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How much do you know about Singapore? Before we looked into our trip I knew it was small and I'd heard of Raffles hotel. (I also knew that Claire's grandmother had lived there for a while.) But that was about it. Between reading about it and coming here, I now know quite a bit more and I like it... a lot.
Ok, let's get my one quick gripe over with. The humidity is hard to cope with. Air conditioning is a must here and every now and again I need to dip into a nice cool building to stop myself from melting. Ok, gripe over. I like everything else.
Singapore is a bizarre cultural mix. On the one hand you have a lot of Malaysians and then you have quite a few Chinese people too. Add to that a significant population of Indians and throw in some English culture. That's Singapore. Most people speak English, some better than others. They drive on the left - the correct side of the road. As a country and a city, Singapore is unique I think.
It was quite late when we arrived in Singapore. We landed, a bit awkwardly, in the area that Claire's grandmother had lived during the late 40s. (The houses that were there were long ago torn down to make room for the airport.) A 20km taxi ride took us to the city centre and I was reminded that I'd have to start practising how to say no again. Our driver said he knew many different places to stay and it was only when we explained that we had a reservation at our hostel that he gave up. I know that he was trying to be helpful (everyone in Singapore is very helpful) but there's a fine line between helpful and pushy. Some of the people in South America left that line way behind and I'm sure that in the near future our resolve will once again be tested. In Singapore though, most people stick on the helpful side of the line.
Our hostel, while a little ragged around the edges, was pretty clean and welcoming. The heat in Singapore is ok but the humidity can be a bit heavy most of the time so I was happy to find that our room had A/C. The hostel had no kitchen to speak of but that was ok as they included breakfast and in Singapore you have to try the food stalls and centres. There are plenty of dishes there to make your mouth water and they only cost a few dollars. All we did that first night was relax, check our email and take a short walk around the area we were in - Little India.
On our first full day in Singapore, we indulged in one of the national pastimes - shopping. We walked through many, many malls. Some underground, some not. Most of them were connected to each other somehow though. We also bought a travelcard to make using the MRT system of underground trains easier. I have no idea how far we walked but it was certainly a long, long way. We also took a quick trip on the cable car that runs between Santosa island, the harbour front and Mount Faber to see if we could get some good views of Singapore. As we were leaving the cable car, they were getting some of the cars ready to be converted into four seater restaurant booths. That would have been fun to try with the city lit up at night. Perhaps next time.
The following day we headed for Chinatown as Sunday mornings there are supposed to be good. We saw a rather nice Chinese temple (see the photo pages) and wandered around the shops and stalls there. There was also a Hindu temple that we wanted to go in but we weren't really dressed appropriately to show the proper respect so we didn't.
Our next stop for the day was Fort Canning. Fort Canning is a hilly park in the centre of the city and home to quite a bit of Singaporian history. Raffles built himself a small house there and it is the home of the Battle Box to name just two things. We took a tour of the Battle Box because it sounded interesting and it was. It was the British Army headquarters during WWII until they had to surrender to the Japanese in 1942.
After Fort Canning, we went back to the hostel for a little while before heading out, after dark, to see Little India. Sunday nights there are supposed to be busy and whoever said it wasn't wrong. About 20,000 to 30,000 Indians had taken to the streets and were either shopping or just chatting to each other. About 99.999% of them were men and the great thing was that we felt completely safe out there. Another brilliant thing was the sound of hundreds of people all talking at the same time. It wasn't loud but it was just there. Also, because they either had thick accents or were talking in another language, it wasn't like talking at all. Brilliant.
We spent the following morning waiting to check in to Raffles...
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