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Published: October 16th 2009
And so we reached our final stop on our 5 month World tour - Singapore, where we stayed for 4 nights before flying back home. We hadn't thought much about Singapore in advance as it was the very last place we were visiting, and we didn't have a guidebook, so we weren't really sure what to expect. Once we did eventually get a guidebook at Cairns airport it mentioned that Singapore had previously had a bit of a reputation as being dull, this is certainly not our experience of the City State.
Singapore is a smallish island off the southern tip of the Malay peninsular. What used to be dense, swampy rainforest is now a thoroughly modern metropolis having first been colonised by the British in the 19th Century and then becoming home to migrant communities from, mainly, China and India. All this makes for a pretty diverse city and some fantastic food! When the town plan was first implemented by Stamford Raffles he created particular areas for the various communities: The Colonial District for the Brits, Chinatown for the Chinese and Little India for the Indians. We stayed next to Little India so were well placed for exploring all
the different areas of the city, which are easy to get to on the very efficient, clean and cheap metro.
We began our first day in the Chinatown area exploring the shophouses, selling Chinese wares to the many tourists, and the Buddhist temples of the area, including the ornate Buddha Tooth Relic temple, home to hundreds of buddhas of various sizes and in different states of repose. Singapore is a retail heaven and Sarah managed all of about 30 minutes before she had been talked into buying a new digital camera, unfortunately sorely needed as her camera that had survived the previous 21 weeks gave up on her that very morning with a lens error. Having wandered the streets for a couple of hours it was now time for some lunch so we decided to check out a couple of the hawker markets, which are food halls housing stall upon stall offering cheap food. It all makes for a very confusing experience as you try to choose what tasty dish to pick from the many different regional cuisines on offer. Apparently the knack is to join the longest queue, how very British. We opted for a Thai stall and
had a couple of delicious dishes for a grand total of about GBP 3.50.
In the late afternoon we set off on a twilight walking tour of the Colonial District, with the obligatory first stop at the infamous Raffles Hotel, where we avoided the touristy Long Bar and headed for the quieter terrace of the Bar & Billiard Room bar to partake of its most famous cocktail, the Singapore Sling. The guidebook said it tasted like cough medicine but it seemed alright to us. Having paid over enough money to have bought ourselves 10 hawker meals we emerged from the hotel to head along the Esplanade towards Marina Bay to see the Merlion, a statue of the symbol of Singapore that is half lion and half fish spurting water into the river. We then wandered around the Colonial District past several of the attractive colonial buildings in the area and along the river as the sun went down and the twinkling lights of the sky scrapers of the city came on.
For dinner that evening we headed to Little India, which is always a fairly lively area of Singapore of an evening but even more so this month
as they are celebrating Deepavali (the Hindu festival of lights) so the streets are lit up with colourful lights and stalls are selling garlands, decorations and fireworks. We chose a curry house off the tourist track and ate whatever was put in front of us in the classic Indian way, off a banana leaf and using only our fingers. It was a really good experience, the food was scrumptious and, again, very cheap. As we walked back to our hotel through the markets Sarah was very taken with the henna tattoos on offer so is now sporting one herself on her left palm, which is supposed to last for a couple of weeks.
On day two we had planned to head over to Sentosa island, a beach resort just off the mainland, but as it was cloudy and raining we decided it wasn't exactly beach weather so headed for the retail mecca that is Orchard Road instead. This is a long road in Singapore that is home to many huge malls full of shops over many floors. You could probably spend a whole year and not visit the same shop twice, but we just spent a few hours doing
some window shopping and taking refuge in the strong air con from the heat and humidity outside. for dinner that evening we went to the Arab Quarter, passing the stunning Muslim temple (designed, strangely, by an Irishman) emitting its call to prayer, and ate middle eastern food.
On the third day it still wasn't really sunbathing weather but as time was getting short we set off for Sentosa Island anyway. It's a small island just off the mainland, connected by a monorail and cable car, that is home to a few fake beaches made from imported sand and some theme park like attractions (3D cinema, simulators etc). It is undergoing some large scale development at the moment creating new hotels, casinos and a proper theme park. It all seemed a bit industrial to me what with the development on the island and the view from the beach being the docks and hundreds of tankers floating past along the Singapore Strait, no doubt spewing oil into the water to pollute the swimming areas! We weren't overly enamoured with the place, I think the weather didn't help, it would probably be much better on a sunny day but we did spend
a few hours there "sunbathing" and partaking of a cocktail at Cafe Del Mar (similar to the original in Ibiza). If you visited all the attractions on the island you would probably end up spending a lot of money so we chose to just go on the luge, which was good fun. We got a cable car up the hill and then rode on the luge down a couple of times before heading back over to the mainland for another curry in Little India, again eaten with our fingers.
It is now our last day and we are passing the time before our midnight flight back home. We plan to go back over to Orchard Road and sample some more hawker stall food before heading to the airport. We are sad that our little adventure has now come to an end, we've had such an amazing time and seen so many wonderful things, but we are also now ready to go back home and get back to some semblance of normality (only the 9 to 5:30 at the office might be a struggle for a while after so much freedom).
So there we have it, our last blog,
over and out.
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