A few years ago in New Zealand there was a brilliant ad campaign poking fun at people who wear togs (swimwear for non kiwis) in public when they’re not at the beach. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Lx2ihpGbc
I experienced a similar feeling to the speedo toting chap in the ad when I wore what I like to call my ‘hippy’ pants to Singapore. In Vietnam I unashamedly rock these bad boys – I’m sure you’re familiar with the style. They’re slouchy, they’re light, they’re oh so comfy and absolutely scream “I’m a foreigner!! “ But whatever, I get away with them here because it’s so damn hot. In Singapore, it was equally as stifling but somehow I didn’t feel as comfortable in them when surrounded by incredibly well accessorised and depressingly thin Singaporeans.
My pants situation pretty much sums up the difference we felt between Vietnam and Singapore. In Vietnam, many things (including laws) are lax and the people spend a lot of time napping and sipping ca phe da on the street. In Singapore there is a fine for EVERYTHING (so much so that every tourist item bears the slogan ‘Singapore is a FINE city’ – har har) and the people spend a lot of time working and slurping cappuccinos quickly while they rush to the office on the MRT.
This kind of difference was just what the doctor ordered for Tom and I. Coming from Auckland I don’t think I would have been so wowed by Singapore but coming from Saigon it was a breath of fresh air. Not better, but so different that we really felt worlds away.
My first impression of the compact country was Chinatown as that’s where our hotel was. I would totally recommend staying there if you go to Singapore as it has a real charm about it and is a relatively central location with easy MRT access. I loved the lantern lined streets and pungent smells of the markets…well all the smells except for Durian that is. Luckily our hotel had a ban on the stinky fruit.
The next day was spent in one of my favourite happy places – a theme park. You thought Universal Studios was in LA? Pah! Fool, it’s in Singapore! Ok…maybe not the real one but it makes a solid effort to try and we had a blast there. It was my first real theme park experience (apparently the rusty rides you see at A&P shows in rural NZ don’t count) and I felt just like a kid on Christmas morning. Again, we felt worlds away as we strolled the streets of “Hollywood” and “New York”, stopping in at a traditional diner for some burgers and shakes.
Unfortunately the main event was shut. There are two rollercoasters that run at the same time making you feel like you’re going to be crashed into by the other one. It sounded and looked magnificent, but alas they’ve been closed for some time now for repair. Sad faces.
No matter though, we were able to find plenty to do including a 4D Transformers ride that was kinda like the motion master experiences of my youth except a zillion times better. I have fond memories of standing in a tent and trying to stay standing up while watching some generic flying footage on a big screen at ‘Fantasyland’ in Hastings. This however, was a little more high tech if you can believe it. You get thrown around, spat at by water and steam all whilst giant robots chase you. It’s fantastic.
My hopes were somewhat dashed with Jurassic park as I was most excited for it- I mean come on, JURASSIC PARK people! I imagined there would be dinosaurs (silly me) and there were a couple but they were a bit meh. The T-Rex doesn’t even move. Boooo. The best ride in my opinion was the rollercoaster in the Egyptian area of the park (I think it’s based around those dreadful Mummy flicks starring Brendan Fraser). It’s all inside a ‘cave’ so you’re in pitch black for most of it except for when real flames pop out of nowhere! Needless to say we braved the lines and went twice. Oh, on that note an insider tip is to take the ‘single riders’ lane. We skipped at least an hour of wait time and often ended up on the same ride anyway.
Here are a couple of shots from the day (please note the tiny NZ in the background as it took us a good half hour of timing with the revolving globe to get this selfie right).
Almost like Disney land! (this is Shrek’s pad though apparently).
After Universal studios we figured we may as well get the most of our $4 island pass and explore Sentosa a bit. Aside from the theme park, Sentosa island has a lot to offer. It’s like someone wanted to keep all the tourists out of the city so they created somewhere so enticing that they would all flock there. You could spend your entire holiday on the island as they have accommodation, bars, a casino (with a $100 entrance fee!!!), an aquarium, gardens, a beach –the list goes on. Tom put it well when he described Singapore as like being in a really well played Sims game. Sentosa is probably the epitomy of this as it is so unashamedly man made. It’s essentially a giant playground for kids and adults alike. Here are some cool shots of a random walkway (every thing including the walk ways are so pretty!).
…there are those pants!
We also happened to discover some amazing food in the ‘hawker stall’ style food court right next to Universal studios. Check out these weird Malaysian desserts (yes those are kidney beans and sweet corn). Somehow this concoction of shaved ice, sugar and whatever else they had in the cupboard actually tasted good.
The great thing about Singapore is that you can have a taste (literally as we did) of many different cultures and it’s as easy as stepping on the MRT- which by the way is very user friendly and unlike most undergrounds is actually clean! It felt a lot safer too with everyone casually playing on some expensive piece of technology – in Vietnam or Europe that would really not work out in your favour.
We spent the day after our Sentosa island adventure riding the MRT and acquainting ourselves with the different cultural enclaves of the city. All in one day we managed to squeeze in shopping at the shiny malls on Orchard road (to be back in the vicinity of H&M and Topshop was a glorious thing), a delicious lunch of dosai at a traditional family run place in Little India, browsing the perfume and silk shops in Arab street and eating delicious Chinese fare in Chinatown.
While strolling the footpaths in Vietnam you’re constantly watching your feet to make sure that you don’t trip over a motorbike, basket of food or entire family just hanging out there whereas in Singapore you’re constantly looking up. Check out this pic of Tom next to a sky rise covered in greenery. Love it.
And this amazing ummm….thing (gotta be honest, not sure what it is) we spotted in Little India
Oh and this stunning mosque that pokes its head over the Arab Street area.
We did do some looking down at one point when we went to the much over hyped ‘Ku de ta’ bar at the top of the famous Marina Bay towers. The view is spectacular but the crowds really ruin the vibe and you have to pretend you’re made of money if you order anything. $40 for a couple glasses of Sangria. Yup. Still, the sunset really was gorgeous when you could elbow your way to the edge for a look.
My one regret about the trip is that we didn’t make it to Raffles for a Singapore Sling as we’ve only just found out that they were invented there. I would like to say we found a nice cocktail bar as an alternative but no, our first (and only come to think of it) Singapore Sling in the city happened to be at Hooters – the first Hooters in Asia I might add! This trip was a birthday present to Tom after all…
Turns out it’s fine to order a sweet pink drink when you’re at an establishment that encourages perving.
Thanks for the good times Singapore, you sure are a fine city.