07.03.2012 35 °C
As we pack this morning to enjoy the final leg of our Asian Odyssey in Hong Kong - excited by the City ahead but equally dreading going back to reality of staying in a shared dorm after spending 5 nights in the luxury of my cousin Jack and his girlfriend Odette's place the Holland area of Singapore.
We got the shortest train journey yet - 6 mins, to take us across the border from Jahor Bahru in Malaysia to the Woodlands district in Singapore. Woodlands is reminiscent of a modern day outer city suburb, akin to the Walworth Road but without the people. The flats are the same - just younger but the area has a slightly run down feel about it, albeit pristine and quiet! We knew we had arrived a little early before our City workers would be home (that brought me back to start with); followed by arriving in the City district, very similar to the Liverpool St of London that I frequented on an almost daily basis. This felt very strange - in one way I felt so at home - everything seemed so normal, but then I looked myself up and down, looked at Ross and all our bags and reminded myself that I'm not a penguin anymore....that was rather lovely!
We got the tube - very clean, efficient and easy to use - like the DLR in fact, and made our way to Jack & Odette's. It was amazing to see them both here - really great to see them both so happy. They made us feel so welcome and Ross and I thoroughly enjoyed the pizza's and Coronas with limes- what a luxury. They live in a very nice apartment, with mod cons that we forgot we loved so much - a washing machine and tumble dryer that got me way too enthusiastic, a hob, oven and toaster so that we could make our own food, a hot, clean shower....we were delighted. Then they dropped in that they had a swimming pool and a gym - you can only imagine Ross's face!!
Singapore as a city feels purpose-built for expats and high-flying locals with modern high-rise blocks of condominiums and offices alike; interspersed with shopping malls galore, pollution-free dual carriages (a positive oddity). This is the most 'comfortable' place we have visited, very clean and orderly with great food options and a tempting array of shops (we did well to avoid!). Ross and I spent an afternoon walking around Marina Bay which seemed to be influenced by London and Sydney with a Millennium-style bridge, overlooking the water and adjacent to the main cultural and arts centre (think London's Southbank) and the first floating football pitch which mesmerised and perplexed Ross in equal measure.
We had a great night out with Jack, his colleagues and friends which was brilliant - a good bar with decent music but an unnerving familiarity of ex-pats from my neck of the woods, that made us feel like we were at home - all of this we thoroughly enjoyed, but when you're not ready to go back to the UK, yet feel catapulted into UK 'normality' it felt peculiar having spent over four months in unfamiliar territory that has been our temporary home.
A site for sore eyes is the Botanical Gardens - an impressive, well maintained yet interesting park, full of palm trees, huge tropical plants and some strange sights. Jack spotted a monk who walked up to a bin and kissed it. We then saw several contrived wedding photography sessions (Jack explained that Singaporeans tend to get married elsewhere but choose the gardens as the backdrop for their photo's) - at least three couples simultaneously posed for their photo's, clad in their wedding gear, pointing at trees for affect. For me, this sums up Singapore, real but surreal, yet it clearly works and a quarter of this growing city is made up of ex-pats. Everyone has a maid, the kids appear more comfortable with their Nannies than their Mummies.
Our finale was a lovely evening with Jack and Odette with a night safari at the Singapore Zoo. A great evening it was, though we all agreed some of the animals didn't look as happy as they should, which took the edge off it a little. Nonetheless, after lots of animal spotting we were treated to a curry by our lovely hosts....needless to say, this was the first curry since leaving India and the best since leaving London!
Love to all,
Charlie & Ross