Edit Blog Post
Published: January 6th 2007
Raffles hotel in all its Christmas Colonial splender
We decided against the traditional Singapore Sling in here as it costs about 15 quid.
Singapore seems to be the sort of place that people visit for a couple of days in transit somewhere else, usually between Oz/NZ and Asia. During our time there we met loads of people doing this, some staying over for a matter of hours. This tends to have given it the reputation of there being nothing to do. This is definatly not true. We ended up staying for 10 days (floods in Malaysia prevented us from travelling to Southern Malaysia between Christmas and New Year as planned) and have yet to exhaust the things there are to see and do there.
A little bit of history and some sightseeing
Singapore was created when an English bloke called Raffles decided it would be a strategic place for the British Empire to stop off in the area for trade. Within a short time the island became a bustling seaport with people living there from all over the place and a British governer in charge. Britain stayed in charge of the island until after the war when they got kicked out by the Japanese and sometime after liberation Singapore became independent.
A handy consequence of this for us is that English is
official 1st language! Although there are loads of languages around the government encourage everyone to speak English. There are even big posters around demanding that people "Speak Good English!". Kris worried that his English might not be good enough and he may be ejected.
We did alot of wandering around sightseeing and looking at the very diverse areas of the city. The Colonial district and shopping areas of Orchard Road are modern and very Western with all the shops and restaurants you get at home. You could almost be in London. And then you turn a corner and are in Chinatown, or Little India which are like completely different countries. Joo Chiat Road, where we stayed, is totally far from home with its mix of Chinese and Malay population. You cant read the signs or the menus and have to point and pictures of what you want.
Kate and Kris's WWII project
After discovering how little we knew about the war in Asia when we visited the Thai-Burma railway, we decided to spend some of our time in Singapore finding out more about it in some of the numerous museums describing aspects of the war there, particularly the
The mascot of Singapore. Its half lion, half fish. We couldnt find anyone to tell us the reason for this. It also seems to throw up over Singapore.
Japanese occupation. In 1941 the Japanese attacked various parts of the Pacific, including the Malaya and Borneo, that belonged to Britain at the time. There pretext was to remove the Western occupiers from Asia and return it to the Asians. They basically wipped the buts of the Allied armies all the way down Malaya (the current Malaysian penninsular) in couple of months. The armies retreated onto Singapore, in February 1942. Japanese attacked on all sides, from the air, see and overland and British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15th February 1942. What followed was a harsh occupation of the island, including massacres of many of the local Chinese population and capture and illtreatment of many POWS (many were sent to build the Thai-Burma railway and were worked to death, and many were sent to other projects).
We went to two facinating museums about this. The Battle Box is the actual underground bunker where the British Commander of Singapore made the decision to surrender Singapore. Its all recreated with animatronic figures, hollographic images and very enthusiastic guides. You actually watch a recreation of the meeting where they made the decision to surrender Singapore in the very room it happened.
Orangutans at Singapore zoo
They just hang around in the trees above the zoo....
After finding out about the fall of Singapore we went to the Changi Prison Museum, which is where many of the British residents of Singapore were held during the Japanese occupation, and following that, many of the POWS. It tells the story of the occupation through the words of many different people who lived there at the time, British, Chinese, Malay, even Japanese. There is a recreation of the chapel at the Changi prison that was built during occupation and of some murals that were painted at this time, covered over and then discovered later. Its a pretty harrowing museum actually.
New Year Singapore style
On New Years Eve there was a large group staying in the hostel and not many other people hanging around at a loose end, so we ended up going out to Boat Quay in the middle of Singapore with a Swiss guy called Michel (pronounced Michelle) who was on his way to start a job in Aukland. Boat Quay is one of the key areas to go out, there are loads of bars along the river. We drank some very expensive jugs of beer and watched the fireworks at the stroke
Ringtailed lemur at Singapore zoo
We were just reading the sign telling us what was in the enclosure when the lemur jumped down onto its explanation board as if to say, thats me that is.
of midnight. Kris:
Apparently it's traditional in Switzerland to kiss everyone at the stroke of 12 on New Year morning. So I found myself in the odd position of being kissed enthusiastically on the cheek by Michel at 11:55....because my watch was fast...he then did it all over again 5 minutes later. How European. Wouldn't have been so bad if we weren't sat outside an English bar and drinking overpriced Old Speckled Hen...
Singapore Zoo at Night and Day Kris:
Singapore Zoo is huge and open plan with no bars (by that I mean metal bars not booze bars - funnily enough it does have booze bars and you're quite welcome to buy a few cans of beer and wander round supping them...). Instead, all the animals are separated from the people by tasteful moats of troughs. The main thing I found so cool about it was basically that it's in Singapore, in the middle of the tropics! It's set up very much like a tropical forest...but then if it had never been built, the area it covers would have been a tropical forest anyway! So it feels quite authentic! After giving it some thought I think I've
only ever been to London Zoo and Flamingoland before. In both cases, tropical animals were shivering in the corner of their cages. In Singapore, if a monkey appeared overhead you were never quite sure if it was an escapee or just one of the local island monkeys.
As well as the tropical contingent however, they do have penguins and a few polar bears. Somehow these poor fellas were probably thinking - "I've heard Flamingland is quite nice at this time of year"...The polar bear is the only one ever to be born in the tropics and quite famous over here, but he is off to a new home somewhere colder very soon - sure he is desperate to move to Canada or Norway or somewhere cold.
Anyway, the zoo's split up into two bits - the day zoo and the night safari. We bought a ticket for both, visited the day zoo one day and returned later in the week for the night safari. I think the latter might be the only of it's type in the world - it's definitely the first. Basically you turn up after 6 while the sunsets and walk round a trail of
And a tiger comes out of nowhere
Its dangerous in this here country
nocturnal animals in the twighlight.
It was cool but there was just so many people!! Hundreds and hundreds. I realise you can't have these things to yourself but it's smaller than the day zoo and the paths are narrow and you kind of get carried along in a parade of tourists. I guess we're becoming animal snobs. That's was PhDs in biology do for you! We got really sick of hearing people howl at wolves/jackals/hyenas or anything else that looked wolf-like. Plus there was the people that turned up at the badger enclosure. It was an Asian badger but looked pretty similar to a Eurpoean one. This English kid runs over to the barrier and points and shouts "Look dad!!! LOOK!!!"..."What is it son?"...."I dunno, I think it's some kind of...mole." ...."Thats great."...then they wander off straight past the huge board that tells you all about Asian badgers.
Guess I'll always be a zoology nerd and read all the info... Oh well.
Anyone visiting Singapore on a budget should stay at Betel Box hostel. We met loads of people while we were there and the people who run the place are really
Strange foods of Singapore continued...
Tony the hostel owner took us out for traditional Singapore desserts. They are basically ice shavings, condensed milk, beans and worm shaped sugar crystals. It looked really really weird but it tasted really good.
friendly. It's kinda like a grown-up version of Byker Grove. Sort of...
Tony the owner was a really good guy and as we stayed so long we had the pleasure of him taking us out to sample local food (it's handy to have a guide in these cases...) and taking us for a few beers in the local Eurasion club where we met a guy who's dad used to hunt man-eating tigers on Singapore when they attacked people...seriously. This wasn't that long ago. The wall in the place was covered in black and white pictures of the bloke with his rifle in the jungle...
I can hear!!!!!! Kris:
I got my ears fixed! I went back to the little Chinese doc and he syringed them with the most gruesome looking stainless steel syringe I ever saw. When we turned up he seemed so excited, I really think we were his favourite patients of the morning. Kate took her usual spectator seat and he sat me in the middle of the floor and drew warm water into the syringe. His wife/nurse held a bowl under my head and this doc started pumping water in and out of my head.
Strange foods of Singapore continued...
They really go for icecream sandwhiches here. In multicoloured bread. Again it tastes ok, but I didnt go for the sweetcorn flavoured icecream - that seemed to be taking it abit far.
It was a very odd feeling. Then there was a cry of jubilation and the pair eager showed my a huge plug of wax floating around in the bowl of water. Suddenly I could hear and I couldn't believe how deaf I'd been - everything was suddenly deafening. He did the same with the same ear and I entered an exciting new world of sounds.
Following this he sat me down for 10 minutes to talk about biology and monkeys and whether I'd ever like to be a medical doctor. I was tempted to say - no way! have you seen what you just had to remove from my ears?? - but I just said I was more interested in animals really.
I know you were all very worried...but my hearing is returned!!! Woo!
By the way, in case anyone wasnt aware, we have been nowhere near Bangkok for the bomb blasts, we flew to Kota Kinabalu on Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) on Thursday and will be here for two and a half weeks. Will keep you posted on our movements...
Tot: 0.744s; Tpl: 0.025s; cc: 28; qc: 99; dbt: 0.0393s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.6mb