Super Singapore

by Ant Stone on May 6, 2008

in Singapore

I remember a bright blue flying saucer, tilting this way and toppling that way between a cluster of shiny, soaring sky scrapers. I remember a cartoon appearing in a fountain, and it telling me ‘Sunshine was her name‘ and ‘friendship is my game‘. I remember seeing temples tucked in unlikely corners, spit-and-sawdust bars and drinking brightly coloured cocktails while fallen stars sank into the still waters of the quay. I remember my head sinking with disappointment after the first mouthful of my first meal and I remember it being so humid I’d wished I’d brought my armbands. I remember knowing I’d be back, and four years later, I am.

Once again, I’d crumbled to the lure of an airplane. It’s occurred to me sometime in the last 10 months that while lugging yourself over land-borders, you lose something that I find bewitching in travel; culture shock. As you drift into the border regions of a country it begins to dovetail it’s neighbor and before you’ve realised it the cultures, faces, languages and customs have become blurred. So much so, that when you cross the line, the only thing that really changes is the colour of your money. For ten months now, I’ve travelled in some of the toughest and poorest, most turbulent and proud countries on the planet, and they’re side-by-side in what could be construed as the most rugged neighbourhood in the northern hemisphere, if not the world. In an extraordinary contrast, Singapore exudes elegance, modernity, comfort and possibilities. I’ve come for all these things, but also for an ingredient it’s predecessors couldn’t offer; sin-free fun. The majority of The Trail so far, has been an education ergo not rib-splitting fun. It’s a practical demonstration on poverty, a real life repertoire, of real life. Don’t confuse the fun you find in misclacking chopsticks or watching tourmates get chased by wild yak with the fun of slipping on a clean t-shirt and – hang on! The more I think about it, The Trail has been ‘fun’, more fun in more ways than I’d realised. I’ll leave that bouquet of sentences as a gift, it’s an unadulterated moment of truth.

What Singapore is, is safe. It has that super-clean, super-organised, super-easy way that anyone arriving from a developing country will find super-unnerving. Why is he sending me down there? He wants to rob me! He’s saying something, he must be shifty. What? Oh, ticket, there’s a ticket machine for the MRT (metro/tube). If I shop in the 7Eleven they say ‘thanks for shopping in 7Eleven‘, if they’d said that in an Indian shop I’d have questioned the whole day if it’s because they’d short changed me. If I lit a smoke up on the train I’d be scratching my signature on a S$1000 (£400) fine. In India, it was IRS200 (£2.50) and both seem relevant at street level. This über-strict solution to everything does have it’s downside. As I write I’m taking notes aboard the aforementioned MRT, every deadpan face of the brimming car is cast in glumness. No one talks and I can hear myself think, ‘every deadpan face in here, is cast in glumness‘, so I write it down and become the most animated person in the carriage. Through the pristine windows I see the pale prongs of high-rises pinning up an overcast sky. When I boarded, a kindly voice announced ‘doors closing‘, it wasn’t till I sat down on the unblemished seat that I realised, just 24 hours previous I was in a country where doors were a hindrance for the death-defying hangers-on of the trains, buses and rickshaws of India.

The other notable difference, as a traveller, is that I’m back in dorm-room accommodation. This has nothing to do with the all new, me-minus-Reb chapter, it’s down to cost. Just a bed is costing me £10 a night while in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet and out-of-the-city South China it was at the very least your own room. It was a rarity not to be en suite in India, and at least 50% of the time, you had a TV for just a third of the price! The plus side of dorms is obvious to a solo traveller, some would call it a necessity. I’m yet undecided whether battling with the vibes of Velcro and the crescendo of zips at every hour is an inconvenience or that I’ve been spoiled to the point of snobbery. The dorm room has supplied a miscellany of new friends. I filled the first day here with chirpy Korean, Alvin, so I guess the dorm and it’s proverbial gift horse can wait for it’s oral inspection.

Alvin dragged me to the beaches and I dragged Alvin to VivoCity, a meganormous shopping center filled with cool air, a vibrantly coloured, curvaceous design and shops filled with shops on top of shops by shops. If you like shopping – or like me, a Royal Enfield and trickling heat reduced your best-in-bag to a fading pile of misshapen rags – then VivoCity is Singaporean for heaven. The beach, though not the Hawaii that Alvin claimed it to be (despite having never being there) was a welcome sight. It said ‘I’m Singapore, I know, what you want‘, even though I wanted a beer, and the best the beach-side bar could offer was two bottles for S$15 (£6). So Singapore, for me at least, is a holiday from travelling. Within 72hrs I’d replaced a pair of decaying shorts, and set free a t-shirt or three to make room for new. My glasses, scratched and chipped, have been made redundant by an all new pair and most excitingly, my future time in the internet cafes is vastly reduced, with the addition of an all-singing MacBook to the bag of buckles. Picture me standing with it at a crossroads, a not-so-super-organised crossroads.

Some frames from Singapore
Holy Sheet Fine Design Grey Days

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Meadows May 8, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Hi Stoney,

Glad things out there are going well, have been keeping an eye on your journey through your site and it sounds as though you’re having a great time.

Football team isn’t the same without you – seems like you’ve been gone for ages, now we have to rely on Jeff to grace us with his long range piledrivers when he’s fit!

Take care mate.



Becki May 13, 2008 at 8:56 am

I remember that feeling – walking into Singapore airport after too long in India – it was like shooting forward 2000 years into a shiny new world where stuff worked, and was on time, and had air conditioning! And after 2 days I was pining for the past where nothing worked, and you were lucky if a train turned up. The mystery of India – hate it when you’re there, love it when you’re gone!


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