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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Soaking in Singapore

SINGAPORE | Monday, 24 December 2007 | Views [3652] | Comments [7]

I knew I was coming to Singapore during one of the rainy months, but with three out of the four days I was there featuring monsoon style rainfall, I felt lucky to have one day of glorious sunshine. Still, for me, going into the shopping centres was as much about relief from the heat as from the rain - I'm a lot more used to rain!

Crossing the border on the train on the train from Kuala Lumpur, and with the everyone onboard having to get off with all our stuff while the police and their dogs took ages to check everything, I was half expecting to get arrested for bringing in chewing gum! But I read that since 2004 it is allowed for therapeutic value (?) only. That was thanks to Wrigleys lobbying hard for chewing gum to be included in the free trade agreement signed between the US and Singapore. Still, it turns out that I was technically breaking the law, as any unauthorised transit of the stuff is prohibited.

It was banned in the first place not just because of the nastiness of gum on the pavements and seats etc, but because youths had been gumming up the doors and locks of the swanky MRT underground & overground trains. And that's the only crime I heard a single thing about while in Singapore. Adverts on taxis remind citizens to remain vigilant, and that 'Low Crime doesn't mean No Crime', but everyone I spoke to said that there may be the very occasional petty theft, but violent crime or anything like that is unheard of.

Singapore city also lives up to its reputation for total cleanliness, which must be at least partly down to the long list of fines posted around the place, depicting misdemeanours like smoking in the wrong place, dropping litter, eating or drinking in the wrong place with their associated, severe fines.

The Guiness world record holding 'Fountain of Wealth'. It was raining anyway!

So when a taxi driver told me that he'd have his head chopped off if he didn't use the meter, maybe he was only half joking! Apparently the sci-fi writer William Gibson described Singapore as "Disneyland with the death penalty"! Seems to me like a land of opportunity - the magician/robber who stole my lens off my camera in broad daylight in St Petersburg could make a fortune coming to Singapore on a working holiday, I think he'd be pretty good at not getting caught.

About to rain again

Anyway, while Singapore lacks in the threat of crime, it certainly makes up for it in the abundance of shopping centres. They're everywhere! And stuffed full of plush shops and unbelievably slow walking shoppers. I've noticed elsewhere that everyday UK brands such as M&S manage to appear like top line, chic labels, and in Singapore one of them is Topshop, strategically placed in a mall full of proper designer label shops. And, while the shopping centres don't go to Kuala Lumpur extremes of having full size roller coasters right in the middle, they do all have multiplex cinemas. I'm convinced that there must be enough seats in Singapore's cinemas for every single member of the 4 million+ population to be watching a film at the same time!

Because of the pre-Christmas busyness, I had to stay in two different places, with the first two nights being fairly bizarre - I stayed at a creaky old hostel in the Catholic Centre, an old but perfectly nice high rise featuring madonna and child statues and water damaged biblical scenes all over the place. The only unpleasant thing there for me was after I discovered a bag of really tasty chilli infused Japanese seaweed in a nearby corner shop, quickly wolfed down half of it, then spent the next 2 or 3 hours being sick, six times!

From the hostel in the Arab Quarter

But I was fine the next day, then the next two nights were in a more typical hostel in the Arab Quarter next to Little India, where the next door street was totally devoted to selling fabrics and rugs. I narrowly escaped from being skilfully talked into buying a very fine, large Kashmiri rug. My excuse that I was flying in a few hours didn't help - "I can fold it up to the size of a big laptop!"

On my last day there I went to the zoo, which was great with lots of well looked after animals, including...

White tigers...

A frazzled looking Emu...

Cheeky monkeys...

The "World's Only" free ranging orang-utan area, where you walk a treetop trail, and they're around and above you. This featured a bit of excitement, when one of the larger orang-utans somehow got hold of a steel bar, and was showing off - running around and swinging it.

The wardens had to clear the gathering crowd, and try to exchange the steel bar for an apple, but that took some doing!...

Mandrills - this one was entertaining the crowd of mostly children, playfully chasing the female around their enclosure with a comical grimace, but the Singaporean parents quickly and firmly told the fascinated children to move away when he caught her, and started some prolonged rodgering!

Anyway, no photos of that you'll be glad to know! After a few days in Singapore I was off on a ten hour flight to New Zealand, where I am now, in the lap of luxury with Jules and Steve and playing with Emily, who's getting excited now that she knows it's Christmas day tomorrow!

Tags: On the Rails




I am planning to go to Singapore for this Christmas and the information provided by you about Singapore excited me a lot. /// URL Removed ///

  Sista Minuten Resor Dec 24, 2007 4:49 PM


Nice post! I hope you enjoyed your stay. Our weather's been kooky this whole year, I think it's to do with climate change, but honestly, it has been raining almost everyday since January. It's really crazy and I don't think we even have rainy "seasons" anymore.

But about your photo labelled "From the hostel in Little India" -- that's the Arab Quarter, not Little India. But anyway, good post :)

  Yasmine, a Singaporean Dec 28, 2007 3:20 AM


Thanks Yasmine, I've fixed that in the text

  george Dec 28, 2007 9:52 AM


Hey George, we've tried to email you chez foogaloo and they're being bounced back 'cos "Mailbox disk quota exceeded".... Anything you can do 'bout it? (Pics of your godson, BTW.)

  Will Dec 29, 2007 9:50 AM


Hi George,

As usual, another very entertaining read! Glad to see all's going well and looking forward to the next installment. I had thought you were in New Zealand for Christmas. . . .



  Dom Jan 3, 2008 4:35 AM


Hi George

I should have looked before now. Looks like you are having a brillant time. Well done with documenting everything. Take care and I'll try and have alook in another couple of weeks.



  Nick Anderson Feb 14, 2008 2:29 AM


Where are you ? Hope you are well wherever you are.

  Mark Anderson Feb 23, 2008 6:58 PM



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