To say I'd heard mixed things about Singapore is an understatement. One of my closest friends lived there for six months and still hails it as the best place she has ever lived because of it's mixed influences on the food, architecture, lifestyle and also she likes to party and shop quite hard. Many other people I know who have visited all use the word "sterile" to describe Singapore and I'm hardly one to rush anywhere sterile (I like dirty, remember I lived in Shepherd's Bush for over four years). We headed there for a two night break both strangely feeling like we simultaneously knew exactly what to expect while also not having a clue what to was in store.
Though both are incredibly cheap (flights cost around £25 per person, the bus was £10 each) we chose to catch a bus down from Kuala Lumpur as opposed to flying and it was generally speaking a pleasant and probably much easier experience than flying (though I have also heard that Singapore airport alone is worth a visit!). Our return journey was a different story, but that's a whole other blog post.
We stayed in Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If you have heard of this hotel you will probably be mentally mouthing the word "Wow" as it's a ridiculously extravagant construction which the photograph above shows. I will do a separate review of the hotel in another post, but as a teaser I will summarise that I am very happy we stayed there, but not totally unhappy to have left.
The location was good though most low, mid and upper range hotels are centrally enough located to gain access to the key sights by either foot, bus, metro or taxi. We employed the former and the latter mainly, though again I have heard excellent things about Singapore's public transport system. I have to say I soaked up the opportunity to walk around a city again as Kuala Lumpur, our base for the last week or so, is not at all pedestrian friendly and though you can keep your quickly onsetting winter London, I do miss pounding your streets with my feet.
There are many Singapore "must dos" for tourists; sink a Singapore Sling in Raffles, walk around the Botanical Gardens, tour the colonial and historical centre. Pathetically, we only did one of these and I did indeed enjoy lapping up the historical architecture of the old colonial buildings. Instead we took a boat tour up and down the Singapore River (bit pricey but recommended to kill a hot and humid hour), walked from Little India to China Town to Central Business District, got rejected from Raffles due to NewMan's flip flops (damn you Aussie boyfriend and your lack of sensible footwear), explored the Muslim centre of town (inhaling sweet shisha smoke along the way) and then got a bit lost in the outskirts, which I actually loved as it allowed me and my camera to explore more of Singapore life than what the Lonely Planet booked recommended.
Food wise we got ripped off on Clarke Quay for some overrated Western food, found a super cheap and super good Japanese street food stall near Bugis Junction and had our best meal yet of our travels so far in Little India (again, another blog post about this - I think she doth tease too much).
We also spent a lot of time on the roof of our hotel swimming and watching the sun come up and go down again.
Time for the photographic evidence... What I liked most about Singapore, in addition to being able to walk everywhere, was the 1920s and 1930s architecture of the terraced houses and shops in Little India and China Town which mixed typical European, almost Mediterranean in fact, features with Asian characteristics. I also loved, in a sad way, how these innocently quaint buildings would contrast with the mammoth skyscrapers towering over from above.
If I had to summarise, I would say that Singapore really is like a big dish of noodles featuring Chinese, Indian and European chunks of flavour and history. If you choose to eat this dish you may think you can be selective over which chunks to pile onto your fork, but there is always a little flavour of one or the other lurking in the background of each mouthful.
Singapore may not be to everyone's taste, but it is worth a quick bite.
Frances M. Thompson
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