I left Pai to travel back to Bangkok before flying onto Singapore. A journey which consisted of leaving Pai by bus at 2.30pm, changing in Chiang Mai and getting a new bus at 6.30pm before an overnight bus ride to Bangkok to arrive at 6.30am the next day. I had 12 hours to kill in Bangkok before my flight so spent it usefully by having a Thai massage (fully recommend) and shopping! Finally I was able to tootle off to the airport for a flight at 6.15pm only to get there and told it had been delayed until 9pm!! After much delay I arrived in Singapore at 1am. A long journey.
After a little lie in, I started my adventure in this fabulous city. I had visited Singapore with school when I was 16 so I was intrigued to see what it was like 10 years later. I remember there being a fabulous orchid garden, and as they are my favourite flower decided to see if I could find it again. There are now 2 in the city, one near the zoo and one in the botanical gardens. I opted for the one near the zoo. Using public transport it took about an hour and half to get there but meant I was really able to see the city. The Mandai Orchid Gardens were beautiful but tiny. A quick rain shower before I got there meant that all the orchids were covered in tiny droplets of water, making them even more stunning. The garden was small though so I headed back into town for a sunset drink.
What better place to go for an evening drink than Raffles? One thing I was determined to do was have a Singapore Sling. It was delicious and unlike any others I have had before. It was also nice to sit in sophisticated surroundings and not be a backpacker for once, though I did slightly let the side down by trying to photograph my dear companions, much to the other patrons amusement.
Nearby is a lovely bar and eatry area called the Chijmes. These surround a restored white church, which at night really sets off the surroundings. Luckily it was happy hour on drinks so I could afford a glass of wine but eating there on my budget was out of the question. I remembered when we went with school we went to some food markets and had some fab satay chicken, so I went in search of them. I went to the food markets listed on a map I had but they were in the business area and as it was a Sunday were closed. Disappointed I wandered around for a while until I stumbled across a massive permanent food court. Not the same as I remembered but the satay lived up to its memory.
I finally ended the day by wandering home through Little India, near where my hostel was. The smell of the place took me back to my tour in India and I had not realised until then how distinct the Indian smell is. It was also full of men and I was transported back to the time where a white female wandering round the streets would draw stares. It was literally like I had returned back there. It was only for a couple of streets and then I was back into Singapore normality. It was quite astonishing.
Day 2 I had book on to a Ducks tour - a vehicle made for both road and water (first used in the Vietnam offensive). The tour was fun but Singapore does not have any old history so most of the sights are about modern building work or how Singapore will develop over the next few years. They are building their first casino and are making a massive deal about. Given the strictness of Singapore rules, when it opens if you are a Singaporean you will have to pay $100 to enter, if you are a tourist it is free! The aim is to keep the family life strong and not dilute it with the evils of gambling.
This was in evidence when I then took a bus tour round the city and out to the botanical gardens. Our guide pointed out the high rise housing. Apparently they are quite cheap to buy but you have to be married. If you are not married you have to wait until you are 35 before you are allowed to buy your own house. You also get government grants and incentives the closer your live to your parents. There are apparently two reasons for this. The first is there is not enough land for each person to own their own place so they want people to live together, and the second, they want to maintain the family closeness. Imagine that happening in the UK!
The Botanical Gardens were stunning. A massive area filled with rolling green landscape, trees, plants and rainforest. Inside here is a special Orchid Garden, and, whilst not the same as I remembered, was probably where we went to. It was so relaxing to be able to wander round here, with no interruption of city life. The Gardens (not the Orchid ones but the general gardens) are free and I could imagine that this must be bliss for anyone who lives here.
I headed back into town to go on the Singapore Flyer. This is the equivalent of the London Eye. but not a patch on it. There are so few i interesting sights to see in Singapore. History does not seem to exist, and what does is ignored as Singapore seems to class its history as from when it was made independent in 1965. There are 2 or 3 older buildings and these are now being converted into an art gallery to be opened in 2012. Still, it was still fun to see the whole country laid out before you.
Finally I ended the day with a trip out to Sentosa Island to watch the Songs of the Sea. This is a light, water and fire display in an outdoor auditorium. Unfortunately it was drizzling when we went so we had to sit with umbrellas up and wet bums from the seats! The show was amazing though. They spurted water into the air from which lazers shone to create fish animals or people. Fire would blaze out of the sand and light created some spectular displays. It even ended in a firework display. I was overawed by it and went home a happy bunny.
Day 3 was my last day in Asia and I spent much of it wandering round as I had seen pretty much all there was to see. I headed out to a place called Newton Circus in the hope that this was the food market we had gone to when I was younger but again 10 years had changed it. Little of what I saw in Singapore this time was the same as what I remembered.
I then headed over to the Chinese Gardens to look at their bonsai display (on the stong advice of my mum!). This again was a beautiful landscape taking you away from the bustle of the city. The bonsai trees where interesting but quite large, when I thought they should have been smaller! It was still good though to see a different part of the city.
I also wandered around some malls looking to buy a cheap laptop. Hundreds of small shops filled these malls, but again as I found in different parts of Asia, the UK electronics are far cheaper.
My flight to Australia was due to depart at 8.25pm. When I double checked online to ensure that it had not changed, I found it had been delayed to 9.50pm. I therefore did not hurry to the airport. When I did get there, I found that the 9.50pm was the original flight time and it had been rescheduled to 8.25pm as stated on my ticket. They had not updated the internet! Luckily I had left enough time but it was close going.
Singapore is unlike the rest of Asia. It is modern, it is clean and it is rule orientated. There is a structure for society and people are expected to keep to it. In history terms it also feels very young. There are many plans to develop Singapore and it apparently wants to double its population from 4 million to 6 million in the next few years. What space there is to do this remains to be seen. But it allowed me to get used to a more recongisable culture before I left for Australia.
Asia has been mad. A completely different way of living- where accomodation can be cheaper than the food you to eat, with different ways of being treated and different expectations. It is a place where you can get lost and see something new each time. Much of it has not been exposed to the tourist track. However as Thailand demonstrated, this is changing and I was able to see life as it has always been lived, before modern technology has changed it. Asia is beautiful especially in scenary but the history has been harsh to it and this can be reflected in the people.
I have really enjoyed my time here, and whilst it has not been difficult to travel, it has been different. I am now looking forward to Australia where there will be the ease of having people speak my own language and a culture similar to my own.
Bye bye Asia, hello Australasia.