Farewell, Singapore

One more walk around Singapore and we realised that Easter weekend had completely passed us by. We’ve seen signs here wishing us a Happy Chinese New Year (February) and one place offering Moms a free massage for Mothers Day (a few weeks ago). But other than Hot Cross Buns, I don’t think we’ve seen anything for Easter. Normally, I would be craving chocolate, not necessarily eggs, but on this occasion, I’m just enjoying the luxury that is proper bread, sourdough, French baguettes, and proper, nonprocessed cheese.

The Seed, at the School of the Arts

I picked up some coffees to take back and was pleased that the splashing I felt on my arm wasn’t errant coffee from the cup: it was beginning to rain. It didn’t amount to much in the end, but it gave me an excuse to stay in, write, do some administrative tasks and listen to some much-missed radio shows.

The very colourful doors

Our final day in Singapore began with a return to the perfect place for our breakfast. Twenty-Eight Café is just down the road which is perfect, but also of course, 28 is a perfect number. We were joined by a couple of sparrows who picked crumbs up off the floor. Every now and then, they’d notice they’d drifted too far apart and run back to be with each other. Young love, eh?!

I said to Liesel, if it rains today, I’ll heat my hat.

We Grabbed a cab to the Botanic Gardens, entering through a different gate this time.

Bull frog (stoned)

We (well, I) were (was) very excited to see a monitor lizard walking along the path like he owned the place. I described his gait on Twitter as that of a 1980s lager lout. But he wasn’t at all aggressive, just looking for some tasty morsels.

My mate the Monitor Lizard

We felt a bit sorry for him: his long tail was dragging along the ground and I’m sure tarmac isn’t as comfortable as grass is.

There’s not enough real plantlife in the Botanic Gardens, so someone donated this sculpture.

Fifty Wings, by James Surls
Clocks confirming the 7-hour time difference between London and Singapore

We walked to the Orchid Garden and had to pay a small fee for this section. We got rid of a lot of our Singapore coins but the clerk noticed the one Malaysian coin that had slipped into the pile by mistake. Our punishment was: the heavens opened. A real tropical rainstorm, so we stayed under cover with all the other wimpy rain-ophobes.

Purple

We had a nice little walk and the thunder should have warned us that another cloudburst was imminent. We got caught in it so we walked hastily back to shelter.

Pretty

Our second foray into the orchids was longer and more successful. There are some gorgeous plants here, very pretty. I think it’s the law that hybrids are given embarrassing names. William Catherine is a pretty flower, yes, but probably called WC for short.

Red (I’m still not a botanist, in case you couldn’t tell)

The next downpour saw us retreat to the restaurant where we treated ourselves to coffee and treacle tart in Liesel’s case, chocolate cake in mine. And then, as it was still raining, more coffee.

Underneath the arches
Selfie of the day
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dangerous weather

Back at the apartment, we finished packing and I looked out of the window one more time. The view really isn’t much to write home about, and it led me to think that it’s a sign. Rain and a rotten view. Maybe it is time to move on.

Our view: plants OK, buildings not so much

We finished off our last few snacks, apple, cashews, tomatoes, wasabi covered peas that should be classified as a biological weapon.

It had indeed rained, quite hard. So I put my hat into the microwave oven as promised, and it dried out beautifully.

The cab ride to Changi Airport was longer than expected, and the driver was only the second female driver we’d hired.

Not too sure about the handcuffs on the back of the seat, though

She told us about the new Jewel venue at the airport, a huge entertainment and shopping centre.

Kinetic Rain

Shiseido Forest Valley Waterfall

Unfortunately, my visit to the Butterfly Garden was fruitless. It was after sunset and the butterflies were all tucked up in bed. On the other hand, at Terminal 3, I found an Indian Vegetarian place where I enjoyed a dosa masala. I felt bad for Liesel who’d chosen to stay at Terminal 1: she ended up with a rather ordinary sandwich.

Actually, the next time we visit Singapore, we might just spend a couple of weeks at the airport. Especially with the new lounge experience, coming soon.

New lounge experience coming soon, woop-de-doo

No, it’s been really good here, both times, and when you consider that Singapore and Malaysia were just ‘a quick side-trip’ from Australia, that we hadn’t even contemplated when we first left home, I think we’ve been very lucky.

I heart Singapore

Return to Singapore

Our lovely hostess drove us to the airport after breakfast which we ate outdoors, trying to ignore the smell and the haze caused by at least one bonfire.

Eggs, bread and more curry puffs
A wave of haze

Sadly, I think the ubiquitous rubbish-burning fires of Malaysia will be amongst our longest-lasting memories.

Two flights and a taxi ride later, we arrived at our next Singaporean apartment, in the heart of the city. As we passed by some now familiar landmarks, there was a sense of ‘coming home’. Even though this has never been home. Maybe it’s just more ‘comfortable’ than Malaysia. A strange sensation, nonetheless. No Morality Police here.

Street art just along the road

I went for a walk but what I didn’t tell Liesel was where I was really going, in case my plan went wrong.

Our place looks better from the outside
Welcome back, Mick, said Buddha

On my return, Liesel did ask “Who are you? And what have you done with my husband?” Yes, I’d been to a barbershop, had a trim and a shave. I’d retained the face fungus for a few days longer than usual to help combat sunburn to the south of the face while on the island.

It was a delight being able to cross the roads safely. Yes, I’ll have a whinge about the pedestrain crossing lights taking too long to change and then not giving people enough time to cross the road. But at least, there are pedestrian crossings here.

Balloon dog taking a dump (sculpture), Cathay Hotel

For the first time in over a week, we were able to wash our clothes. The shirts could stand up on their own after several days wear and tear, but we managed to origami them into the washing machine.

It’s funny how history repeats itself. Last time we arrived in Singapore, one of our first ports of call was the Apple Store, where Jyoti purchased a brand new iPhone. We had to go there this time too: Liesel’s USB-Lightning cable is no longer working reliably and there’s a definite kink in it. The new cable works very well.

We spent much of the day walking around shops, streets, malls, keeping to the shade where possible, making use of shops’ airconditioning especially where it spills out onto the streets. Liesel’s research led us to a place called Wild Honey where we ate well and appreciated the Troggs’ philosophy printed on the napkins.

Wild Thing
Aubergine bacon and scrambled eggs

Yes, it looks like bacon and they even call it ‘bacon’, but it’s very thin slices of aubergine and is, to me, much nicer than actual pig’s bum!

The AC is great but it does mean that every time we go back outside, our glasses mist up. Interestingly, we’ve not seen anyone else suffering this fate, so maybe there’s a local anti-misting coating you can buy for spectacles.

We still enjoy looking at the architecture here, a nice mix of old and new. Many buildings have these French doors on the first floor, some white, like these, and some very colourful ones.

Information
Professional photobombers: invisible until you look at the picture later on
A front door just like ours at home
Singaporeans are no good at Curling because they’ve got no handles on their stones
Had to buy this snack, obvs

As I slowly dragged myself up from the depths and weirdness of cheese-induced dreams, I thought the airconditioner in the bedroom was too loud and about to explode. But no, the noise was from outside: torrential rain. We had planned to go out for lunch, not least because this place gets cleaned twice a week and today was one of those days. The cleaner knocked on the door and we asked her to wait for another ten minutes, while we made ourselves presentable.

Glorious peacock (sculpture)

We walked to Fifth Dimension, an Indian-Chinese fusion restaurant, back in Little India, where we’d been with Jyoti a few weeks ago.

On the way there, we saw a peacock (above) and a cow riding a bicycle. Hah, that grabbed your attention, didn’t it!

Cow riding a bicycle

The meal was great, all three members of staff were very friendly, tending to all our needs, mainly because we were the only customers.

Very nice, very tasty

We wandered slowly back by many Indian shops, food, clothes, all looking very neat and tidy – unlike the alleyways that run behind the shops, definitely not for the squeamish. There were a couple of cows sitting up on the roof of the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.

Cows sitting on the roof
More street art
Tiger, tiger

On our way to the National Library, we were pleased to read that Banana is now back home, but poor old Milky is still missing. I think more people should provide updates on their ‘missing pets’ notices.

Banana is back home

It would be nice to give this happy Buddha a new home, but we’d never fit him and his earlobes into our bags.

Laughing Buddha
Free bicycle parking for very tall people

Again, we stayed in the shade as much as possible, and this sort of decoration makes it doubly worthwhile.

Art in the street
Let’s all learn to dance in the rain

In the Design Centre, Liesel declined my challenge of a game of ping-pong on the hexagonal table, so I think that means I win by default.

Hexagonal table tennis table
Very pleased to see Blur have a new record out
Freedom for Pooping!

In the Library, we found a couple of books to read out loud for our grandchildren, but it was much harder to find a quiet spot in which to do so.

Children’s play area in the National Library

The children were having a wonderfully noisy time in their play area while over in a separate room, it was Tamil story time with singing and dancing!

There’s an exhibition of photographs depicting Old Singapore. In one picture, there’s a cow pulling an ice cream wagon.

Some old bloke on an old photo
Always been a busy, hustling and bustling place

One thing I think we missed in Malaysia because it was just so hard to wander around was seeing strange and unusual works of art. There’s all sorts of strange things here in Singapore, though. Big balloon dogs. Stainless steel birds in the Carlton Hotel, a home from home. A big, 5-metre tall naked red man. A cyclist made from PVC pipes (not straws) giving the appearance of motion. More birds.

Birds on a Tree, 2011, Lucida October Contemporary Art
Red Memory – Smile, by Chen Wen Ling
If this smile doesn’t lift your spirits…
Disguise 3, by Kang Duk Bong
A flock of birds

After visiting yet another shopping mall (there’s a lot to choose from), we walked back via Fort Canning Park. That was a shock to the system.

Singapore is flat, mainly. But in the park, on a hill, we walked up scores of steps. We were hoping to see the sea, but there are just too many trees and tall buildings in the way. At the top of the hill, there is not only a fort but also a lighthouse. I wondered if it can still be seen from mariners out at sea? No, it can’t. It was closed in 1958 and a much brighter light placed on top of the tall Fullerton Building, now a hotel.

Heritage tree
Fort Canning Lighthouse

After walking around and through the park, we set off home. There’s a long, long stairway to climb, but that’s OK, we’re in no hurry. What we didn’t realise until we got there, though, was that these steps belonged to an exclusive and very posh community of ex-pats. We followed some in-mates in when they opened the gate to the compound and proceeded to follow the steps, in a generally upwards direction.

A couple of the paths were dead-ends, just leading to individual houses or apartments. The people playing in the pools took no notice of us as we nonchalantly ambled by, so presumably the panic we felt, at the possibility of not being able to find a way out, didn’t show.

We went inside one of the buildings, and the sign by the lift indicated a car park a few floors below. I suspect we wouldn’t have been able to operate the lift without a special keycard, so we walked down the fire escape stairs until we found the car park. Yes, I’m sure we feature on plenty of CCTV security footage but we just wanted to get out and get home!

As suspected, we were able to walk up the ramp to exit the car park and we didn’t even have to duck under the barrier: the gap was big enough to walk by and back onto the road. The security guy in his little hut was totally oblivious, didn’t even realise we were there. And, best of all, we’d come out just over the road from our own apartment. Phew, I think we got away with it! Security at that place isn’t that hot. On foot, you need a keycard to open the gates. In a car, you have to use a card or at least get the guard to lift the barrier. But if you want to get in illegitimately, just walk past the exit barrier to the car park, walk down the ramp, then climb the fire escape stairs. Not that I’m advocating anything illegal, but there really is a big hole in their security arrangements.

Again, we had a simple supper and didn’t venture out after dark.

Singapore (Part 2)

The next day was full of the usual holiday activities, up, out for breakfast, showers, trip to the National Library (Mick and Liesel), job interview (Jyoti), comments on the heat and humidity outside (all of us), comments on the coldth inside buildings (Jyoti and Liesel), coffee, food, food and more food.

Pre-prata banana

If all this Indian food doesn’t cause total heart failure, unexpectedly walking past a building with a name like this might finish the job.

The Trumps

I don’t think it’s related to or owned by the dipshit-in-chief but you can’t help but make the connection.

The National Library is big, spacious and cool, not cold, inside. I wanted to write but wasn’t relaxed and comfortable in the café while many people were moving furniture around and preparing for a theatre performance or something. The coffee was nice though.

When Jyoti joined us, we walked to St Josephs Institution, the venue for an art gallery, but it was closed.

St Joseph
The Explorer by Ng Eng Teng

“The Explorer” was created in 1999 by Ng Eng Teng to commemorate the new millenium.

“The Explorer”

Over the Clouds

Beyond the Planets

Our world

Travels and Explores

The galaxy

We like the amount of greenery here in Singapore, lots of trees everywhere, and there are plants growing up walls of buildings and even on the roofs. Rooves? On the lids of buildings.

A typical roof garden

We visited the Gardens by the Bay but before we got there, we spent some time in what must be one of the biggest shopping centres anywhere, with shoppes (sic) for the more affluent people amongst us. There was nothing of interest to me here, but J&L enjoy walking around such places, so I tagged along: none of us had plans to buy anything though.

Sugar cane used for making juice

Marina Bay Sands is very shiny, very expensive looking, very clean and surprisingly quiet. Except for some loud music which we now realise must have been for the launch of the new Netflix offering, Triple Frontier, starring Ben Affleck.

Well, Ben missed out on his chance to meet us, but I did my bit to wear out the red carpet.

Mick on the red carpet

We walked to the Gardens and even the walk along the enormous concourse was entertaining: the walls are comprised of pictures of plants alternating with mirrors, so the effect is very colourful and spacious.

Mirrors and pictures of flowers

I bought some apples and grapes and I was delighted to be given a plastic bag. I haven’t had one of those for a while, it made me yearn for the good old days. In Japan, they thrust plastic bags on you, even if you haven’t bought anything yet, but I didn’t expect that sort of thing here in Singapore.

We probably won’t have time to go up on this trip, but Sands Sky Park Observation Deck looks amazing from down here on planet Earth. It looks like a ship has moored on top of the skyscrapers and there’s now a garden on board.

Sky Sands Park Observation Deck

To save walking so far, we took a shuttle to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. This structure is a remarkable feat of design and engineering, and we could have spent a long time wandering around. Unfortunately, so could everyone else and it was very crowded.

Big ants (not real ones)
Selfie of the day
Water and glass

One thing I really wanted to see was Venus fly-traps made from Lego bricks. That’ll never happen, you’re thinking. Well…

Lego Venus fly-traps

The Cloud Walk was lovely. We took the lift up to level 6, walked up to level 7 then all the way down, alternately looking at the plants and the view of the Supertrees which light up as the Sun sets.

Looking down from the Cloud Walk
An amazing display
Supertrees seen from the Dome

Had enough of plants? There are some geological items too, best of all, this amethyst geode.

Amethyst geode

I know that during our mass decluttering project last year, I swore I would never again collect anything. Well, we had to leave and reenter this venue, so I decided to start collecting stamps once more.

Stamp collection

Spoiler alert: unlike one stamp a few months ago that persisted for a couple of weeks, these had all successfully been washed off within 12 hours.

Supertrees, water, colour

I was ridiculously tired, not at all hungry, so I just loitered with intent while J&L had a very late meal. Back at our luxuriously delicious and immensely spacious studio apartment, I had a quick rinse in the shower, read my book for two minutes, and drifted away very quickly.

It might be spaciously luxurious but none of us would want to spend more time than necessary in the the studio apartment. There’s only one window and it looks out onto the front yard and pavement. We went to Lau Pa Sat food court for breakfast although by the time we arrived, it was our midday meal.

Hot spicy and hot temperature-wise was my soup, full of delicious vegetables. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having hot Indian or Thai food like like this for breakfast. A bowl of cereal or toast and Marmite sounds really good right now!

Modern Singapore
Raffles Quay – there’s a lot of Raffles about

Looking up without falling over backwards is a necessary skill in a modern city. Coping with an element of cognitive dissonance is vital too. When I’m enjoying the countryside or beach, I am glad to be away from the hustle and bustle of a city. Yet here I am in a big city, enjoying the buzz, admiring the beauty of the cityscape while at the same time, feeling a bit sorry for those folks who spend forty hours a week stuck inside one of those edifices. I bet most of them would rather be spending time out of doors. They’re building upwards here of course, but also reclaiming a lot of land from the sea. Next time we visit Singapore, it might be much more than a little red dot.

Peace in the neighbourhood

We took a train to the nice cool Library where I did some writing while enjoying some coffee. Jyoti and Liesel both had slightly disappointing drinks although, to be fair, the colour of Jyoti’s concoction did match the top she was wearing

The future’s orange

The spire of St Andrew’s Cathedral stands out against the new, highrise buildings.

Ancient and modern Singapore

As I walked towards the National Gallery to meet up with J&L again, I was delighted to see a game of cricket taking place. Jyoti’s Dad used to spend time at the Singapore Cricket Club all those years ago.

Cricket and Sands way over there

In the Gallery itself, we enjoyed artworks from the wider southeast Asia region, not just Singapore.

Irrawaddy by Kim Lim

I always like geometric shapes so these interlocking tetrahedrons are right up my street.

Tetrahedron-tetrahedron interpenetration by Han Sai Por

I think they’d look jolly nice on our mantlepiece. If we had a mantelpiece.

We walked back to the shoppes at the Sands hotel conference and exhibition centre and onto the food court. On the way, we saw the Merlion, a lion’s head on a fish. The real one is much bigger and currently being restored.

Merlion

Our plan to eat in the food court earlier in the evening, in order to avoid crowds, totally backfired. The place was heaving. Not only that, it was thrumming. So instead, we went up to a wood-fired pizza place. The pizza was nice and best of all, they gave us a knife and fork to eat with.

Rodin’s The Thinker left out on the dockside by mistake

We paid a return visit to the Gardens on the Bay. This time, we concentrated on the Supertrees, the light show, the fountains and the dragonflies. It would have been fun to do the sky walk, high up amongst the Supertrees, but the crowds here were not only heaving and thrumming, they were jostling as well.

Supertrees all alight
Dragonfly – this one didn’t move as I pressed the shutter

The sculpture of a baby boy was astonishing in itself, but when you realise he’s almost floating in the air, balanced on the back of his right hand alone, you can’t help but think, babies really are remarkable, aren’t they? They grow up, some become artistic and come up with things like this. Marvellous.

Planet by Mark Quinn

Singapore (Part 1)

We landed at Changi Airport and, for the first time ever, we were going to venture out into the wider city/state. Not the first time for Jyoti though: she’d lived here for a while as a youngster.

Sunset over Singapore, seen from the plane

The taxi took us to our new Airbnb and for such a small island, it seemed to take a really long time. Singapore is just a small red dot of an island off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Surely is should only take five minutes to reach anywhere on the island? But, it’s nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight and that can takes a while to traverse too. I think we (I) were (was) tired from the flight with no sleep, desperate to be horizontal, push up some zzzz.

We finally arrived at our new luxuriously spacious studio apartment. Shirley, our host, met us at the door, and showed us round.

At last, all ready for bed, teeth cleaned, lights out, and what’s this?

Too many lights

It’s like Houston Mission Control over there, all the lights and LEDs from the TV, the wifi router and all the other electronic gallimaufry.

Jyoti makes no bones about the fact that she is here primarily for the food. Liesel goes bananas at the mention of food too. Finding somewhere to eat is as easy as pie. Our first breakfast was Indian: dosa masala. Huge. And a mango lassi. For breakfast.

Jyoti needed to visit the Apple Store in Orchard Road (there’s a long story here).

Jyoti back at Orchard Road

This is one area that she knows well from many years ago. The journey by train was easy enough and a good way to do some quick sight-seeing.

Singapore World Water Day Month
Coffee design: hope it’s not something offensive in Chinese

Following the purchase of probably the most expensive phone in this sector of the galaxy, we went for a walk, shops, lunch, and on to the National Museum of Singapore.

Lunch? For me, the most disappointing meal ever. The picture and description made it look good. Kaya toast is a local favourite. The toast and coconut jam was ok. The boiled eggs were yucky, runny whites, and the tea was too sweet, probably made with condensed milk. The picture on the menu still looks like two halves of a hard-boiled egg to me. The official description is ‘half-boiled’. Just serve up raw eggs and be open about it!

I consoled myself with a pineapple and sour plum smoothie. And later, an apple.

Information Office: leading edge technology here

The Museum was fascinating (and cool), the whole history of Singapura through British colonisation to full independence in 1965 and remarkable economic and cultural success since then.

One of the first maps depicting Cincapura
Rickshaw and old colonial house

In the evening, we went for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. We’re just one degree north of the equator here and I’m not sure the seasons match what we’re used to. The gardens were lovely, but there were very few flowers, not what you would call a colourful place.

Gymnastic acrobat in the bushes

The path was well-made and the only one that had cobbles and bumpy stones was named the “Reflexology Path” and I thought, what a clever bit of marketing.

We entered the area comprising the Singapore Botanic Gardens UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know what’s wrong with the rest of the gardens: it’s not like they’re all weeds or something.

The Evolutuion area was interesting: ammonites embedded in the path, petrified trees and a small homage to Stonehenge.

Fossils on the footpath
Small Stonehenge and tall tree

There’s an area dedicated to plants used for medicinal purposes, another with aromatic plants, and a whole lot more that we didn’t have time, nor legs, to visit.

As we turned one corner, we saw a bird run across the path into the bushes. It wasn’t going to be a kiwi this time, obviously, but we thought it might be something exotic and interesting. As I watched, in the shadow under the bush, I realised the bird was feeding three chicks, clearing back the leaf litter, letting the little ones peck at their own food. Only when she emerged from the shadows did we realise how exciting our find wasn’t.

Chicken (a real one)

I know Jyoti’s only little, but look at the size of these leaves. we know where to go should we need an umbrella.

Small Jyoti, big leaves

I was sad to learn only recently that Dean Ford, the lead singer with Marmalade had died at the end of last year. I think their best song was Reflections of my Life. The lyrics include the following:

The world is a bad place

A bad place, a terrible place to live

Oh, but I don’t wanna die.

Yes, the world can be a pretty scary place. On our travels, we’ve seen signs warning us of earthquakes, tsunamis, snakes, sharks and now, today, this:

Beware of lightning and falling branches

We should have donned our hard hats for this garden, not our flimsy sun hats.

A very bright leaf

Back in the city centre (actually, the whole country seems to be city centre), we visited one of Jyoti’s favourite restaurants from 1947, Komala Vilas.

Komala Vilas

It was very popular, very busy and we had to wait a short while for a table. Dosa for breakfast, and now, dosa for supper. Huge things.

Dosas too big for the table and for the photo

We shared the three but, needless to say, none of us could finish. Trying to eat one-handed is a challenge: you’re not supposed to use your left hand while eating. Unless you’re using a fork, which is a handy get-out clause. I would have liked a knife too, I am British, don’tcha know, but a second implement, if available at all, always seems to be a spoon. The lady at the table next to ours was entertained by us, but in the end, we made eye contact and she smiled. Her husband, though, adept at one-handed eating as he was, was a messy pig. No, not pig, that’s inappropriate. He was a very messy eater.

We were in an area named Little India so it was no surprise to pass by a Chinese Theatre performance on the way back to the station.

Live action Chinese theatre

We returned to our luxuriously spacious studio apartment where we cooled down in the shower and retired to bed. You think my description of the place is exaggerated? Nope.

Luxuriously Spacious Studio Apartment – Official

We’d walked over ten miles today, far too much for Liesel, so we agreed to take it easy the next day.