I’ve always had a soft spot for Singapore. Both my father and his brother lived there during colonial times, and even when he was too old to travel, my father always wanted to see our photos of Singapore whenever we’d had a stop over there, not just to see pictures of the colonial remnants, but pictures of the new city and how things had changed.
However, the journey:
Lisbon is not the easiest place to start from to get to Australia. Our journey went something like this:
Evening flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt, arriving just as the airport shuts down – this is actually a hassle as they start turning off the power to escalators, which made walking through the airport with luggage to our overnight hotel above the airport train station a minor drama.
The next day have a morning flight to Singapore arriving just after dawn, but actually, after immigration, getting our bags back, finding a cash machine, getting a taxi it was more like 0830 by the time we got to our hotel.
We’d emailed the hotel in advance about the possibility of an early checkin, and while they never committed to one, we’d obviously been put on a list as there was a room for us if we’d care to pay an extra SGD70, well worth it for a couple of hours sleep, and a shower.
Singapore is not the cheapest but it’s easy, westernised and efficient. The MRT train system is cheap and fast, takes you to most places you are likely to want to go, and while eating out can be expensive, and shopping is no longer the bargain it once was, Singapore can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.
The first evening we ate somewhere classy but not extortionate as a treat. We’d had to borrow an umbrella from the hotel as October was starting out to be wetter than usual.
Being on the equator Singapore doesn’t have a wet season or a monsoon, it can rain anytime, but some times are wetter than others, with October and November being wetter months.
The next day we did our tourist thing, and then decided to eat dinner at the hawker food court at Newton circus – it had been about five years since we’d been there, and it had been revamped, so we thought we’d give it a try and it was only a stop on from our nearest MRT station.
When we left the hotel it was pouring with rain again, so we borrowed an umbrella and set off down Orchard Road, only to find the station closed – flooding had knocked out the MRT, and while the police were directing people to replacement buses one look at the queue told us we were going to have a long wait.
We thought about walking, but given the rain, gave up on that idea and settled for an overpriced hotel buffet instead.
The next morning, the MRT was still partly out of action, but the trains had been restarted from Orchard Road to the city so we took ourselves down to the Asian Civilisations museum to look at the pottery from the Tang ship – a trading dhow that had gone down off the coast, laden with Tang pottery for sale in the Gulf.
While we were in the museum the heavens opened, but the rain had cleared by the time we had lunch, so off we set up Boat Quay, only to be caught in another squall, and forcing us to take cover in the cat cafe.
Despite being cat tragics, we didn’t spand any time with the cats as they were all fully occupied in being stroke by other clients or sleeping, and moved on. Amazingly we found a dollar shop and managed to get ourselves a couple of cheap umbrellas.
Unlike other Asian cities, street hawkers don’t appear spruiking umbrellas and plastic ponchos the moment it rains – being clean and regulated does have some disadvantages.
That evening it was the hawker market at Lau Pa Sat, now cleaned up and no longer a little piece of anarchy in the financial district with men grilling satay at the kerbside and cheerful beer ladies bringing jugs of tiger to your table, and bowls of food ordered from the various stands appearing as if by magic.
No, nowadays you need to order the food and collect it yourself and the beer has to be bought from a concession stand, and satay grilling takes place in a designated area.
That said the food’s still good, even if things are not as anarchic as they once were. And it’s still excellent value.
And that was it – the next morning it was a cab to the airport and home. Our European trip was over.