Singapore or 'Death of a Budget'

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Monday, May 18, 2009

The budget that we'd so carefully stuck to died a sudden death on the 18th of May 2009, the day we arrived in Singapore. Economic conditions and the cruel hand of the retail industry proved too strong in the fight against our weak, unprotected bank account. Tired and defeated, Charlotte and I soldiered on, trying to enjoy the city.

I would advise any backpackers heading to Singapore to stay away from downtown. Other than looking around Raffles or having a walk around the quays area there's not much to entertain; not much that won't break the bank. The trouble is that, the things in themselves aren't actually too dear, but for example, a trip on the Singapore flyer is S$30 (15GBP), our accommodation is S$30 each, what does that leave us with ... nothing. But I moan too much.

The best thing to do is simply resign yourself to the fact that you're going to overspend, that's what we did. And so we headed to Sentosa Island, Singapore's answer to Disneyland. There's lots of cool things to see and do, most cost between S$10 and S$20, packages are available. We chose to go up the Tiger tower which gives great views of the city and the building site on Sentosa (future site of Universal Studios). Then we had a ride on the Luge. At full speed the ride lasts about 2.5 minutes, it's a good laugh, short but sweet. We also chose a walk around the butterfly park. This is pretty impressive, there are about 1500 from 50 different species fluttering by and occasionally landing on your head; this was challenging for me as I hate moths (a butterfly is a posh moth). There are also a few parrots and an iguana shuffling around in there somewhere.

Down at the beach (man-made, imported sand) we had a brief tutorial on Segway riding and were let loose round a winding track. Charlotte took off at speed while I was still circling round the practice area so I was forced to tear off after her, not fully in control but determined not to be shown up again (I lost the Luge race). After that there was about two hours to kill before the start of the Songs of the Sea sound and lights show. Not wanting to spend ANY more money we sat on a wall and played 20 questions (this is how dire the budgeting is going). The show was spectacular, images are beamed onto cascading water and fire balls boom into the air. I personally think this would have been enough but there's a kids story to accompany the show which is lame by six year old standards. "Can you sing boys and girls? can you?" Leave it out, how can something so cool become so juvenile.

The next day we went to the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. The zoo is outstanding thanks to the lack of both cages and depressed looking animals. All the exhibits mimic the specific habitat perfectly and there is space galore for roaming, sniffing and swinging. Perhaps most impressive is the Orangutan enclosure, the zoo is very proud to boast that they are the only free range Orangutans in the world, I think this means there isn't a cage or net. Whatever it means they look happy in their huge enclosure.

The night Safari is also good fun, very well executed. First we took a tram ride through the park and had a gander at nocturnal animals from across Asia, Africa and South America. The design team have cleverly recreated moonlight so not to beam masses of light but still illuminate the exhibits. Having been on a real safari not so long ago I wasn't quite as impressed as the screaming tourists on our tram but I have to say that it really is well executed. Finally we took in the Creatures of the Night show. This is a cheese fest. "We've lost an animal!!!" ...... "Where is it? .... Is it under your chair?" Despite all that the kids were loving it and it's always funny to watch these trained professionals try to force a stubborn raccoon to leave the stage. There is also a recycling weasel, outstanding!

I guess I had a good time in Singapore but was disappointed by its lack of character and soul. I didn't feel anything, whether it be walking around the street or riding the subway (this is not the case in Little India or Chinatown). Usually you feel something, fall in love with one aspect of a city, but here .... not really. It's an old cliche but Singapore really is sterile, clinical. Of course all cities should be litter free and manicured but at times it felt like I would sneeze and Jeeves would jump out from the shrubs and hold a tissue under my nose.
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