Singapore slings

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
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Trip End Feb 13, 2011


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Friday, December 3, 2010

Singapore was a massive shock for us coming from India, and more specifically, from Mumbai. The post script on Mumbai is that we saw some of the most shocking slums of the whole trip near to the airport. Real tiny cobbled together buildings, worse even than the favelas in Rio, which looked like they lacked any sanitation and were huddled together between a massive busy road and a major railway line.

We had been in India for over 7 weeks, so touching down in Singapore was a surprisingly pleasant experience. Hostels just aren't really available in India in the same way and although we were a bit apprehensive about being in a dorm for the first time the hostel was great. Very clean, with excellent services - wifi, breakfast, DVDs, books, helpful staff etc etc.

Visiting Singapore was perfect for this trip because we probably wouldn't have otherwise come all this way to see the city. We had both been though Singapore en route to somewhere else and no doubt we'll do that again in the future, so it was nice to have a chance to look around properly. We also had the opportunity to catch up with an old university friend of Laura's, who showed us some of the sights and took us out for some beers fresh off the plane. 

On our first day we had a nice afternoon at the zoo seeing the orangutans, zebras, big cats, hippos, rhinos etc etc. Fortunately it wasn't possible to see penguins or polar bears, which would have been awkward because surely Singapore is far too hot for them!

The history of Singapore is interesting - relatively short (1819 onwards really) - but fascinating nonetheless. Historical sites that we saw were the Raffles Hotel (named after the founder of the city) and the National Museum of Singapore, both of which are colonial era buildings. Raffles was beautiful and decked out in Christmas decorations (including a lovely tree) and we enjoyed a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar - touristy yes, but you have to really! 

The museum was also in an impressive building with a pretty domed roof with stained glass windows, and the audioguide led historical tour is certainly comprehensive, if a little long winded and sterile. The museum is beside Fort Canning Park, which is no doubt pretty and they even laid on an outdoor escalator beside the museum to get up there but after a good 2 hours+ going round the museum the only escalator we were interested in was an airconditioned one in one of the city's many shopping centers.

The most impressive sight that we took in was the Marina Bay Sands, which really is an incredible hotel with magnificent views over the whole city and the many ships in the bay (you can also see where the new Formula 1 circuit winds through the streets). There's even a 150 metre infinity swimming pool on the ceiling. It was really gorgeous at the outdoor bar up there - even if a Diet Coke cost us 7+ each!

After that we walked round the bay. The bayside financial district full of skyscrapers is noteworty. One of the things Singapore does very well is to plan its development carefully.  Views of the government and colonial buildings are clearly protected and amidst the skyscrapers you can see a relatively small 1950s building which was the tallest building in Asia at the time of construction. 

Singapore may be a quirky political dictatorship, with some odd laws, whether those be social laws (no jaywalking or chewing gum) or the low tax rules, but what's most important is that Singapore works. In fact Singapore's success, particularly since that anonymous little 1950s financial building was built, is a major achievement. It seems bizarre now that somewhere like Singapore would have been administered by the British Empire out of Calcutta for a significant period but that is how much the world has changed. We were frankly in awe of Singapore's success.
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