments.  As you would expect there are many skyscrapers and many, many shopping malls. There are laws against chewing gum in public, dropping litter, eating on public transport, graffiti, walking around at home naked (as it is considered pornographic), failing to flush a public loo,  or crossing the road carelessly  - all of which will earn you a hefty fine if you disobey.  The country has only been independent for 43 years and there are a lot of rules. Foreigners are not allowed to own property, but locals still have to ensure that they follow the rules that say even in the areas known as  Little India, Chinatown or the Arab quarter, there has to be an equal mix of all races/religions in order to avoid racial dis-harmony (maybe this is something the west should try?). 
We arrived at our hotel, the South East Asia Hotel, by taxi, a good call, as even the taxi driver had never heard of it , but eventually found it, just off of Bugis Street one of the main shopping areas in the centre of the city. Not a bad place at all and very cheap for Singapore .

Singapore seemed very antiseptic and clinical when compared with the like of KL and Bangkok etc. and Clive was not terribly impressed with the place at first. Even the obligatory trip to the Hard Rock Café did not sway him (more elevator music than hard rock!). A very long walk to find the HRC took us from the hotel all the way along Orchard Road, THE place for upmarket shopping in Singapore.

To make life easier, we decided to buy a laptop in Singapore and spent a morning at Funan mall doing a deal as best we could.  As a result, I am now typing this on a nifty little Acer, complete with WiFi!

Just across the road from the shopping centre is the Singapore Fire Service Museum.  As Carolyn's father is a retired fireman, we had to pay a visit, One of the better museums we have visited and once the main man there found out Carolyn was teh daughter of a fireman, he couldn't do enough for us!

One of the great things about Singapore is the food.  Like Malaysia, you can get Chinese, Indian, Malyasian and very variation in between.  Multi-culturalism at its best.  One of our favourite dishes is Kway Teow.  Noodles with meat, shellfish, egg, garlic, soy.  iIn fact just about everything to break all of the religious dietary laws going!

After visiting the offices of my old employer, Mercer, to collect an ATM card sent from London (thanks Steve!) I went for a massage in the back of an old Chinese medicine shop round the corner.  This was one of the most painfull experinces of my life! (and believe me, I have had a few!).  This old wizened Chinese guy gave me the most excruciating massage ever and cackled insanely as he went about his task. If I made a sound of any sort he simply pressed even harder and cackled insanely. 45 minutes later I felt great and realised I had had the best massage ever!  Highly recommended if you are ever in Singapore.

We decided to buy HIPPO tickets which allow unlimited travel on the hop on hop off bus as well as many of the major tourist attractions. Not the best value for money we have experienced! The bus drivers' main objective seemed to be to get to get around the two routes in the shortest possible time. At times it seemed more like last weeks Malaysia Grand Prix rather than a leisurely tour! -In fact it may well have been Lewis Hamilton in the drivers seat. It was impossible to see any of the sights, let alone take photographs, so we had to go back and take a look at the main sights.

As part of the deal we went on a river trip in a "Bum Boat", one of the old style Chinese boats that ply the river. This was pretty good and interesting , although the commentary, sounded as though it had been taped by an American fresh out of college, seemed a bit out of place. The "Wacky Duck" tours, on an old amphibious vehicle, was a total waste of time (and couldn't have been less wacky!) but the commentary was at least live and given by a Singaporean, unfortunately it was also unintelligible! But not to worry, the trip was so dull we probably didn't miss anything!

The highlight would have been a trip in the hot air balloon. Unfortunately, after three attempts we were still not able to get a flight because of "bad weather". The weather seemed perfectly fine to us with blue skies and no wind, but it seemed as so the vaguest possibility of "bad weather" caused all flights to be abandoned. Bad weather seemed to include the wispiest of clouds and the possibility that someone might sneeze in Hong Kong!

One sight that definitely was worth seeing was the Botanical Gardens, and oasis in the middle of the city, surrounded by the houses of Singapore's rich and famous.  Some of the houses are truly amazing and back on to one of the best gardens in the world.  The gardens run to 65 hectares (i.e. big!) and are the most perfectly kept gardens I have ever seen.  The highlight was the Orchid Garden which conatined hundreds of different species most outside but many in a coolhouse and mist house which exhibited the ordhids that grow at higher altitudes in the cloud forest etc.  Could easily have spent a whole day here.

Now we have a plane to catch to Japan!
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