Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Singapore.

I left the Philippines after a few depraved days in Cebu City and spent Xmas and New Year on the modern island metropolis of Singapore. At Cebu airport I met Sarah, a hot young Filipina on her way to Bali. She was staying in Singapore for a couple of nights so we decided to cut our costs by sharing a room. I wasn't complaining when the hotel only had double beds. A very memorable evening overlooking the Singapore skyline. What an introduction.


Singapore is quite a place if you hang around long enough to do it justice. It has enough shopping to satisfy the retail therapy needs of most women. I visited the beaches and even roller-bladed along one of them (I've been spoilt by Malapascua's beaches and these ones aren't a patch on them). I hiked 164m up Bukit Timah, Singapore's highest point, through pristine forest to the centre of the island - Singapore's last wild tiger was shot here, apparently.


I checked out Orchid Towers aka the Four Floors of Whores for a few drinks. I ate at lively Hawker centers where you have a huge choice of cheap food from all over Asia. I spent an afternoon strolling around the botanical gardens. I visted Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street. If the UK needs lessons on how multicultural societies can peacefully coexist, they could do worse than studying the Chinese, Indian and Malay races living side by side in this city.

I went to the Zoo which had a polar bear in it........eh?? Fancy moving a polar bear to the equator! The orangutans were cool. I also visited the night safari which involved a hike through the jungle and sitting quietly watching all kinds of cats, monkeys and other wildlife going about their nocturnal business - really good. It's the most humane zoo I've ever seen with moats and ditches instead of fencing. The animals looked fine to me.

I walked across a bridge to Sentosa Island where I chilled at a man-made beach observing huge oil tankers on the horizon. The Malacca Strait is still one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. I stood outside Raffles Hotel but neglected to drink a ridiculously expensive Singapore Sling (26sgd = £13) despite this being on many a tourist's bucket list.  I had a few beers with Singapore's trendy set at the Crazy Elephant bar on Clarke Quay.

Although the weather is hot like everywhere else I've been in the tropics, it's rained for much of the time. I've arrived in the monsoon season - oops. Just over the channel many Malaysians have died because of flooding. I've never seen such heavy prolonged rain in all my life. I'm glad I still have the brolly I bought in Tianemen Square. In Indonesia, to the south, ferries have sank and planes gone missing. I'm wondering what I'm doing with so much death everywhere I go?

I met a Singaporean-Indian lad who was wearing a Toon top at the airport! I asked him the crack? He's never been to England but has supported them since he was a bairn (he never said bairn). He's a member of the Singapore NUFC supporters club and he had more knowledge than me about them. We chatted about Glenn Roeder and finishing mid-table. Canny lad.

Anyway, Singapore was a refreshing first world change after the poverty and filth of the Philippines and China. Nice roads, public transport, services, safety and all the things you'd expect of any developed nation. However, after two weeks here I'm ready to return to the poorer places where I belong - roll on the rest of South East Asia and the feeling that you're going to be robbed at any moment!!

I'm now in Melaka in Malaysia. First impressions are odd as it's a Muslim country and this is my first experience of one. I've booked a flight to Borneo which is a place that's always captured my imagination. I plan to visit head-hunting tribes, trek through the jungle and camp in a forest so that I can sh*t myself at all the noises during the night.

Terima Kasih (Malay for Thanks)

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