I took a couple of crazy trips to Singapore, where I flew in from Thailand (just under 2 hours on a plane) at night, got up and did a day’s work and then flew back the same evening before I realized I could be making more of this opportunity to visit a new country. How very me. So the next time I organized an extra day to have a mooch and see more of the city and what it has to offer.
Singapore: a few facts
I didn’t know much about Singapore before I went, just that it was a real business hub in SE Asia. Since then I’ve done some research (as you do!), so here’s a quick intro in case you aren’t familiar with the country.
Despite being the world’s fourth leading financial centre, only about 5 million people live in Singapore, of which only just over half were born locally. The very diverse population means there are four official languages, English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. The country is actually 63 different islands, and it’s a very young country, having taken its independence from the UK in 1963 and joining Malaysia at that point, but after a heated two years, with many ideological disagreements between the two countries, in 1965 Singapore became independent as the Republic of Singapore.
Supper with locals
I’ve been really lucky working with a couple of consultancies in Singapore, and some of the work I’ve completed has meant I needed to travel there. That’s meant a trip from my little island of Koh Phagnan and flying into Singapore airport, which is certainly one of the largest airports I’ve been to. One of my clients took me out for supper in the evening, which was great fun, and they gave me a number of pointers as to which tourist activities I might do in a day. I’ve enjoyed keeping up my work skills and trying out a balance of work and play over the few months. It’s kept me busy – I still haven’t worked out the perfect balance – but it’s been a pleasure to work with interesting people in a new culture, and apply learnings from the UK and other countries I’ve worked in here as well as exploring what works and doesn’t work so well in a different culture.
I started with breakfast at the amusingly named ‘Toast that Binds’. In my short visits to Singapore I saw a number of cafes which were dedicated to toast. Odd. I went for the French toast option as you can see here…
I decided I’d head to Chinatown, as was recommended by several people. I meandered up and down the streets, in humid weather with the occasional shower of rain where I had to hide under shop awnings. My flip flops got wet and for the first time in a while I wished I had trainers. The area felt much more touristy than I have been used to on my quiet island in Thailand, and it was interesting to see how I felt back in such a busy city. I was glad to be free to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted rather than joining in with the many commuters who were on the MRT (the subway system).
It’s such a wonderful feeling for me, when I’m somewhere new, with a whole host of possibilities in front of me, without any commitments or things I need to do. And there’s also pleasure for me in knowing no-one knows where I am, and I can truly do anything. Of course, I wouldn’t want this all the time, but it’s a freeing feeling. I don’t know why people don’t like being on their own! 🙂
I really enjoyed walking around the market place – I even bought a pair of flip flops for a few pounds. I had a chat with one of the market traders who was Chinese, and he was lovely. I even remembered thank you in Chinese, even though it was a while ago I was there! One perhaps eccentric action was that I ended up eating lunch at an Indian restaurant in the midst of China Town. It just caught my fancy at the right time…and it was delicious!
Boats and Business
After that, and having spent most of the morning walking (and the day before standing up in front of clients in high heels, which I hadn’t done for some time!) I decided to head off for a boat ride. As you can imagine in a country made up of islands, there are a lot of canals, rivers and water in general. I took a very touristy ride down the main and famous area. There were only two of us on the boat ride, myself and another single woman, and the two boat staff took a million pictures of us both on the boat – and actually took our cameras from us several times, taking the picture themselves, to make sure we didn’t miss a good shot. It was quite amusing that they were so solicitous, but also nice to be taken care of – plus there are a lot more pictures of me than usual! If you’re travelling to Singapore, this has a good guide to the Riverside.
Another tourist hub is Clarke Quay, which a friend had recommended. That was fun to look round, and see lots of different tourists all enjoying the area and the shops. Singapore definitely has a lot of shops…
Overall, Singapore definitely felt more like many Western cities than other places I have been in Asia. I think it’s the diversity of people – particularly in the business district, plus the fact that in the business district there is much more Western dress, and you can see many chain shops which you might see in Europe.
Of course, I saw only a very limited part of the city, focusing on the business district and the tourist areas, which are probably the most Westernised. When I return, I hope to spread my wings more and look at different areas. Well, actually, I really want to go to Universal Studios, but let’s keep that between you and me 😉