Monday, 3 October 2011


Singapore officially marked the end of my trip through SE Asia and while I've not exactly been slumming it in the rest of Asia, I was looking forward to some home comforts in this westernised oasis. Steph kindly offered to put me up at her place and knowing that I was starting to crave dairy products, had stocked the kitchen with cheeses, milk and yogurts, and other western delights. My first evening in Singapore was spent with a plate of fish and chips and a bottle of tempranillo, which wasn't exactly top quality wine but in comparison to the Hardy's and Jacob's Creek offered as fine wine in other restaurants in Asia it was like a bunch of naked girls fighting on my tongue.

Turns 22,23 of the Singapore Grand Prix
However, delicacies like these come at a price. Drinking and eating out here is on a par with Scandinavian prices, although I'm told that prices drop significantly outside the expat bubble. Many people come to work in Singapore on good company packages, expensing their rent, utility bills, transport costs etc., to the point where their actual salary goes straight into the bank... or into the nightlife, so the bars and restaurants can afford to jack up the prices in the Central Business District. I had expected Singapore to be like Hong Kong, but it felt much more developed. HK had a grittier edge to it, whereas Singapore's streets were sparklingly clean, bars were swankier and people seemed to be more connected with the nightlife scene.

Singapore is definitely a social city. Expats know that their neighbours will only live there for a couple of years seeing out their contracts and then move on, so that generates a friendly atmosphere. Business moves quickly here and bars and restaurants, like their patrons, are transient. If your place doesn't get the cache quickly then it's pretty much over. What's the point in building a legacy if your customers move away after a couple of years?

Central Business District waterfront

But it's not just the expats that are tuned into business. The locals are industrious and entrepreneurial. My taxi driver gave me a motivational speech on the way to the airport: "Singapore is the land of opportunity; every business is a people business...". There's definitely a buzz about this place and when you see the construction projects and optimism here, you really get the feeling that the recession has largely missed this tiny country.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
As for sightseeing, my few days in Singapore were largely based in the centre around Steph's beautiful apartment, so unfortunately I didn't really get to experience Singaporean local life, but I wasn't complaining. With Top Gear on the telly, an on-site swimming pool and calcium back in my bones I really couldn't have been happier. My one regret was not scheduling my trip around the Singapore Grand Prix, which was held only a few days after I left the city. However I had my heart set on being in NZ for the Rugby World Cup and I wasn't thinking straight. 
From the viewing deck atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel you could see pretty much all of the Grand Prix circuit and out to Indonesia (and to Malaysia on a good day!). Wonderful views of this stunning city.

My evenings were spent drinking over at Arab St., a funky neighbourhood with Middle-Eastern and North African restaurants and cool cocktail bars. When we went clubbing at Zouk, Gilles Peterson jumped on the decks and the locals started dancing in orderly lines, all facing the front. The streets were littered with wasted locals who had underestimated their alcohol tolerance. Both reminders that I was still, very firmly, in Asia.

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