My friend Claire was being sent to Singapore for a confrence for a couple of days so I decided to pop down to Singapore and check it out for a week. The cheapest flights left Hong Kong on Wednesday and came back the following Wednesday so those were the ones I booked. Claire was coming over on the Friday night and then leaving on the Tuesday so I booked myself into a hostel for the times that Claire was not there and was due to crash out in Claire's hotel room on the nights she was there. It all seemed like a good plan.
The excursion started out really well when I got to the airport early (Claire was taking the piss at how early I was leaving for the plane as she always goes at the last possible minute) and then was told as I checked in that I was being upgraded!! I had never been upgraded before and was really not expecting to on this flight as I had my backpack with me and was looking slightly scruffy. Apparently the plane was really full so they must have decided to upgrade the first person who checked in. I had an excellent flight (about four hours) drinking loads of free champagne and lounging in my exceptionally comfy chair.
When I left the airport building in Singapore the heat and humidity hit me. Singapore had about 95% humidity that day and is generally humid all the year round and it was not like anything I had experienced before. Hong Kong had been a little humid but nothing like this. You were just constantly sweating. The weather in Hong Kong in the few days before I left had been raining and miserable though so it was an improvement. Anyway I jumped into a taxi and headed off to the hostel where I met a couple of English guys and ended up staying up drinking beer with them until the early hours.
On Thursday I did some sightseeing and took the cable car over to the island called Sentosa and had a reasonable but not especially inspiring time. Everything was really expensive and the island itself was done out in a Disneyland sort of style with garish amusements and cheesy rides. For some reason I was determined to get to the beach and soon enough found one, however it was obviously fake. It all looked nice enough but the sand had clearly been imported and looked slightly out of place somehow. I went into one of the beachside bars and ordered some drinks but soon realised that I could not justify staying for long - a coke cost the equivalent of three quid and a half a beer four quid! Also when you looked out into the bay you saw loads of container ships and other commerical vessels, which is natuaral enough when there is possibly the busiest port in the world just round the corner. This would also out me off from swimming in the sea due to the inevitable pollution, but loads of people still were.
In the evening I went on a tour organised by the hostel called the "food walk", the idea being that the guide (in this case the owner of the hostel) would bring you to different local restaurants and bars so as to try local cuisenes. It was really good. After going to several restuarants and having loads of cheap and quite good food we were shown the residence of the president of Singapore (offically no one is meant to know where he lives but it is reasonably obvious as there is an armed guard in a sentry box outside the house and so everyone locally does. The guard apparently gets really annoyed if you try and take pictures.) and a Hindu temple to Ganesh (the elephant God). We were meant to get to the temple in time for a religious ceremory but we missed it; still the temple was really impressive. There were statues of Ganesh literally covering the entire outside of the temple and there were some impressive pictures inside, including one which should be above of a number of women painted so as to form a picture of an elephant!
Then we were all taken to a rock bar and started drinking, but there was not a huge party atmosphere. Then the owner took us all to a dodgy pick up bar where mainly Vietnamese and Filipino women were trying to pull men (both western and Asian). Most of the group was female and he was not trying to encourage any of the guys to get involved with any of the women, just to show us how crazy it was. It was pretty mad. There were a load of small similar bars in what from the outside appeared to be a shopping centre, each bar had a gaggle of women in mini skirts standing outside trying to get your attention. In the actual bars they were coming on to you and groping you as you walked past, it really was quite strange. Amusingly there was a blond Swiss girl in the group and as soon as she walked in two beautiful Vietnamese girls started coming on to her; it seemed to freak her out slightly. We all ended up together at a table looking out at what was going on around us. There was one really old western guy at the back who looked about 70 and who was with a girl who looked about 20; needless to say she looked quite spectacularly bored.
Part of the nights entertainment was the police raid which apparently happened every night and which was where the authorities would fine the bars for staying open too late as they wanted to find a way to close them down. Someone outside would be on the lookout for the cops and then when they came would call the bar and the door would be closed, the lights turned off and everyone told to be quiet. So we found ourselves in the darkness drinking our beer, being sushed by the bar staff and listening out for the police. Our guide reassurred us that we were doing nothing wrong and the police would not be interested in us, but bearing in mind Singapore's reputation for strict laws I was slightly concerned. I did however find the situation more amusing then anything and eventually the police did find it; all of the girls tried to do a runner out the back but were stopped and everyone else was let go. After that the night came to an end. Most people were up for heading on elsewhere, but during the lockdown one of the group was stuck in the toilet and so went home earlier, so some people decided to fetch her but of course as soon as we got back to the hostel no-one wanted to go out again.
On the Friday I did sod all and watched a dvd in the hostel and then on Saturday afternoon I headed off to Claire's hotel. After checking in me & Claire met up with Karl and Bell, Karl being the brother of Claire's good friend Mark in Hong Kong. They took us to an Indian restuarant where we had, among other things, fish head soup. It was a really good meal and very different from the Indian meals I had had in the UK. Instead of plates you had a tray with palm leaves on it, it all felt very tropical.
After we went down the main shopping street of Singapore and saw the crazy over the top Christmas lights. For some reason I always thought that Asian countries would not have celebrated Christmas to any great extent but the decoatations here were actually more impressive then those on Oxford Street in London. I was quite surprised. We went into a number of shops and I ended up buying a pair of Armani Exchange jeans for the equivalent of 55 quid as there was a sale on and it definitely was a bargin. Not very good for my travelling budget however!
Afterwards we went for chicken & rice, which apparently is a very Singaporian dish, before going back to Karl's family house and picking up a friend of his. (I met his parents as well who were really nice and even offered me a place to stay the following Tuesday before I headed back, but I turned them down as I had an early morning flight. ) From the house we were driven to a drum and bass club that was owned by Karl's friend and here I got a total shock. Singapore is famous as being a place where drugs = death for everything except weed, but this was a place clearly built with drugs in mind. There were random images being projected everywhere and heavy drum and base music, mind you though no one looked to be really off their faces on anything.
We left there at about 2am and headed off to a different club called Zouk. It was really packed, which Karl and Bell found puzzling but then we found out that Armin Van Buuren (Dutch trance dj) was playing in the main room. He played quite a hard set and as it was the first time I had been to a decent dance club since the left the UK I was absolutely loving it. Claire left at 3am as her feet were sore and Karl & Bell went as well as they had things to do tomorrow but I hung around and ended up dancing on one of the podiums until 6am. It was quite strange again because in the UK at a similar night almost everyone would clearly be on something illegal, but here no-one looked really out of it. The risks were just too great in this country.
The following day I was ill. I had felt it coming on for a couple of days but on Sunday I was full on sick. Partying all night did not help and dancing when I had a sore back (from wake boarding the previous weekend) meant that my lower back was in pain as well. After lying in bed feeling crap for a while I got out of bed and went off to the zoo with Claire.
Singapore zoo is famous the world over (apparently) and so I felt obliged to go there while I was here. It is famous for having little in the way of cages or visable barriers between the animals and people, having instead waterways, gaps in the trees, really low fences ect. This means for example that the tigers look as though they are able to jump out at you, which really adds to the experience. It was the best zoo I have ever been too and that is from someone who was not feeling too good walking around it.
I was meant to go out for dinner with Claire, Karl and Bell that evening but I was feeling too ill and tired by that point and instead stayed in and ordered room service (defintiely an improvement over hostels). The following day I went for a swim in the open air pool (it had glass sides as well but was only on the 5th floor so was not ultra impressive) and generally lounged about the hotel not feeling very well.
On the Tuesday Claire was leaving back to Hong Kong and so I went back to the hostel for the evening but I was still very much ill and so sat around and read a book until the early hours of the morning when I caught a taxi out to the airport. During the taxi ride the driver started talking to me about Singapore and he mentioned about how chewing gum was still illegal over here. At this point I realised that I had been carrying around two packets of chewing gum in my pocket for the entire week, which was a bit silly really and so I offered one to the taxi driver. He was so happy that I was giving him chewing gum I found it quite funny. He told me that the last time he had had some was over two years when he visited the US. Anyway he dropped me off at the airport and eventually I got on my plane and caught a couple of hours sleep while in the air. Flying economy seemed horrible after flying business class previously. There was even some guy falling asleep on my shoulder. He obviously hadn't flown much before and did not really know what to do - when the plane landed he put the blanket into the sick bag, presumably thinking that was were it should be contained!