Thursday, 6 August 2015
From Yogyakarta we flew over the Java Sea into Singapore where 2015 is a big year as it marks 50 years of independence. It's British history is still absolutely evident though as english is primarily the first language and all aspects of British life eg driving on the left, the plug sockets and the street names are replicated here. However that's not to say that there is not a strong eastern culture to be experienced. We stayed in Chinatown where the streets are crammed full of eateries, spas and supermarkets all dedicated to the Oriental. I had managed to persuade my travel companion to get the open top bus with me as although we prefer to find our own way around, I have to admit that it is my guilty pleasure! It turned out to be a great idea as the heat was witheringly humid and the sights quite spread out. Our first stop was Gardens by the Bay which is a sprawling botanical garden. 30 meter 'supertrees' dominate the skyline, and provide vertical gardens as a host of greenery has been planted to grow and intertwine around the wire framing. At such a height, they compete with some buildings within sight of the gardens, creating a mega forest within the city reaches.
For the rest of the afternoon we whizzed around the city taking in the sights ranging from colonial hotel buildings and monuments to slick silver high rises and a London Eye-esque Singapore Flyer.
The following day we were back on the bus on the way to the Art Science Museum where a Dreamworks Animation Exhibition was on show, the first installation of a five year world tour. Here we succumbed to our childish inner selves and delved in to the creative world surrounding us as we learnt about the story creating process and animation tricks of the trade. Following the walk through exhibition we created comic sketches and turned them into a flip-pad creating a moving story, played with lighting and texture tools to recreate classic animation scenes and entered into a theatre with a wrap-around screen to simulate the experience of riding on a dragon... a completely normal experience, you understand! Whilst we were in the museum we went to a exhibiton created by The Straits Times, Singapores highest‐selling English language newspaper. It was so interesting to learn about the relatively short history of this modern, fast‐moving country and how it was brought back from dangerous territory after fire ravaged a huge chunk of the flimsy housing structures in the 60´s.
We spent quite a long time at the exhibition but afterwards took a walk across the Helix Bridge (so called for its likeness to the genetic arrangement of DNA) towards the landmark Merlion statue which is the national personification of Singapore, lending towards Singapore's original name of Singapura which means "lion city." After taking a few photos and being the classic tourist we hopped back on the bus towards the buzzing Little India district where its possible to entirely submerse yourself in the culture and forgot for a while of where you actually are in the world. All around there are the bright colours of flower garlands, the whiff of incense and hunger-inducing food and the melodic lull of Indian music. We found a cafe (I cant call it a restaurant as it wasn't as glamorous as that word betrays) and ordered two Murtabaks, savoury pancakes stuffed with shredded mutton, onion and a complimentary mix of spices. And it was incredible! So delicious and filling, we could hardly believe how cheap it was. It certainly pays to go outside your comfort zone and try new things! A little downpour halted our adventures but soon enough we were back on the bus. Singapore is a visually appealing city with a mixture of artistically created structures and slick buildings creating an interesting cityscape to look across from the comfort of an open top bus.
That evening we went to a Chinatown street food market ‐ all we seem to do is eat! ‐ which had a great atmopshere as regulars to the cuisine chowed down on tasty dishes from the Orient, sat along side newcomers tentitavely approaching the steaming food with chopsticks in hand. After this we took the walk across town to the world famous Raffles Hotel, so famous infact that the Government há recently named it a National Monument. It is here thát the Singapore Sling cocktail was created and such was the reason of our visit. Wheras from the outside the hotel shouts decadence and grandeur, I was a little taken aback by the design of the Long Bar. In its aim to recreate the earthy feel of Malaysian plantation life in the 20´s, it is somewhat inelegant. Wicker chairs sit atop the chequered floor which has thousands of peanut shells littered around and rattan fans swing idly above guests ‐ yet more of a homage to the history of the bar. The cocktail is a bright pink colour, given this hue when it was first created to entice ladies to drink it in a society where it was frowned upon. It is a refreshing cocktail much needed in the withering heat, with not too strong an alcoholic flavour which can ruin a cocktail. We had a fun few hours here scattering the peanut shells on the floor and sipping our cocktails ‐ the price tag of £17 was not quite so enjoyable but its all part and parcel of the experience and one im glad I have under my belt!
I thororoughly enjoyed Singapore, from learning about its history and how it has turned itself into a powerhouse of an economy to seeing the contemporary backdrop of life for Singaporeans. I would go so far as to say I could see myself living here!