This past summer holiday I spent 4 days in the wonderful city of Singapore. It was so refreshing to be in a city that is multi-cultural, multi-lingual and boiling over with things to see, do and eat! I decided that I loved the city after the first day of pounding its streets. With my feet.
What I loved was its vibrancy, its accessibility, and its neat little compact streets donned with names that I could easily pronounce. I loved the shops filled of tasty, familiar treats. I adored the sections of the city dedicated to different cultures. Arab Street, China Town, Little India.
It is remarkable that so much diversity can be packed into such a small space. Singapore can only boast 778 km² of land. But in that little space it houses a neat, organised, well run and friendly little colony of people (according to a 2010 census, just over 5 million).
My favourite part of the city was Little India, where the curries were hot and spicy, creamy and rich. Where the naan breads were dripping with oil and garlic. Where the woman were dressed in Saris and golden nose rings.
So what did we do? (The ‘we’ being me and my 2 lovely travel companions, Corey and Paul.)
The first day that we were there we were blessed with a scorching hot, equatorially humid, sunny day (the other days were scorching hot, equatorially humid, rainy days). So we decided to take the city on, 3 sets of feet, 1 map and a lot of water. We walked from our lodgings, through Little India, towards Clarke’s Quay. On the way we stumbled on Fort Canning Park which is beautifully maintained and shady oasis (I mentioned that it was a scorching hot, equatorially humid, sunny day?). For its size, Singapore is remarkable green and park-filled, you may like to know.
After a much-needed beer and the delightful discovery of salt & vinegar crisps, we moved on to China Town, which is a lot like a China Town in any other part of the world, filled with red lanterns, pagodas, tasty noodles and bargain prices. Our next stop was a food heaven, the name says it all: GLUTTONS BAY! Here you can stuff your face with some of the most delicious food combinations. Spicy Singaporean crab, fried rice, grilled fish, crunchy squid (!?), cheese filled naan, grilled meat skewers, all washed down with beer and coconut juice. Mmh.
The following day our hopes for a picnic at the zoo were dashed by the hot, sticky rains. So instead we busied ourselves navigating the enormous underground world that connects subway stations trying to stay dry. We popped our heads out every now and then to enter the world of, what felt like, mini-British shopping extravaganza (never having visited the British isles myself, I am completely trusting the wide-eyed amazement and yelps of joy of my two British travel companions).
Our last two days in Singapore were spent in a flurry of hair cutting (who wouldn’t take the golden opportunity to get their hair cut by an English-speaking, Toni&Guy professional rather than risk getting their locks hacked off by a Korean? Not me!), shopping and last-minute non-Korean food eating. It was heaven.
A few little things you may like to know about Singapore:
- It is rather expensive. (The Singaporean Dollar is almost as strong as the US Dollar) Especially for drinking. We were told that the government is trying to discourage ‘evil vices’ like drinking and smoking, so they whack a heavy tax on these items.
- There is almost no need to use the subway. The city is tiny. And it is much more rewarding to explore it by foot.
- Be ready to be befriended! We found the Singaporeans to be easily approachable, helpful and friendly. Our hostel owner spent the best part of an hour proudly chatting to us about the sights we simply shouldn’t miss! The last meal was shared with an older couple who offered us a seat at their table as the restaurant was fill. They then waited for us to get our food before digging into theirs, which must have gone cold in the interim. They were replaced by a chatty couple who informed us that they drive over to Malaysia to do their bi-monthly grocery shop as Singapore is too expensive!
- If you like gambling make sure you have a minimum of $50 to place on any of the card tables at the Marina Bay Casino (the 3 buildings with the ship on top)! And if you just want to go and take a look, feel free. Either way, remember to take your passport and a parched mouth (FREE water, soft drinks, coffee and milo!)