Singapore was to be the first stop on this epic tour. By epic I mean we are away for five weeks and by any stretch of the imagination, with the Lion loving travelling (NOT), this is no mean feat. I have family here so in advance of our arrival I had made contact in the hope we might meet up. Despite our 18 hour journey he proposed to meet us on the day of our arrival in an Irish pub to watch the Scottish Football. It was such a Singapore thing to do. Least said about that, in travellers terms, the better. The Irish pub was a haven of football fans, suitably attired, singing anthems creating an atmosphere as if we were actually in Paradise. The game being shown that evening required considerable tolerance by my family member since he supported our arch rivals, but nevertheless he demonstrated real restraint. You could say he went well above and beyond what was expected, as we trounced this team and claimed the three points putting us closer to winning the league.
This partisan activity gave our first night in Singapore an air of celebration and left us completely available for the next two days to see and experience the rest of the City. First impressions were that it was a magnificent, austere and bustling city. Singaporeans proudly claim they are the most westernised city in Asia and our guide appeared considerably smug about this fact. It was a spotlessly clean City in every aspect. One of our fellow travellers commented that it was too clean, the Lion was dumfoonert (incredulous) by this statement. How, in his opinion, can anywhere be too clean? This traveller had yet to experience the Lion and all his idiosyncrasies and so had limited insight as to what makes a good holiday, in the Lion’s view. The Lion’s idea of a good holiday would solely be based on his assessment of the cleanliness or otherwise of the City.
It is really difficult with globalisation to articulate what makes one place so really different from another. Globalisation means that there are MacDonald’s in every city, town and village wherever you travel. The giant retail kings and queens can be found in most modern cities across the world. And everywhere has an Irish bar, at least one anyway. Singapore was no different. Its unique selling point, in my view, has to be something about the culture, which on the surface appears western but has subtle but tangible overtones of Chinese, Tamil and Malay, remnants of the early settlers here. This Asian fusion provided us with tourist attractions in Chinatown and Little India which we visited to experience first hand the 4th and 5th generation Chinese and Tamil people’s culture. Religious places of worship to Chinese gods and Tamil deity were colourful and aromatic as the incense and jos sticks permeated the air inviting you inside to experience calm and peaceful prayer. Colourful wreaths with yellow and red flowers heralded a pungent mix of cumin and turmeric in Little India soliciting your taste buds as you wandered through the market stalls.
Chinese dragons and tigers adorn the doorways on the way out of the Temple. The tiger symbolising the elderly and it’s cub, the young person, and how the two must work together to achieve balance through youth and experience. Much to be learned about this symbolism. Entering on the right and leaving the Temple by the left was important for Karma, with the key difference in this Temple that we could keep our shoes on for the visit. In Little India we learned, in days gone by, moneylenders would be found by the riverside offering new business funding to the early settlers. Clad in little more than a loin cloth, the money lenders would purview their investments and hurriedly pull out if they considered the business unviable. Nothing new there then, if you have experience with the banking system we have nowadays.
The Singapore River is beautifully lined on either side with walkways offering a warm evening stroll with a variety of eating places and watering holes along the way. You will find mostly tourists in this area and the prices reflected it at $12 Singapore dollars for a pint and $10 for wine. There are a variety of fusion restaurants as you might expect from a city built around Asian influences, so we had Italian. Now that is a frustration to me since the Lion, another of these idiosyncrasies, rejects spicy food as it might upset his tummy, so Osso Bocco it was for the first night.
A must do visit in Singapore is to Marina Bay Gardens at night. The light show dances and delights the eyes, you feel like you are in the movie Avatar. The beauty of the show enveloped us before we travelled 36 floors up in the lift to the Viewing Platform. This area created in the form of a huge surfboard sits atop this magnificent hotel which hosts a bar, food and swimming pool. Only residents might experience the latter, but the $23 dollar entrance price is deducted from your food and drink bill so it makes for a reasonable trip if you don’t mind the height. At night you get a real sense of the dazzling splendour of Singapore; glistening with lights, the tall buildings peppering the horizon like giant columns, the view allows you to experience this beautiful city from a completely different perspective. On our way up in the lift we met a couple of people from Dundee, of course we did this is a cosmopolitan city. They were experienced travellers now living in Gibraltar and they had been to the city before, filling us with recommendations we were unlikely to ever manage given the short nature of our trip.
After an expensive but much appreciated and must do Singapore Sling, we descended into reality and headed off in the general direction of Raffles. We wanted to experience first hand the most traditional element of any visit to Singapore . We had stopped there on our travels around the city earlier in the day with the guide but wanted an uninhibited experience. Our visit was more out of duty than want if we are honest. So we set off confused by the darkness, down one street, along a tree lined avenue, in the underpass, back onto the river and soon realised we were lost. By 11pm we gave up our quest to be hip tourists at the famous bar which was most likely to be closed anyway (things close about 1030pm there). Instead we found our way back to the river, strolling hand in hand, back to our hotel. Ah well let’s leave that for another night, yeah…………….