The first thing you notice as you step onto the streets of Singapore fresh from the plane is how clean the place is. After travelling round Asia for around 6 months you become accustomed to the rubbish and litter everywhere. People generally don’t use rubbish bins in Asia, maybe because there aren’t that many, so they will toss their rubbish away anywhere and everywhere. In Singapore however it is a crime to litter, to chew gum and to eat on the subway and there are undercover police everywhere waiting to fine anyone that does so. So the place is pretty clean, its also very well organised (everything runs on time!) people speak English and it must have the highest proportion of shopping malls per square mile than any other city! Another thing you notice is the sheer diversity of the population of Singapore a mass melting pot of different Asian (I also include Indians in here) cultures and races.
I was staying in a hostel in Little India mainly because it was the cheapest place to stay in Singapore. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel since Australia so it was time to get familiar again with hostel rules – mark all your items you put in the fridge, make your own bed and no snoring in the dorms!! The Inn Crowd Hostel was a comfortable and perfect base for the next few days with free internet and coffee. Singapore (Loin city) was originally a small port town on the southern tip of the mainland of Malaysia and really only grew in status after Sir Thomas Raffles arrived in 1819 looking for a strategic base for the British Empire. Quickly enough he turned the swampy island into a free trade port and Singapore as we know it today. Singapore has a chequered history with the Japanese invasion during WWII and then the British welcomed back after the end of the war. Since then various political programmes have seen Singapore gain its independence in 1965 and is run as a democracy (in a very very loose sense) to this day. The majority of the population is Chinese but there are so many nationalities here with Indian being the second biggest nationality represented. Although there were many cultural and religious indiscretions in the early days of Singapore’s history after independence, things have settled down now and everyone seems to get along fine. Singapore is a very hot and humid city and impossible to walk around unless you feel like losing a stone in sweat but luckily the city has a very efficient tube (MRT) network, which takes you around the sprawling skyscrapers and malls. No one seems to walk in Singapore as I found out one day on the way to the big Ferris wheel and ended up a sweaty mess only to find out that there was an AC underground walk way there!! The F1 had only just left town and there were remnants of the track around the city, well done Lewis! The food in Singapore is amazing, there seems to be the possibility of eating anywhere and everywhere. Every street corner has a a little restaurant and they sell the most bizarre foods from Frog Leg porridge to pig intestine soup. There are the normal menu choices though, excellent curry in Little India – 3 curries and 2 Dals, Nan and rice for £1.50, excellent Chinese food everywhere for the same price and all great sized portions too!! You can obviously indulge in standard western food if you like, but why waste your money!!My days in Singapore were spent wandering the streets (and popping into a shopping mall here and there to cool down), taking in the impressive views of the skyscrapers, trying to stay sweat free, picking up my credit card that got eaten by the ATM machine in Ubud, meeting up with friends from Koh Tao and chilling out with the guys from the hostel. There are not a lot of sights to behold in Singapore as it is really an impressive financial powerhouse in the middle of Asia which attracts business people rather than tourists but is also a tax free shopping haven if you have the money! I managed to pick up a bargain in Sim Lim Square. Sim Lim is a shopping mall entirely dedicated to electronics of every kind from cameras to play stations. Imagine 6 floors of small neon fronted shops all selling pretty much the same thing and you have a good idea of what i am talking about! I managed to pick up a small net book (a small PC) for about ½ of the price you’d expect to pay in the UK. I figured that although a slight burden to carry around it would help save money in internet cafes, hopefully improve my blog and also I can watch movies on it. So far through friends I have now got the 4 seasons of Prison Break, all the episodes of Only Fools and Horses and about 50 movies. I shouldn’t be bored for a while!! Outside of the cheap street food halls and shopping centres there are a few activities to indulge in – Sentosa (a small Disneyland style park), lots of various religious temples, the famous Raffles hotel and Orchard Road (shopping heaven). Singapore is a great place if you have lots of money, but it sometimes feels very straight laced with no personality. I don’t know whether that is do with the age of city state as it hasn’t formed its own identity yet or whether the people feel as though they are under constant surveillance, but one thing is for sure it is a very efficient city with expensive beer (£8 a pint) to boot!! Not much drinking went on here!!!Soon enough it was time to press on and back to Indonesia for my second stint which would take me up to Sumatra and back to diving again on the small northern island near Banda Aceh called Palau Wey.