Singapore seems to be one of those places that people visit because of a flight stopover, not because it’s a destination in its own right. We certainly fell into that category: we had to change flights there, so decided to take some time to explore the city. I’d heard it was similar to Hong Kong, which I really liked, and anywhere that serves noodles and dim sum is fine by me.
I’m very glad we did get out of the airport, as we both really, really liked Singapore. Our two days there was just the right amount of time to walk around and get a feel for some of the different neighbourhoods. Plus I finally got to buy a mah jong tile bracelet, something I have been wanting for years after first seeing them in HK.
Oh, and eat. A lot.
For me, Singapore was mostly about the food. We weren’t expecting it to be so cheap to eat out, so we made full use of all the food courts with their excellent selection of stalls. Pork floss buns, Indian sweets, laksa, pig’s organ soup, sour cherry juice, pig’s trotter, pickled vegetables, sugar cane juice – lots of delicious things to try!
Also, you can’t go to Singapore and not visit Raffles.
Sadly there wasn’t enough in the coffers to partake of a Singapore Sling there, but hopefully next time.
The weather in Singapore always seems to be stormy, and it was no different for us. We got caught in a thunderstorm that lasted two hours, so we – along with two hundred other people – took shelter under a bridge and watched the lightning fork across the sky.
I was also incredibly impressed by Changi airport. I’d heard good things about it, and it didn’t disappoint. It seems strange to wax lyrical about a nation’s aeronautical hub, but honestly, Changi is a dream (especially compared with, say, Heathrow). Free sweets at immigration, wifi, an amazing kinetic sculpture in the departures lounge, and one of the best meals of the entire trip while we were waiting for our flight to be called. I still dream about that dim sum.
After Singapore, we had another short stopover in Bangkok, again as a requirement of our ticket. Both S and I had visited there before separately – him in 2000, me in 2010, so it was lovely to be there together. We realised after my trip there that we’d stayed in the same hostel on the Khao San Road – what are the odds? – so we decided to go there again, for old time’s sake.
For S, revisiting the Khao San Road was like being in his own version of Hot Tub Time Machine.
A lot had changed in the intervening 12 years, and the first few hours of the trip were him exclaiming things like: “There’s a MacDonalds!” “Where’s that lovely bookshop gone?” “Why are there so many women selling wooden frogs?”
It was even quite different from my time in 2010: a lot busier, less fish massages but more food stalls. There was even one selling deep fried insects. (We didn’t try them.)
Since neither of us had gone to the floating markets before, we did a half day trip outside of the city to see one of them. It was very touristy and ridiculously hot, but I’m glad we did it.
Afterwards we walked to Jim Thompson’s house and saw the gardens, where they were making silk.
And then – I am slightly ashamed to type this, but do bear in mind that we’d been travelling for two months, and we all need a break – we went to an air conditioned shopping mall and I had a hair cut at Toni and Guy. Which was one of the best cuts I’ve ever had, and the fact that this amazing stylist is in South East Asia and not in Bristol can only be called sod’s law.
We also visited a temple in Bangkok, because I think it’s obligatory. There were a lot of bells there, and we had a lot of fun ringing them.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, Singapore and Thailand were good bridges between Bali and India, taking us from the laid back atmosphere of Bali to the insanity that was awaiting us in Delhi.