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Friday, 16 April 2010

In Singapore

I’m in Singapore for a week, ostensibly working but on a short jolly with Husband who really is working. Currently in the hotel, I feel right at home because the skies are grey and it’s chucking it down outside. Later however, after doing some work I’ll step out into tropical heat and again, just like being in the UK, after five minutes, start moaning about the heat.

A rare treat – flew business class with Singapore Airlines which meant a whole spacious cubicle with a wide seat and lots of little buttons which opened up various nooks and cupboards. Despite the flat bed however, I didn’t sleep – never do on planes because just as I start to relax, the plane goes through a bit of minor turbulence and I’m jerked awake and the plane is plunging to a fiery doom. Also because of the fear of one of these cursed headaches, I stuck to water. Very British again. Would you like champagne on takeoff Madam? No thanks – I’ll have a nice cup of tea. Pathetic.

The sunrise though! Pulling up the shutters at 5am, as we headed over the Indian Ocean, I saw tongues of flame drifting across an azure sky and the sudden emergence of a fiery ball in the east.

Singapore is a well-ordered-to-the-point-of-bossy city. It starts when you walk through Arrivals, noting the lush plants and pristine glossy marble floor. Wandering over to Immigration you notice a Big Red Line and lots of Singaporeans in uniform. Going through UK immigration, they usually take a swift glance of your passport and wave you through. Here they scrutinise the photo and stare at you with their best Are you Bin Laden or even worse, Are you carrying chewing gum glare before suddenly smiling and waving you on. But if you’re waiting and bored and so much as put a toe over the red line, a Singaporean huffs up to you and points angrily which means – Get Your Fat Idle Arse Back Over That Line. It’s your first taste of a culture that strongly believes in rules and order. The fact that Singaporeans are short may not be unconnected to this.

It’s become popular to dismiss Singapore as a kind of Asia lite, bland, safe and almost militaristically ordered, where citizens are robbed of their freedom to chew gum and gob on the street. As though the poverty, danger and choking traffic fumes of Bangkok or Jakarta make the travel experience more real. So far, I’ve found Singapore to be a safe city, very clean, the food is fantastic, and the parks lushly dot the city landscape. And the food! As soon as it’s stopped raining and I’ve done some work, I’m nipping out to stuff my face explore the cultural diversity.

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