In some ways, my friends back home were right. A Friday night at Marina Bay is swarming with expats letting off steam – bankers, PR professionals and on this occasion, an unkempt backpacker who hadn’t been a part of this world for a very long time. Due to the generous hospitality of these working folk, the globetrotter travelling machine temporarily malfunctioned.
But beyond the bars and in the cold light of day, there’s more to Singapore than you might think. Take a look at these Peranakan houses:
They’re a colourful reminder of Singapore’s cultural history. So is this:
Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple is the oldest in Little India. It turned out to be the most welcoming too. As I wandered around, staring up at the statues, a man thrust some greaseproof paper into my hand. A few seconds later, it was filled with rice and spicy lentils. A kind gesture towards a non-Hindu.
For a taste of the country’s colonial past, a friend and I sipped a Singapore Sling at The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. Two of those signature cocktails came in at around $60 SGD but that’s the price you pay for putting yourself in Ernest Hemingway’s shoes. I wondered if his own feet kicked around the monkey nut shells that were scattered around the floor. The bartender told us it was a tradition. The bar used to be the only place in the city where you wouldn’t be punished for such a crime.
Singapore does have its rules. Look at this line for the MRT. There are coloured arrows on the floor – red for waiting and green for alighting. You can also get fined for drinking or eating anywhere at the station, or on board.
It’s the most orderly and the most opulent city I’ve visited so far. Never before have I seen shoppers use a boat to get from one luxury store to another. This is a mall at Marina Bay Sands. You can get a fantastic view from the top of the complex (there’s an infinity pool there too, of course).
A real Wheel of Fortune. I spotted it as I was peering into the Bhudda Gaya Temple and with only one month left of my trip, why not take a random guess at what the future might hold? You’re told to place your finger at the animal which corresponds to the year you were born. Then, like a telephone dial, you spin it around – ladies go left, gentlemen go right. Mine stopped at number 4. This is what is said:
I’ll settle for that. Next stop – China.