On Dec 7th 2007, my wife, 3 sons and I boarded a QANTAS (oh no, make that a sardine can Jetstar on contract to QANTAS – breach of contract with me, QANTAS, if i wanted to fly 8 hours in a go cart I would have asked for it). Unfolding out of said sardine can at the Changi airport, we found our way to a quite delightful, albeit basic hotel on Bencoolen St, called Summer View. Well, one of the problems traveling with a family of five is affording two rooms or finding a rare case of a large family room. This was good value for us, a city location – central to orchard road (for big shoppers), the city for sights and culture, india and arabic and chinese market sections. Walked for miles on the first day down to the mariner and to the Merlion statue, finding a great market place for lunch. I like to walk to get a good feel for the space of a place. The family gave up by mid afternoon finding a small local shopping centre just up from the high court and parliament, with a weekend hubub atmosphere and massage chairs. I went on for another two hours, visiting the Singapore performing arts centre and strolling back through another couple of shopping centres, past Raffles hotel (one of the icons in the the stories of the older generation of my family). This walk, including the war memorial, reminded me of my father’s cousin and his wife who we visited in the UK in 1986, when my wife and I took a back-packing trip around the world – younger and fitter then. My father’s cousin had been in the British army in Singapore on the break out of WWII, and became a prisoner of war on the famous Changi Railroad.
Singapore is a fabulously well-organized city-nation. Its dollar is doing pretty well against the Aussie dollar even though we have seen a surge of the Aussie against the greenback. Still, if it had been at the end of our trip I would have liked to have shopped but I didn’t have any bursting needs and passion for buying is important for the bargaining routine of much shopping in mid east and asia.
On our second day we took the cable car to Sentosa Island. Unfortunately it was raining and the rain became heavier while we were there, so attractions such as to the ‘pink dolphins’ enclosure, was closed. Nonetheless it was something quite different to do a short tourist walk through a pocket of rainforest to a historical WWII fort. The nature walk was quite surreal, in a kitsch sort of way, as we came upon gaudy statues of lions and mushrooms and skeletal remains of dragons, and giants, and concrete formed waterfalls.
Mostly we ate quite cheaply in ‘noodle shops’, but a highlight of our short few days in Singapore was wandering upon a ‘steamboat restaurant’ in the arab sector. The place was obviously a locals dive, and on that sunday evening was packed literally overflowing. There was only one man on staff who could speak english. We waited conspicuously in the middle of a hive of activity with a line up of locals waiting for a table. As parties left, trestle tables were packed and moved and others lifted out to fit the configurations of the new parties. Eventually a waiter directed us to a couple of tables near the kitchen that was open to the dining area. The noise of conversation, punctuated with the shouts of the waiting and kitchen team, ensured we knew we ‘weren’t in Kansas anymore’. We managed to order much more than even a family with 3 teenage sons could eat.
Day 3 we rose to get to the bus to Malaysia.