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Published: January 5th 2020
Blog # 3: A Singapore postscript.
January 4, 2020
Hello folks. I hope 2020 is being kind to you so far (and that you are not fire affected).
For the last leg of our trip, we traveled from Phnom Penh across to Singapore on Jetstar. (Our experience on Jetstar Asia was just fine, compared to the woes I’ve had with Jetstar in Australia.)
Like most other travelers, we love Singapore. It is warm, safe and clean, it boasts fantastic food and has heaps of things to do. Furthermore, the city state is shaking off its sterile, puritanical image. (It was once described by writer William Gibson as "Disneyland with the death penalty".) Nowadays, there are thumping bars and nightclubs that stay open later than that nanny city, Sydney. Clarke Quay last Friday night, for example, was going off. Buzzing bars, live music, international cuisine and people everywhere. However, booze is still pricey here (sin tax). Wine was crazy expensive, so we just had beers with dinner. As for dance clubs, Even GLBTIQ venues are gaining traction here. You might have seen the photos I posted on Facebook of Dorothy’s – a very camp gay bar in the
heart of Chinatown. The guy that served us was a Singaporean version of Julian Clary!
I’ve been to Singapore a few times (mainly for work), and Ross once previously. He had not seen the extraordinary Marina Bay Sands hotel – the giant ship-like thing straddling three towers. Nor had he seen the Gardens by the Bay, with those huge artificial tree thingys, covered with living vegetation (the Super tree grove). So these were two obligatory stops. It is theoretically the peak of the monsoon season here in Singapore right now, so I expected a lot of rain. Well, we saw none over the four days we were here!! Sunny or partly cloudy skies. A local commented to us that the Singapore’s weather is changing and it is getting drier. Sound familiar at all?
We enjoyed New year’s eve in Singapore. Excellent fireworks over the Marina Bay area that actually started at 11pm, paused at 11.45pm, then went ballistic at midnight! Another highlight was hundreds of coloured drones that flew in formation to make a giant moving human in the night sky. Then they formed a counting-down clock. Very cool. Although it was super-crowded everywhere around the bayfront, there
was not a drop of alcohol in sight and everyone was orderly! That’s Singapore for you. Happily, we were within walking distance of our hotel in Chinatown, so getting back “home” was dead easy. It was a lovely walk back along the river. We watched a multitude of brightly lit bum-boats ferrying revellers back upriver to Clarke Quay after the fireworks.
Chinatown was a perfect place to stay, with easy access to everything via the wonderful MRT subway system. The area is currently gearing up for Chinese new year, with lots of lovely decorations. (The year of the rat, I learned, not the year of the shiny pink mouse on acid, as so many statues and inflatable models implied). I love the harmonious cultural diversity in Singapore. One morning, we were immersed in bustling Chinatown, gawking at coloured steam buns and cooked ducks’ heads. Then in the afternoon, we caught the cable-car over to fun-filled Sentosa Island. There, we enjoyed sitting in bean-bags on the beach (admittedly human-made), while music thumped out of beach bars. On Sentosa, I went along to the S.E.A Aquarium, the one “zoo-type” thing I had not yet seen in Singapore. It is world class,
including the largest single tank in the world (called the “Ocean Gallery”). That alone was just amazing. I saw species that I have not seen in aquaria in the past, such as manta rays, tuna, hammerhead sharks and barracuda. Other highlights included a very large and active Pacific octopus, and brilliantly coloured Central American poison arrow frogs. The next day saw us at Katong, admiring the lovely Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) houses, then on to the Arab quarter of Kampong Glam, which was really cool. I bought two fabulous collared shirts there. (One festooned with butterflies.) We finished off the day at the extraordinary art-deco Atlas Gin bar (with special thanks to Megan Bathurst for the tip.)
Like everywhere else in South East Asia, everyone we encountered in Singapore was kind and respectful. Two examples:
1. At convenience stores, you often don’t pay the person behind the counter directly but insert the money in a machine and it spits out the change. I did so, got my change and walked out down the street. A young Singaporean guy (another customer) came running after me. He handed me the $10 I accidently left in the change dispenser.
2. A lovely
mid-aged Muslim woman who helped us at the MRT (train) station in Katong, when we went to see the coloured Peranakan houses. She advised us not to walk to Koon Seng Road from the train station as it would be long walk. She went out of her way to show us where to get a cab.
Mum, we had dinner one night at a hawker centre in Chinatown and ran into that old friend of yours. The old guy that was cleaning up and that was flirting with you when we were here in 2010. He said to give you his warm regards. He’s looking a bit older, though. He had about eight teeth when you were here, but now has only three.
Perhaps the three most famous Singaporean dishes are red chilli crab, Hainanese chicken rice and sambal stingray. Every time we went along to Tian Tian or similar hawker places specifically for the chicken rice or stingray, the queues were from here to eternity. So, we never actually got around to trying them. However, on our final night, we did have a wonderful dinner of red chilli crab at Jumbo Seafood by the river.
that’s all folks. I have come to realise that Asia is my second favourite destination (after Africa, of course). Sure, Europe and North America are great, but I love Asia more. I love it’s warm, sunny weather (at the right time of year), the lower costs for everything, its delicious food, its animals, and its people. Added bonus is the fascinating culture rather different to our own. What’s not to like?
Craig (and Ross).
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