Happy Chinese New Year!

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End May 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
A Beary Good Hostel, Chinatown

Flag of Singapore  ,
Friday, February 4, 2011

Singapore is like the polar opposite of India.  It seems almost eerily clean, quiet and odour-free in comparison.  Not that I'm complaining: I really like the place.  Prices are actually on a par with England, and I think London is more expensive really.  I'm staying in a really nice hostel in Chinatown, which was like a ghost-town when I arrived yesterday as it was the morning after the big Chinese New Year celebrations.  It's a five day holiday here, and great fun.  This afternoon the hostel put on a Chinese dragon show - I couldn't quite figure it out but basically the dragon dances to really loud drum and cymbal music, then "eats" an offering of oranges, lettuce and a can of beer (that's probably less traditional), spitting out the orange peel and lettuce!  It was really funny, and at the end it offers up a message which presumably says Happy New Year, and the orange segents are left arranged into numbers which the staff were then going to use on the lottery.

So yesterday as I say I arrived in the morning, and even though I couldn't check in til 2pm they let me have a shower and have breakfast, for which I was very grateful as I hadn't slept at all on the flight over.  Over breakfast I met an Australian girl called Sarah who just had one day in Singapore so we decided to spend it together.  We bought some hop-onhop-off bus tickets and got off at Orchard Rd which is like the Champs Elysees of  Singapore.  The tourist information recommended a few things such as the Night Safari at the zoo, which Pat and Graham had also recommended.  Sarah is an animal lover so we decided we'd definitely do that.  We spent the rest of the day walking round, by "Marina Bay" which was overlooked by a huge building consisting of three apartment blocks with a ship atop them: I think there's a restaurant up there.  We then walked on to Raffles Hotel, where everyone says you should have a 'Singapore Sling' cocktail.  It was very expensive but it was nice, and we spent ages there people-watching and generally relaxing.

Batteries recharged we then walked on to "Little India" (we were going to get the bus but I incoveniently rushed to the loo at the moment it decided to show up, whoops).  Little India was hilarious as it's what India would be like if subject to strict laws on littering, noise and traffic.  I had great trouble waiting patiently for the green man everywhere - you can get fined for jaywalking so after India it was a bit of a shock to not be able to cross the road when there's not even traffic there!  In India you never even get a road without traffic!  The other noticeable and lamentable difference was the lack of street food: I would have loved a 5p cup of tea, sugarcane juice (which I tried on the way to the airport from Goa!) or snack. 

From Little India we walked to Arab St, the muslim area where we planned to eat.  It was buzzing, and we chose a little corner shop with plastic chairs outside which was bursting with people and served huge mugs of what looked like masala chai.  Unfortunately they had nothing veggie so while Sarah tucked into a Malay fish dish served in a banana leaf I crossed the street to order some veg noodles which they brought over.  The tea was amazing and just what I'd been craving.  In total for two of us we paid less than five pounds so I can confirm that despite what people may say it is possible to do Singapore on the cheap!  As the place was so busy we shared a table with two local guys who we got chatting to and were really friendly.  We were getting increasingly worried about the time as te zoo was a train then a bus ride away and we didn't even know the nearest station.  After quite a bit of persuasion we agreed for them to give us a lift there.  It's the kind of thing you'd never do if you were by yourself but sometime you just get a good feeling about people and they seemed very genuine.  They dropped us at the zoo and said they'd be happy to pick us up afterwards and take us for a drink.  At the zoo we discussed it and decided to take the bus back and meet them in town which would be a good opportunity to buy them a drink to thank them. 

The zoo itself was probably worth the entrance fee as it was a unique experience really.  The animals aren't in cages, there's a little ditch which separates them from you as you take a 'tram' ride around the whole place, which includes a good commentary.  Some of the animals were sleeping of course but only like you would geti n the daytime anyway.  After the tram we walked all of the routes, which took about another hour, so we definitely made the most of it and saw everything.  The guys (Arrif and Rahman) lived nearby and insisted on picking us up so we went with them back to Arab St at first, then on to the riverside area which was really modern and nice.  We went to a Scottish themed bar with a great live band: one of the least kitschy bars there. We sat outside opposite "The Clinic", a bar themed as a hospital with dentists' lights, green screens, and wheelchairs to sit on!  It was a great night, and they refused to let us pay for anything on the proviso that if they ever come to Australia or London they can look us up.  There really is nothing better than seeing a city with a local.  They also have a really interesting job, developing packaging for medicines, as you have to have different packaging for different climates etc.  Funny how many obscure jobs are out there! 
They dropped us back at our hostel late - Sarah had an early flight this morning but I went to bed exhausted as I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept!  I woke up late this morning with aching feet from yesterday!  I wandered round Chinatown this afternoon, eating a Thai meal for lunch, and think I'm just going to hang round locally tonight as well.

There's something about Singapore that just makes you want to spend money!  I don't know how they do it but it definitely works, and I ended up buying a load of stuff that I now have to carry round for several months...  As soon as I got off the plane I had noticed how well-dressed the women were.  In fact they probably don't spend any longer on their appearance than anyone anywhere else, I think I just like their dress sense (i.e. lots of pretty dresses and skirts!)  The problem came on my second day when all the shops in Chinatown reopened, meaning that in order to get to my hostel (situated on the first floor), I had to literally walk through a clothes shop full of the most beautiful dresses!  With the New Year half price sale I literally could have bought one of every style and colour, no exaggeration.  I limited myself to trying on just three different styles, and spent about an hour deliberating over colours etc before finally making my purchase.  I think I have a serious problem.  I also ended up buying three pieces of artwork, another weakness of mine with the added diffciculty that since I'm currently homeless I have nowhere to hang any pictures anyway!  Still, Singapore is famous for shopping so I suppose it's all part of the cultural experience...
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Dad on

Singapore sounds great and Sarah and the guys good company. I suggest you put your feet up for a while to recover! By the way I've received 3 texts from you saying "Keep this message - Sender: IMEI:359747.........." What does it mean? Love Dad

Ruth on

Sounds AMAZING!!! Love that it's going really well :) xxxxxxx

Louise Newsholme on

It sounds wonderful, Hollie, and what a contrast to India.

Pat I on

Wow, I can't stop admiring you for all your experiences! You meet the greatest/most interesting people and are seeing things through very unique eyes. I look forward to your new posts!

pat (Goa) on

Glad you enjoyed the night Zoo. Sounds like you are having a fantastic time. Keep up the blogs as they are really interesting. Take care Pat

Charles Theseira on

Beware of pickpocket gangs and mad drivers in Singapore.

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