April 1st was a hell of a long day! We left Samoa at 2am and arrived in Singapore at 9:45pm, but we went back in time 6 hours and lost another hour to summer time changes so it was a 31 hour day for us. We were supposed to fly via Fiji but because of cyclonic weather conditions there our flights were cancelled and we had to book a new flight via Auckland to get us to Sydney in order to connect with our flight to Singapore. Needless to say it was a lot of travelling and we were shattered and were thankful that Singapore airport were very efficient and we were soon tucked up in bed at our hostel in the Little India district of the city.
Like sleepy Samoa Singapore is a small island nation, but that is where the similarity ends as Singapore crams 4.6 million people onto its island. With big shiny skyscrapers towering over the city and neon lights everywhere it was quite a culture shock to us! Having said that Singapore is a very organised and clean city that is easy to navigate, so it was the perfect place to start our journey through South East Asia.
After a lazy morning we had a look around pungent Little India, which as the name suggests is home to many of the Indians who make up about 10% of Singapore’s population. It’s a colourful area with lots of traders selling clothes, spices, and trinkets.
Unsurprisingly it’s a great place to get a curry, tasty and super cheap at 3 quid – it’s nice to be somewhere affordable again! We also checked out a Hindu temple, which featured the usual gold and colourful figurines.
We walked into the city, which is shiny, organised, and modern – quite a contrast to the cluttered hectic streets of Little India. I was here 5 years ago but immediately I could tell that several new buildings had sprung up, including a casino that looked like the hull of a boat on top of three tower blocks and a neon lit big wheel.
At dusk there was an impressive laser show accompanied by music and water fountains across the harbour. On my last visit here I left thinking that Singapore was a nice city but not too exciting culturally, this time with a little more time here I think I jumped to the wrong conclusion. It has a rich culture thanks to it multicultural population, which offer many different aspects to the city. The best example of this are the hawker centres, which are food markets where people of all backgrounds converge for cheap eating. We visited the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre (thanks for the tip Cindy) had the best Satay sticks (beef & chicken) I have had, and the Dim Sum was great too!
The only problem with the Hawker Centre is deciding what to have as there is so much choice! Singapore must be something of a shopping paradise as there are shopping malls everywhere, although when I was browsing the electronics shops I didn’t find prices to be much than back home. I did get a cheap haircut though, $10 (about 5 quid) for a 10 minute cut. It was an interesting experience as I had to pay in a vending machine type thing which gave me a 10 minutes of credit for a haircut, thankfully this was enough and the guy did a good job – including vacuuming all the loose cuttings from my hair and clothes!
Getting around the city is easy on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system, and it’s also a welcome place to retreat from the heat for a bit of aircon. No visit to Singapore is complete without checking out the symbol of the city – the Merlion. A half lion, half fish, statue that spurts water from it mouth, built in the 60’s it’s pretty tacky when you compare it to its plush surroundings!
Of course there is a Chinatown in many cities around the world but given that 75% of Singapore’s population are Chinese this one is pretty authentic – decked out with red lanterns and crammed with souvenir stalls, electronics shops, restaurants, and people! It was a good place to buy a few cheap souvenirs and Lisa enjoyed browsing through the many clothes stalls!
We took a break and had some spicy Singapore noodles washed down with Tiger beer, which is brewed in Singapore, what more could you want?
We really enjoyed Singapore, it is an interesting place and was a nice start to our Asia trip, if you are on a long haul flight it’s a great place for a stopover. So we were briefly back in the northern hemisphere, today we crossed the equator again as we flew south to Bali – one of the Indonesian group of islands. We have a week here and on first impressions it looks like it will be really interesting…
There’s some photos from Singapore here.