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Published: August 22nd 2011
Singapore: Lion City. Pleasing on the eyes, perilous to your pocket, appealing to the senses, fiercely emergent, hygienically superior, orderly in arrangement and enviable in most regards... worthy of the moniker, I’d say.
Crossing the border into Singapore from Malaysia was easy enough, and the journey from “KL” (as all the expats say) was comfortable on the sleeper train, in fact we both slept better on the train than we had in our previous dorm room and I woke up covered in drool, which is always satisfying. Generally, I’m not easily impressed by big cities but Singapore was immediately pleasing to me. In many ways I felt like I was “home” as the similarities between Seoul (South Korea, where we have previously been living) and Singapore are countless- although the Korean capital has some maturing to do still to achieve Singaporean esteem.
Betel Box, the well thought out hostel where we stayed in Katong is worthy of note, and I would recommend it to any future visitors for its cheap price, wonderful staff and atmosphere. Although it was a 15 minute walk to the subway you are connected to the East-West and Circle lines, so everything is easily accessible.
Our first full day was non-stop, as were most. We first took in the Muslin Quarter of Kampong Glam and walked through a small second hand “market” where needless to say, the magpie in me was moments away from buying thread bare rugs amongst other futile gems. Then to Little Indian for dosai and dhal (a staple of our diet these days). Next we took the subway into the city centre and passed by city hall and through St. Andrew’s cathedral to the Durian-esque Esplanade Theatre and then on to the Marina.
From the Marina we had the benefit of an impressive city skyline, and were particularly impressed with the futuristic Marina Bay Sands building which resembles a boat or plane suspended on top of three skyscrapers. Once we had completed a lap of the Marina, locating various attractions such as the Art Science Museum, we walked through the city to China Town. En route we were impressed with how pristine the city really is. In China Town we ate at the first of what would be many Hawker centres where the food is cheap and delicious. The Singaporeans say that it is the place to shop and
to eat... I’d agree wholeheartedly with the latter! We were always deciding what to eat next!
The following day we arose early and took a cab to the highly praised Singapore Zoo. We now have quite a few Asian zoos under our belt, and we have been less than impressed with the conditions we found in most of them, which came as no big surprise! However, Singapore Zoo’s “open-plan” concept unquestionably provides the animals with more freedom than can be found in most zoos in Europe. We were also given the chance to watch many of the animals feed and interact with their keepers which we thoroughly enjoyed, given the novelty of such a creative environment. The zoo itself took a full day to look around and although we were exhausted, we had big plans for that evening...
A few months previous to our trip my dad, the proud owner of a coffee table piled high with travel books, has for some time now been smitten with the idea of travelling to Singapore (amongst many other destinations to which I will be more than willing to escort him!). He told me of how the last tiger to have
been shot and killed in Singapore was at the famous Raffles Hotel, beside the snooker table. A mission was bestowed upon me to have my photograph taken beside this snooker table, and my prize would be a Singapore Sling, courtesy of my kind father! That said, we took from our backpacks what we deemed to be our cleanest/ most formal/ least crumpled garments and hit the town.
Although I’d informed him of it before hand Chris couldn’t believe that it is custom to eat peanuts in the Long Bar (the odd part is coming...), then to throw the shells onto the ground. “But I thought you meant it was just the old timers being stubborn, stuck in their ways,” he said to me, throwing a mass of shells he’d stored onto the floor tiles, bemused. The Long Bar itself was more casual than I’d expected, but still reminiscent of how I imagined it to have been years ago. The drinks were expensive at $30 a go (Thanks again Dad!) but the evening was very enjoyable and much different from any other on our trip.
But we didn’t stop spoiling ourselves there!
Whilst passing through the Marina Sands Mall
we noticed that the musical production of The Lion King had just opened at the theatre for the first time ever in Asia. Seeing as the flight we had booked to Bangkok “mysteriously disappeared” (a long story-N.B. I would not recommend booking flights through the provider “Edreams”) we were allowed a little more time in Singapore to catch the show. However, to balance cost of the tickets we would now have to take a bus all the way back to Bangkok.
With hindsight I can say that the sacrifice was definitely worth it! However uncomfortable and long the bus journey (32 hours!), the show more than made up for it!
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