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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Singapore, Satay and Slings

Singapore strikes you as everything that a modern city should be; it’s clean, it’s efficient and it’s by and large very safe. I landed on a Friday evening and thanks to the MRT (metro) system was at my hostel within 35 minutes. It’s like a mash of cultures; traditional Asia meets the Western ideal of a city.

Singapore is known as a ‘fine city’ with good reason, the following all carry penalties of at least S$100: Spitting, Drinking or eating on the MRT, Chewing gum, Littering, Jaywalking and failing to flush a public toilet. Unfortunately government guidelines do not advise you on the subject of floaters. I can only assume you’re meant to stay with it until the end, although the majority public toilets have a flush that could kill a small animal.

The SCC...and $Billions of real estate
Having spent my first night quickly scooting around Boat Quay and the financial district near my hostel in Chinatown I set off early the next day for a proper wander. And so I spent the first two days in the city; literally wandering from one incredible sight to the next. I took in the views on the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel and with a queuing system that puts the London Eye to shame as you wander through an interactive gallery detailing the building of the wheel. I was also delighted to find that the Start/Finish straight of the F1 track is open for anyone to wander around and took a stroll here. The Botanical Gardens also offered a fantastic free experience, allowing you to wander amongst varied flora and also providing a guide to the evolution of plants in a walk that you'd normally expect to pay for.

The onset of Christmas was never more apparent than wandering around Orchard Road, the Regent Street of Singapore, as there were a dozen huge shopping malls selling Armani, Versace and DKNY all geared towards Christmas blaring out Band Aid and the like whilst I slowly melted in the heat of the midday sun. Christmas shopping in this weather is even worse than in the cold of London.

The elephant show at Singapore Zoo
 Escaping the madness I headed to the Singapore Museum (complete with half-priced entry thanks to my HSBC card) which featured an incredible exhibit on the founding of Singapore told from both historical and personal perspectives. After 2 ½ hours of wandering I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface and that there was so much more to see. A very good use of S$6. Another excellent tourist attraction is the justifiably world-famous Singapore Zoo, where the majority of animals are kept behind moats rather than cages and apes swing from the trees above your head. A day out well spent.

The Satay Club in action
Whilst I was here I felt I had to sample some of the things that have made Singapore famous over the years. Monday night (after an abortive search on the Saturday night) I finally found the Satay Club, a street full of Satay vendors all selling delicious barbecued meats and rich satay sauce. It was absolutely delicious and my dinner cost me £10 in total, including beer (normally found at £7 - £8 a pint!). On Tuesday night I treated myself and headed to Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar, home of the Singapore Sling. The bar itself is very cool, and provides another chance to throw peanuts on the floor, but the fact that the Singapore Slings are mass produced (everyone is drinking them) sort of killed the illusion. Still a very tasty Sling and I followed it up with a well-made Vodka Martini before being utterly fleeced at an American-themed deli in the hotel with a good reputation but prices that made me glad I’d had a stiff drink before I got there!
The Raffles Long Bar

From here I head on to Kuala Lumpur and a 10-day stretch in Malaysia where I’m trying to get from KL to Penang using local transport and every Singaporean has told me to “watch out for your bags”. This can only go well…


  1. You didn't go to the rooftop lantern bar???

  2. Planning that for my final night in Asia mate. Got another 2 nights in Singapore before I fly back and that's going to be the crowning moment.