Homeward bound – part 2

After a very pleasant night at the Crowne Plaza hotel at Singapore’s Changi Airport we’re off on our last but one leg home to dear ol’ Blighty … just another 6,914 miles to get under our belt … … simples 😀 Our journey took us over : Malaysia; India; Pakistan; Afghanistan; Turkmenistan; Russia; Ukraine; Poland; Germany and Holland. We passed over some pretty spectacular and rugged countryside especially in...

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Singapore -Origins

Mar 15, 12

Sir Stamford Thomas Raffles (1781-1826) first set foot on the island of Singapore on 29th January 1819 which was then just a small fishing village. Raffles, an agent of the British East India Company ventured to Singapore hoping to establish a free port and a halfway point for traders along the China-India trade routes. After signing the preliminary treaty with a local leader, the official treaty with Sultan Hussein of Johore-Riau was signed on 6 February 1819, giving the British the right to establish a trading port on the island. However the Dutch protested as Singapore was then part of the Dutch Empire. The dispute was resolved with the signing of the 1824 Anglo-Dutch treaty whereby the British acquired Mallorca, Penang and Singapore while the Dutch gained Bencoelen (present day Bengkulu) and the rest of Indonesia. In August 1824 another Treaty of Friendship and Alliance was signed giving the British governance of Singapore. From the 19th Century, Singapore’s success as the “Great Commercial Emporium of the East” owed much to its free port status and strategic location. The Singapore River became the main artery of trade, where port, trading and warehouse facilities developed along the riverbanks. In 1867 Singapore became a British Crown-Colony after the transfer of the Straits Settlements from the British Administration in India to the Colonial Office in London. It remained so until 1959 when Singapore achieved self-government, gaining full independence in...

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Singapore Nights

Singapore really comes alive at night. It seems to take on a whole new feel and the cityscape vibrates energy especially from the way that the buildings are lit up. One of the most spectacular of all the mega constructions in Singapore is the Marina Bay Sands. It consists if three 55 storey towers each joined at the summit by a long curving structure in the shape of a boat. This ‘boat’ contains a swimming pool, buildings and gardens. The palm trees growing all along the sides can clearly be seen from the marina below. By day …. By night … Here’s the man himself … Sir Stamford Thomas Raffles. This statue of him is on the exact spot where he first set foot on the island of Singapore on January 28th 1819. Nothing can really epitomise more the progress and wealth of the city than the backdrop behind him. Something neither he nor his contemporaries could imagine would happen in only 200...

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Colonial Echos

We rather smugly thought we’d beaten the jet lag and had gotten our bodies into its new routine smoothly. However 4:00am in the morning found us both wide awake so we resigned ourselves to a few more wakeful hours until we would get up for breakfast … 8 hours later though we woke up decidedly confused at 12:30 in the afternoon! Determined not to waste any time we headed out as soon as we could by taxi to that most famous epitome of colonial rule, Raffles Hotel. As we glided up to the front entrance we were met by an Indian concierge dressed in full Raj regalia. As he opened the door of the cab the sense of Imperial decadence I was feeling at this point was somewhat dented when he asked if we were guests, upon which we duly replied ‘No’ and we’re then shown round the back. We had come to Raffles to soak up a little of the atmosphere that must have pervaded Singapore when it was a British colony and of course drink the famous ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail in the Long Bar. We weren’t disappointed and it wasn’t hard to imagine the British upper classes along with other Europeans languidly enjoying the comforts of the hotel, their footsteps and conversations echoing down the cool marble corridors and upper walkways of the hotel. The Singapore sling was developed by the barman at the Raffles Long bar in 1915. I’ve tried a few in different cocktail bars but the one mixed at Raffles is without doubt the smoothest and best I’ve ever tasted. It’s hardly surprising though as our barman told us that they’d served approximately 150-200 on that day alone … so practice really does make...

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Singapore … A ‘fine’ city

Mar 14, 12

Urban legend … a form of modern folklore consisting of stories usually believed by their tellers to be true A lot of what we “know” to be true can sometimes turn out to be no more than an ‘urban legend’ .So what you you reckon to the claims below … fact or fiction ? Chewing gum is a controlled substance in Singapore It’s annoying isn’t it, when you’re on the Tube and grasp the handrail, only to have your fingers close on a revolting old piece of gum stuck to the underside In such moments, it would be great if you could just outlaw chewing gum altogether. Answer... TRUE : In 1992 that’s exactly what Singapore did, partly due to the authorities’ general annoyance at the cleaning costs and partly due to specific concerns around chewing gum interfering with automatic sensors on the train doors of the city’s Mass Rapid Transit system. An outright ban remained in place for twelve years, and affected ‘the substance usually known as chewing gum, bubble gum or dental chewing gum, or any like substance prepared from a gum base of vegetable or synthetic origin and intended for chewing’. The legislation was backed up by some pretty tough fines. If you don’t have a licence to sell gum for hygiene or dental reasons then you can be fined up to S$2,000 (in the region of £700 or US$1,300) for selling or advertising chewing gum. In Singapore it’s illegal to eat and drink in public. Don’t you just hate it when you see litter or McDonalds wrappers and food being eaten in the street … but surely you can’t ban this most basic of freedoms … can you?. Answer... TRUE : Eating and drinking in pubic is prohibited. This was the law, much to my chagrin, I inadvertently broke whilst on a Singaporean bus. The bus driver who had a camera to watch the top deck saw me taking an innocent swig from my can of coke and then announced...

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Exploring outside the city

Singapore is an incredibly neat, pristine place. There’s no litter, no graffiti and everyone is incredibly polite. The streets are clean and practically all the buildings look like they’re brand new or at least well maintained. This along with the vibrant colours of the plants and trees, which due to humidity look highly polished and fresh, might seem to suggest an urban paradise … however such apparent prosperity and order has come at a price. Whilst it has consumerism and capitalism (with capital Cs!) they do have a series of rather draconian laws to keep everyone inline ( more on these in my next posts). However these laws shouldn’t denigrate what must be a national character that encourages neatness and good social responsibility that must surely be part of the Singaporean identity. However rather amusingly … one of these laws got me a mild warning and threat of a $500 fine for drinking Coke on a bus believe it or not! … more on this in my next posts though. We hopped on a bus today to explore outside the city where we ended up taking a trek through a rain forest and orchid gardens. Absolutely stunning … the cacophony of insect and bird noises that accompanied us as we walked in the 30C and 100% humidity was...

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Singapore revisited

7,265 miles and 12.5 hours later we find ourselves back in the steamy tropical fug of Singapore. Singapore is still as amazing and strange as I remember it from 7 years ago. It truly is a city state; a concrete, vibrant metropolitan futurescape. Everything is done on a massive scale with huge plazas, highways, walkways and shopping malls. Even the gargantuan skyscrapers that dominate Singapore are built in fascinating futuristic shapes and colours. There’s nothing urbane or straightforward about this city. It reminds me of something as a cross between the vision of the future as portrayed in the film “Logan’s run” where mankind lives totally cut off from the natural world and the optimistic ’50s style vision of the future as depicted in Disneylands future land. Only this is real and is home to some 5+ million people. Its a fascinating place of huge architecture and evident trading wealth. From our hotel we can see literally hundreds of cargo and container ships all moored in the straits waiting to disgorge or load up their cargo. 200 years ago Singapore was a small fishing village when Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled upon it and established a trading post for the British East India Company. It became a pivotal part of the British Empire and grew to be wealthy and prosperous gaining its independence in 1965. It is still evidently prosperous and still seems very British , in a colonial sense today. We hope to visit the old colonial hotel of Raffles later in the week to try out the world famous “Singapore Sling”...

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