I didn’t have even one. Nor did I make it over to the legendary Raffle’s. But I did enjoy my week in Singapore, despite the shocking jet-lag and the lack of sleep, combined with incredibly long working hours.
So yes, despite all that, I managed to enjoy the local food, the streets, the people and some of the many sights. I will admit I was dubious about having to go to Singapore – I had it mentally categorised as a boring business hub, lacking soul or culture.
Sorry, people of Singapore!
What I found instead was: incredibly friendly and helpful people, beautiful architecture (from a range of centuries…some yet to arrive!), fabulous food and a very relaxing pace of life. Yes, it’s still not exactly Asia’s number one democracy and yes, it’s still illegal to be gay. But crack open Grindr and you’ll notice that doesn’t stop the locals from having a good time.
Too much information?
Anyway, I’ve organised some of my favourite photos into a Flickr album, which you can see here. I’d really like to go back another time, to see more and experience more of the city in day time. I was working from 730am through to 6pm most days, followed by client dinners. Add to that an average of 4 hours of sleep per night and you can see why I didn’t make it to the marina, the zoo or Raffle’s.
The jet lag was definitely the worst thing about this trip. I’ve never had it so bad and have no idea why it hit me so hard. I even had to break my new rule and go back to coffee to keep me going while working. It’s pretty bad form, regardless of culture, to fall asleep while running a workshop for 15 people.
British Airways did a great job of getting me out there in one piece – business class was comfortable, despite the decrepit state of the plane. I think it had seen service in the evacuation at Dunkirk. Flying out late on a Friday night meant that I slept quite a bit (after filling my face with whatever food and drink was offered) and arrived in Singapore later on Saturday afternoon ready to have a look around.
I spent Sunday walking. And walking. All around the older part of town, visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum, shops and malls, bars and restaurants. It was about 35C and incredibly humid – so we moved slowly and carefully, refuelling at every opportunity. Sunday night was spent feasting at an all you can eat Japanese buffet, followed by deep regret at being such a glutton.
Delicious all the same!
I’d definitely recommend Singapore for a short break – it’s safe, easy to navigate and a great hub for onward travel to places further afield. I’d love to build it into a future trip to Korea, for example. A friend described it as ‘Asia Lite’, and I have to agree. There’s a mix of Asian cultures and languages, combined with western-style malls, food and music. I lost count of the number of restaurants and bars playing 80’s power ballads in the background!
The malls are a very welcome break from the relentless heat and humidity – air-conditioned, vast and many floors underground, I spent hours just wandering around checking out the shops (and enjoying delicious local ice-cream). I didn’t buy much, as Singapore still seems to think that everyone who visits is a millionaire.
Beer cost on average £8 to £10 a pint, cocktails start at about £15. One colleague paid £25 for a Singapore Sling. Wine was crazy expensive, wherever you went. As I don’t drink, this wasn’t an issue. But when you’re charged £7.50 for a tonic water, things are getting bad. ‘Virgin’ cocktails usually cost just slightly less than their booze-filled counterparts. If you look around, you can eat well for less. But if you’re a naive visitor, you can easily be stung. I’m just glad I was on business and not burning through my own shekels! So preparation and advice from others is key.
As is sticking to water.
Lovely, friendly people aside, (even the prostitutes who followed me down the street, calling me a ‘sexy boy’ – thank you!), my abiding memory is the food. In just one week, I had Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean and even American food (due to a client meal at a Hard Rock Cafe…not my choice). You can taste all of Asia in this one city and it’s great. I tried everything that was put in front of me and enjoyed about 95% of what I tasted. Even the deep fried carrot cake served with sambal.
And it served as a great reminder of what I can look forward to in Japan next month. I’m counting down the days to two weeks of amazing fun and food there. And as a prequel, today we’re off to Hyper Japan at Earl’s Court. I think this makes me a Japanophile. As does my poor attempts at practising my Japanese with one of my clients while in Singapore.
After staying awake from 4am London time to about 10pm, then sleeping for 8 hours last night, I think I’ve knocked jet lag on the head. I feel like a new person and can’t wait to go experience some Japanese madness in London!