Stunned by Singapore!

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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With Family

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

We've been here in Singapore for three days now, staying with Nidhi (Kanan' cousin) and her husband Datta who live and work here. As with all of her relatives with whom we've stayed, they've been extremely generous with their hospitality. Singapore is a startlingly modern city - gleamingly clean, brilliantly efficient transport, lush and green and dripping with money (and half of the time with rain). We hadn’t realised quite how expensive Singapore was going to be before we came – as a guideline the price of a beer I saw today was S$16 (about eight pounds) – I guess it’s the price to pay for the benefits of living in a tropical super-city.
For the last three days we've basically just been wandering round the city absorbing the scale of the new buildings and their contrast with the old colonial sights. Whilst doing this we’ve rather fallen for Singapore, and I think both of us would quite fancy living here. Barring the incredible heat and humidity, which has made the aforementioned walking a little uncomfortable (and in turn made us a little irritable with each other!) at times, the rest of the city is an oasis of pristine shopping malls, perfect temperature air conditioning, and general order and functionality. Unlike London, no one seems to be rushing around here, although this might say more about the clean, fresh, punctual tube system and escalators which go at a speed which makes you not want to run down them, than it does about Singapore’s citizens.

Yesterday we paid a visit to the Singapore National Museum, with fairly low expectations as, on the whole, museums aren’t our bag. I was wonder-struck though, as a fully interactive, high tech experience took me through the recent history of the sovereign city state – with Monaco and Vatican City the only two others in the world, we discovered. It was like losing three hours on Wikipedia – something I’m rather prone to doing back home when I should be doing something else – as we navigated our own way through the history with a super-IPod contraption, giving us information and video on any object which tickled our fancy. It’s comfortably the best museum I’ve ever been to. There are some pictures below.

The modern mega-city of Singapore sits comfortably alongside the old colonial quarter with its clubs, hotels and civic buildings – populated these days by the hugely affluent multi-cultural, but mainly transient population of Singapore. I love to explore these old haunts, and the pavilion of the Singapore Cricket Club, situated right in the heart of the city – complete with cricket pitch surrounded by towering office blocks – held a particular allure for me. And so couple of days ago I donned my boater hat, brushed off the dirt of ten weeks travelling, put on my best English public school accent, and attempted to gain entry into the exclusive Singapore Cricket Club (members only) Pavilion. Despite my best efforts I was given a quick (and mildly disgusted) once over by the lady in charge of admittance, and rather unceremoniously asked to leave. Alas I fear my ten year old Merrell sandals, falling apart at the seams, had betrayed me. I turned to leave, about to walk past the Bentley and Jaguar cars lined up in the car park, contemplated returning with a more “don’t you know who I am” kind of attitude, and then thought better of it. We nipped onto the cricket pitch in front of the Pavilion for a few sneaky pictures instead.

The Raffles Hotel had an altogether different attitude towards us. More used to being a part of the tourist trail, they were quite happy and not at all snooty about me getting my bedraggled and swea- soaked hands on their almost two hundred year-old snooker table in the rather splendid Bar and Billiards room. This was despite Kanan and I declining their offers of a twenty pound cocktail.

Yesterday a lovely Chinese-Singaporean man came to our future rescue. We stumbled across his vegan restaurant purely by chance, and he served up some delicious fare for us. He was very interested in our trip, and particularly so in our China leg. We explained our fear of traveling as vegetarians in the country. He then spent about twenty minutes writing for us in Chinese an explanation we can show to the restaurants there about the various things we can and can’t eat. I think it translates as something like “these people eat meat of no kind, not even chickens or fish, and don’t cook their food in stock made from bones either”. We plan to get it laminated and treasure it for the rest of our trip. It might just save our bacon (so to speak). He gave us a few top tips as to where to eat out as veggies in Singapore too which we plan to follow up today.

Despite its gleaming towers making a breath-taking skyline (particularly by night, see pics), no crime, and complete absence of visible poverty, Singapore does have its problems of course. There is only one political party here which has been in power since independence from the British, and whilst not on the same scale as China, censorship is a bit of an issue. Whilst here I have heard the government described as one in which everything is tolerated as long as it is moderated. It’s also been described to me as a benevolent dictatorship. Perhaps there’s something to be said for it though, as the city holds a wonder and allure which has been hard to resist – perhaps why Singapore has one of the highest populations of foreigners anywhere in the world.

We’re off back into Malaysia by overnight bus tonight to the Cameron Highlands. Singapore has been a great place to immerse ourselves in the modern for a while, and of course it’s been a real privilege to have the comforts and company of family for a few days.


Love as always


Jo and Kaa.
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Brian Cole on

Lovely to read your experiences in Singapore. Jan and I had a three day stopover on our way to Australia. We were refused entry to Raffles as I had no socks on with my sandals! We were there just before Christmas and it was weird to hear the carol in the bleak mid winter being played in so much heat!.Really enjoyed their food and the high wire trip out to the island. Brian

A Tina on

You are the only people who have ever made me feel I'd like to go to Singapore. Now regretting that we didn't take up a friend's offer to stay with them when they lived there for two years. Another friend worked there for Seimens and never ate in the house, using market stalls etc for food. These had to meet such strict hygiene requirements that she never had qualms or. indeed, after- effects!

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