The city of skyscrapers!!!!
03.05.2012 - 10.05.2012 40 °C
Arriving in Singapore was one of those experiences that you cannot prepare yourself for after travelling for so long in so much poverty. I have over my travels arrived in lots of new countries and cities and in their own way they have an impact on me. Weather it is a factor of the Architecture, Economics or the culture but none shocked me, surprised me or took me back as did entering Singapore for the first time after spending 5-6 months surrounded by poverty and history. I had just left Ho Chi Minh City a city in comparison to most all actually all of the rest of Vietnam is a modern metropolis but even that had nothing on the skyscraper clad horizon which is Singapore’s skyline. Buildings illuminated like giant Christmas trees, roads so wide they look like they belong in America, gardens looking fit for royal palaces. A country that has only existed for about 50 years and is the vision of one man and yet It is part of such a big and mainly poor continent, it was amazing.
As I drove down the empty motorways of the sleepy Singapore I star out the window like a child taking in all the sights and the glamour still trying to work out if this is all a dream and I will wake up back on the airplane with kids running around and shouted conversations between people next to each other. But I am not and I head for my hostel eager to awaken the next day and explore this New York of South East Asia. A strange night of sleeping on the sofa as my bed had been double book a rise and head out to see what there is in this city.
So because of a lost e-mail and arriving at 2am I end up sleeping on the sofa of the hostel next to the loudest snorer is history after he was kicked out of his room by the other 23 people in it. Lucky my ability to sleep through almost anything comes in handing and refreshed I arise and head out to explore this strange oasis of a city. My first impression in the day is the show of richness every car that passed me by was Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Austin Martin and so on. It is almost like a city built around a car show.
I head to China town to discover the hustle and bustle of any normal china town, stalls selling all the fake good you could need and hawkers markers selling food of interesting and colourful variety. Then all of a sudden my faith in the country is still part of the great continent of Asia as I turn the corner and am faced with the largest Buddha Temple I have seen hidden in the folds of a city, this temple like some many in the world believing that they hold a tooth of Buddha himself, I mean really how many teeth did this man have? I head in to work out that it is half temple with 100 Buddhas lining the wall and a dish at the foot of each, where prayers come and leave 10 cents in each bowl as they walk around the temple in prayer and when you are down giving all of your money away you can walk up to the peace garden on top and sit in peace –probably because you’ve just given your cinema money away. The other half is a interesting but very edited story -or to my knowledge- of Buddha and Buddhism.
The problem with this country is that this short walk around I am already spent because the heat and sun is so intense that it makes it impossible to explore and It is now that I understand the labyrinth, the rabbit warren which is the Singapore subway system. This is a ingeniously made set of air conditioned tunnels that means that you can cross –walking or train- across the entire city without seeing daylight. The only problem is that you have to direct knowing which shopping centre is nearest where you want to go, all fine but there are hundreds.
I would love to tell you like I normally do of the fine food, and stories of weird adventure that I encounter but if I have to have to say that nothing really happened and for the first time I was around western food so went mental on Burger King, deli sandwiches and a pizza (wow). I also relaxed and learned to get used to being back in the modern world before I arrive in New Zealand. Later that week I met up with Thomas the beloved Singaporean that I met in Hanoi on is first trip out of the country alone after finishing his national service, the night ended with him breaking his face on the floor and him losing half the money he had for his grand trip. We explored the delights of Singapore and then after melting outside ran and hide in the cinema to watch the awesomingly amazing Avengers films.
My time in Singapore was only meant to 3 days, enough to have a Singapore Sling in Raffles, goggle at the Mariners Bay Sands Hotel and get used to how expensive the Westernised world really is but instead because of a fuck up with STA travel and Emirates, I currently believe I hold the record for the longest backpacker stay in Singapore of the grand time of 10 days. Well I was only meant to be there for 3 nights but thanks to the people of STA Travel UK they booked me on a flight in September and sent me the paper work for May. But it turned out for the best and I have now seen and explored every bit of the fine city/country.
I think one of the main things that I can take away from this country is that it is not just a westernised modern country but it has taken on some of the traits and kindness of the rest of Asia from what I have seen. Even the ex-pats that I met welcomed me in with open arms. It almost seems to me that all the ex-pats out there act like backpackers and it actually made it a brilliant place to be but by the end it was time to move on, an expensive country where I would love to return with money to see the other side.