Singapore

A Singapore Stopover: The Start of Sauna Life & Flexitarianism

The Asian adventures began with a hefty 22h stopover in Singapore- a condition of catching the Easyjet of the East to Bangkok- which wasn’t quite as inconvenient as it sounds.

It’s rather amazing how much you can absorb in one travel day, and Singapore serves as an ideal (soft) introduction to the mania of South East Asia- though a bit bustling, it is clean and ‘developed’, officially English speaking, and incredibly easy to navigate. The British influence is tangible, and while wandering around here it struck me firstly that I felt quite at home, and secondly that there is a long-running pattern in my choices of places to travel- despite the murky historical ethics of it all, I’m really drawn to discovering former colonies. I guess I find the British familiarity pretty comforting, plus I’m a sucker for charming colonial era architecture. Singapore had that in spades, and I spent a good chunk of my time there ogling well preserved whitewashed buildings…

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The Raffles legacy

The city of Singapore was formally founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a British statesman who first took the outpost for the East India Company in 1819. His name looms large on the island, as he is now generously accredited for its early economic success and urban planning, and his landing place is quite ceremoniously marked with a statue by the riverside. To me, ‘Raffles’ first and foremostly means the Raffles Hotel- a pretty charming late 19th Century establishment to my kind of taste, where I had an AWESOME breakfast. It’s also the original home of the Singapore Sling cocktail, which I thought improper to try since I was there before midday (though I totally would have had one if the bar was open).

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DSC_7464The Raffles Hotel

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The Arts House at the Old Parliament

I spent the mostpart of the morning wandering around the civic centre, the city’s colonial heart centred around a cricket pitch. Home from home. St Andrew’s cathedral was full of memorials to the British military killed in various conflicts this century, and the three war memorials in the nearby park served as a very initial introduction to the complex 20th Century history of this part of the world. The former government buildings, now replaced by a swankier structure next door, have been brilliantly conserved and turned into an arts and cultural centre, which I wandered around a little, while I also managed to accidentally (and illegally) enter the Asian Civilisations Museum to catch a glimpse of the pretty classy looking exhibits in there (must go back more properly next time). They seem to be pretty good at regeneration in this city- one of my favourite finds was an old Catholic nunnery and orphanage turned into a restaurant complex- and the new sits alongside the old pretty elegantly. That said, some of the space agey towers are probably going to look a little odd a few years down the line…

Little India

Little India

I stayed in Little India, decorated in full flare for Diwali, which was manic and colourful and could have been an entire other country. I also walked past Chinese-styled Buddhist temples, multi-ethnic morning markets, and businesses of myriad Asian denominations, and got a real sense of the diversity of the place. None more so than in trying out the city’s famous hawker centres- a cultural institution in itself, these food courts form the centre of many a neighbourhood, since cheap eating out is part of daily routine. The offerings here encompass any style of Asian cuisine you could possibly wish for- I chose based on the longest queue in the area, and ended up with a pretty delicious dish of roti with a nondescript meaty sauce. Figuring this may be the beginning of a more flexible attitude to vegetarianism as I wander around Asia, I consumed like a cultural pioneer, without thinking too much about it…

The hawker centre: a canteen, but cooler.

The hawker centre: a canteen, but cooler.

Though the visit was short and sweet, I’m definitely a fan of Singapore. In a few hours I managed to mentally and spiritually prepare for Bangkok, begin to acclimatise to the crazy humidity that is about to become my daily reality, and get to the airport on time with the ease of navigating the Piccadilly line. I’ll be back, I’m sure…

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