Wed 19th to Fri 21st Dec
So now I’m off to my last stop, my last few days in a 48 week adventure and it’s something I still can’t get my head round. But here I am in Singapore in a taxi to go stay with my cousin.
Singapore – a fascinating place, a country and a city all of it’s own. So how did this come to be….? According to legend Singapore was founded centuries ago when a prince from Sumatra landed on the island and saw a lion. He took it as a good omen and founded a city called Singapura, which means lion city – it is unknown whether or not this legend is true.
Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. Raffles became a clerk for the British East India Company in 1795 and rose rapidly in the company. He believed the British should establish a base on the Straits of Melaka and in 1819 he landed on the island of Singapore. The island consisted of swamps and jungle with a small population but he quickly realized it could be made into a useful port. In 1812 the Sultan of Singapore died and his two sons quarrelled over the succession. Raffles supported the older brother Hussein and recognised him as Sultan and so made a deal with him – the British East India Company was given Singapore in return for an annual payment. In 1824 the Company was given the island in return for a lump sum of money.
The British established a new trading post at Singapore and it grew very rapidly. As well as Europeans; Malays, Chinese, Indians and Arabs came to live and work here. In 1867 Singapore became a Crown Colony ruled directly by the British government rather than the East India Company.
In the aftermath of the WWII, the country faced staggering problems of high unemployment, slow economic growth, inadequate housing, decaying infrastructure, labour strikes and social unrest. Nevertheless, it sparked a political awakening among the local population and saw the rise of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments. The Britiah didn’t stop the Japanese invasion of WWII and had lost a lot of face and credibility with the Singaporeans.
In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire. Before joining the Federation of Malaysia, Singapore declared independence from Britain in August 1963. Two years later, Singapore left the federation. In August 1965, Singapore officially gained sovereignty.
Instead of demoralising Singapore, these problems motivated Singapore’s leadership to focus on the nation’s economy. With Cambridge-educated lawyer Lee Kuan Yew at its helm as Prime Minister, the Singaporean government was aggressive in promoting export-oriented, labour-extensive industrialisation through a program of incentives to attract foreign investment. By 1972, one-quarter of Singapore’s manufacturing firms were either foreign-owned or joint-venture companies.
By the late 1970s, the government changed its strategic focus to skill and technology-intensive, high value-added industries and away from labour-intensive manufacturing. In particular, information technology was given priority for expansion.
Singapore’s international and financial services sector was and still is one of the fastest growing sectors of its economy.
My cousin lives over on the west side of Singapore and it is stunning. Singapore is clean and tidy, with lots of green open spaces. It doesn’t look like this place has any slum areas at all. It is probably the safest looking place I’ve travelled to – ever!
At Charlie’s I’m greeted by 2 very friendly security people – I don’t think they see many backpackers in these parts! It’s beautiful here and such a different way of life with a great work life balance compared to back home. I let myself in and enjoy lazing on the balcony in the sun
until my cousin gets home from work and it is lovely to see her. Charlie has lived overseas for quite some years so it’s very rare we get to see each other.
I have a hit list of things I want to see and do here, number one being a long held bucket list item of going for a drink in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel and home of the famous Singapore Sling. The hotel is currently closed for refurbishment but thankfully, the Long Bar has recently re-opened….thank god for that else I’d be gutted! Walking to our table I feel I have something stuck to my shoes, not realising the floor is littered with monkey nut shells. It is something of a tradition here where every table has a massive bag of monkey nuts and people dispose of the shells on the floor. Apparently it’s one of the only places in Singapore where you can litter. No one really knows where the tradition came from but it is said that the waiters got fed up of constantly sweeping them up that they just left it until the end of the night and the tradition continues.
Seated and menu in hand which I don’t need – I’ve come here to sample one drink only but I did clock the astonishing 30$ price tag! The famous cocktail itself was developed in 1913 by Ngiam Tong Boon, the then bartender here at the hotel.
Ah well, it’s a bucket list tick so well worth it. And we stay for another as Charlie’s husband Jase comes to join us.
From here, we go for some food to one of the biggest food hawker sites in the city – Lau Pa Sat right in the middle of CBD. From high end drinks to street food – you gotta love this place! We each choose a dish from different vendors, grab a pitcher of beer and take a pew. My other cousin and her kids loved it here on their visit and you can see why. Food in this part of the world is amazing.
From here we walk along the Esplanade on our way to Marina Bay Sands, and there she is, this mighty fine bit of architecture – the iconic 340m ship shaped sky park lying on top of 3 55 floor towers. It’s certainly a sight to behold, especially at night all lit up.
We wander through the expansive shopping mall, full of brands I would love to buy but could never afford. Then we get a lift up to the 57th floor for bar Ce La Vi where you have to pay a cover fee for entrance but do get a drinks voucher. The views over CBD are amazing but I definitely feel how high up I am and do feel quite dizzy looking down to the land below.
Drinks here obviously aren’t cheap either and I must thank Charlotte and Jase for treating me in these places. 2 awesome experiences in one night. With a full on day planned tomorrow and my cousins having work, at around midnight, we head home.
After a great nights sleep, I have a full day of sightseeing planned for today and my first port of call is back to MBS to do tour of the city by Bum Boat which cost about 27S$ and takes about 40 mins. You get different language commentaries too and is a great introduction to the city. As we pull off from MBS, you get some great views of the CBD skyline and MBS.
It sails past Clarke Quay and Boat Quay – areas of trade in years gone by but now a hub of shopping malls and bars and restaurants. Fairly quiet at the moment but buzzing much later on. Near here is the famous Merlion statue which is the official mascot of Singapore. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village and the lion head representing Singapore’s original name – Singapura.
After the boat, I take a stroll past Raffles and into the Arab and Malay part of town
where here you can buy a lot of rugs and other Arabic artefacts. Next it’s onto one of the coolest and hippest parts in town, full of wall art, hippy boutiques and cafes – Haji Lane.
If time allowed, I would love to come down here for an evening. From here I wander on to Little India and as I’m starving, it’s an ideal lunch spot. I manage to find a little place that does more indian snacks rather than a full on thali lunch.
I get the metro back to the Clarke Quay area and take a look around which is pretty cool and colonial looking
but as it’s really only restaurants, there’s not much to do, especially as I’ve already eaten. From here I wander to the a building I saw from the boat earlier which caught my eye…the once Old Street Police Station completed in 1934. In 2000, The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts relocated here and that was when all it’s 927 windows were painted 3 different shades of different colours.
My last port of call is to Chinatown, several interlinking streets selling Chinese food, wares and shopping malls.
I have walked miles and my feet are killing so it’s really just a brief wander round before getting the metro back home. I really wanted to stay out to see the Xmas lights but as it doesn’t get dark for another 2 hours, I’m just too beat. I’m thinking I may head back out but I doubt it and when I get back and there’s talk of chilling with a bottle of wine and pizza so that wins over some xmas lights….although they are Disney so I imagine they are incredible.
Friday and it’s my last day and my cousin has taken the day off to sped it with me. We toy with some ideas but decide upon a bike ride in East Coast Park with one of her friends. We get a Grab there and go in search of some bikes. 8S$ for 2 hours and we’re off. This park is enormous, in fact it spans over 185 hectares and has a 15km coastline.
It has something for everyone from bike trails to playing fields, the beach, camping areas and bbq zones.
It’s a lovely day cycling around with the sun shining brightly, cycling down the pier watching the fishermen
and across to the airport – a sight I’m not too keen to be setting sights on – I’ll be there later today to fly home! The 2 hours go quickly and it was an enjoyable way to spend my last day, and nice to get a bit of activity in. Back at Hillview, Charlie and I go for a spot of lunch and then whilst Jase and Charl get ready for a party tonight, I’m packing up my rucksack for the very last time!
Thanks to Charlie and Jason for your great hospitality, fabulous company and for answering all my touristy questions. It was so nice to see u guys and was the perfect end to a perfect trip.
And now I wait for my Grab to the airport….