Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Singapore



Singapore is pretty special and it should be for the amount of money that seems to be thrown at the place. I am not sure where they get their money from but they have a lot of it and the country seems to have no problem spending it. The place was perfect, almost a little too perfect in places. For example I saw only one homeless person during my time here and I wasn't even sure if he was homeless or not as he was asleep on a park bench in a full 3 piece suit! The only explanation for this other than he wasn't actually a homeless guy was that the Singapore government give their homeless a clothing allowance.

I had heard so many stories about how Singapore was a "fine city" and how you would get a $1000 fine there for pretty much anything. Spitting, chewing gum, jay walking, smoking and littering to name but a few. However you would think to enforce all these laws there would be police everywhere but there really wasn't! I think I saw even less police here than I did in Japan. No idea why it was, maybe it was the places I was going but I think I must have seen only 2 police cars during my entire stay in Singapore.

We had travelled from KL to Singapore by bus with Becky making are tally of countries with her a big fat 5. She knew of a good hostel in Little India, which was only a few minutes’ walk out of the city centre. So jumped in a taxi with her and headed over to the hostel. Little India was cool full of Indians obviously, as well as curry houses and other Indian shops. The place smell amazing thanks to the constant smell of curry wafting into the streets. The hostel we stayed in reminded me of the ones I had stayed in, in Japan, clean, modern and full of little extras like plugs on every bed. It was nice to have a little bit of luxury again after the hostels through most of South East Asia and gave me a bit of an impression what life was going to be like for the next few months in Australia.

Day one in Singapore involved a rather extensive walking tour which would take us past most of the main sights in the city in a very logical order almost asking us in a perfect loop around the city eventually leading us back to the hostel. First thing we did was take a bus out to the far west of the city to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore is the only city in the world (I think) which actually has a real rain forest growing within it. So first stop was a quick walk around there followed by the botanic gardens themselves. We walked around here for a bit took some photos and enjoyed the baking heat. This then led us round to the bottom of the famous Orchard Road which has almost as many giant shopping centres as New York has Starbucks. We spent a good few hours down here seeing what was on offer and then stopping for some lunch in one of the many gigantic food halls. Once we had walked all the way along Orchard road we came out at the top a few hundred metres from Fort Canning Park. We walked around here for an hour or so enjoying another little green retreat from the mayhem of the city. It was really strange though as we were the only 3 people in the whole place, the park was pretty massive but no one seemed to use it was very strange. This then brought us around perfectly to the Singapore National Museum which after 6pm was free to enter. Taking full advantage of this we made a quick stop there only to find there really wasn't that much on display. So after that we made the short 20 minute walk back to the hostel to work out our plans for that evening. Was a great but exhausting day, allowing us to see a lot of what Singapore had to offer in a very well planned out manner. I would love to know how far I walked that day.

That night as we were staying in little India felt it was a must that we went for a curry. We looked around for a bit as there really was a huge amount to choose from and eventually settled on one which looked half decent. I can't remember what I ordered but it was well nice and I had one of the nicest cheese nams I had ever had. Typically though, almost the second I finished the last mouthful of my meal I sat back looking at the plate I had just demolished thinking how much I had enjoyed it when out of the corner of my eye a little mouse ran past me! Brilliant!

After the curry Becky and I really wanted to head out into the city centre to see what the night life was like. I had heard so many rumours of the price of things being through the roof I really wanted to check it out for myself as well as see what this “perfect” city had to offer night life wise. I can’t remember what the area was called but we got a taxi to an area where the majority of the clubs and bars were and it was pretty sweet. The drink prices were out of control but managed to find a bar that did 2 for one on cocktails. Tommy wasn’t drinking due to his feet so me and Becky went half on a 2 moitoes. We sat in this Latin America themed restraint and enjoyed our drinks watching Singapore go by. While we were there they were shooting for a film so there were films crews and actors and extras running about all over the place, it was great to watch, I think they were shooting a Bolloywood film so imagine I saw some Bollywood mega star that night without even realising. We walked up and down the bar area for a bit seeing what was going on and there seemed like a lot of cool stuff there. Just all out of out price range. We had another drink along the river and then jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hostel.

Day 2 in Singapore was a lot different to the first as we made our way for a day of fun on Sentosa island, Singapore's "island of fun" just south of the city. I wasn't really planning on doing much while I was there as I thought the prices of things would be ridiculous and they were. So I did what I could on a budget and enjoy watching all the Singaporeans enjoy their little City getaway. I think the main vibe I got from the island which was also brilliantly pointed out by Becky was that the whole of Sentosa had an "Organised fun" vibe to it. I just felt that everything there was what the government thought to be good fun. It was basically on big theme park full of various attractions and things to do but without the rides. There were several fake beaches, one for families, one for the teenagers and one for the adults just wanting to relax. It was a weird experience Sentosa but the highlight was definitely just being able to observer how the people of Singapore kicked back and had fun. Tommy and Becky managed to Blag free tickets to the Dolphin show which meant I had to kill a few hours while they had fun. I walked around the island and bumped into a monkey hiding on a road sign I took a few pictures of him and headed back to meet the others. Not long after that we jumped on the monorail and headed back to the city.

One problem during my stay in Singapore was Tommy's feet and inability to walk anywhere. Somewhere along the line something had bitten Tommy on both of his feet and somewhere these bites had got infected. It took several days for the infection to show but by the time we got to Singapore his feet were in a ridiculous state. They looked funny as, like Grandma feet, all swelled up with cankels. It just meant that walking anywhere took about twice as long as he was finding it real hard to walk. He also had to go onto antibiotic so for the next week he would be unable to drink a thing which was a shame.

I made sure I found some time to go to the Singapore Night Safari. This was basically just a Zoo which opened hen the sun had set and would stay open till about 12 midnight. The set up was that you got to ride around the majority of the park on a pretend safari 4WD which would make the occasionally stop so that you could get off and explore some more of the park by foot. I was hoping to see a few animals I had never seen before, mainly any nocturnal ones, however I didn't. I enjoyed my trip to the Night Safari but felt it was more of a novelty rather than something that was necessary to show off a whole range of different animals. My favourite animal there had to be the flying squirrels whose cage you were allowed to go in as they flew around all over the place, was mint.

Singapore has a reputation for its cheap electronics and while I think Bangkok is equally competitive I thought I may keep my eye out for a bargain. I was walking around the whole tie with my SLR round my neck and people were trying to sell me wide angel lens left right and centre. At the time I wasn't planning on getting lens but eventually I decided if I found one for the right price I would get one. I had not spent any of the money I had got for my birthday on anything in particular other than food and hostels so thought it was only right I should by myself something with what I had left. I eventually found a decent enough lens for a fairly reasonable price of 30 quid. He started at the mental price of 200 but I don't think he even expected to sell it for that, it was just to make the deal seem sweeter I guess. So now I can make my pictures go from this -





To this -




I obviously also had to make the pilgrimage to see Raffles hotel. I am not really too sure about the history of the place or that much about raffles himself. All I knew was that I had heard of the hotel before and therefore should probably take a quick trip to see the hotel for myself. I decided it would be better to see the hotel illuminated at night so our very last stop before we had to get up early for our flight the next day was Raffles. It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be but impressive none the less. Got a few snaps of the outside peered through the window to see the sort of luxury I would never be able to afford then jumped into a taxi to take us back to our hostel with rooms for $15 rather than $2000.

I really liked Singapore and kept thinking how this way my last stop in Asia and it made me real sad. It was a strange place and I couldn’t really work out what it was. I think it had something to do with the fact the whole country was just having so much money thrown at it, it meant the place lacked a soul (maybe). I still liked it though and it concluded my tour of the South East Asian mega cities.
Goodbye Asia ) ;










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