I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a few hours on a hot afternoon than by sipping a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel. I’d been walking around Singapore for most of the day and was feeling in dire need of a long, cool drink. The sweet pink concoction was exactly the right fix as I sat underneath Raffles’ electric fans and enjoyed the cool breeze.
This was my first day in Singapore. I’d arrived very early that morning and slept for a few hours before facing the hot, steamy city that never seems to stop. When I woke I was very hungry and went to one of the many hawker centres dotted around Singapore. I looked at the options and realised Cornflakes were out of the question so I pointed to whatever looked good. I ended up with a very tasty selection of vegetable curries and noodles – not my standard breakfast fare but when in Singapore…
I decided the best way to see the city on my three-day stopover was to do some walking tours. I started with the bustling Arab Street quarter of the city. Arab Street is jam-packed full of stalls selling everything from silk and hand-woven baskets to fishing tackle. My senses were buzzing with the vivid colours, spicy smells and impatient car horns. I had never seen such beautiful fabrics and wanted to buy metres of it but, alas, my excess baggage was already too excessive.
After recharging at Raffles I headed off to Little India for some sightseeing and traditional Indian curry. Little India was equally as active at night as Arab Street had been that morning. Cars gave way to hoards of pedestrians, both tourists and locals, who were shopping for clothes, watches or food, or just enjoying the spectacle. I felt alive as my eyes flicked from one stall to another and watched the people walking past.
The following morning I decided to tackle the city’s biggest quarter – the Historical District. Here I saw the buildings that documented Singapore’s past. I began in Fort Canning, a park built around Singapore’s fortified World War Two underground operations. Next to the park was a registry office and I watched sentimentally as a newly-married couple were greeted by friends and family and then made their way into the park for their photos. From the park I could see the glorious juxtaposition of the old ornate buildings that signified the rule of the British Empire set against a backdrop of shiny new skyscrapers.
From Fort Canning I wandered past many museums and art galleries, including the Singapore Philatelic Museum and Singapore Art Museum. I wanted to learn more about the island’s history so spent a few hours in the Singapore History Museum enjoying the historical dioramas, the Jade Room and the war rooms. During the afternoon I covered St Andrew’s Cathedral and the “Chopsticks”, the Civilian War Memorial standing 70 metres high commemorating the civilians from Singapore who died during the Japanese occupation in World War Two. I finished off my day with a relaxing cruise along the Singapore River out to the harbour where I saw the country’s symbol, the Merlion – a creature which is half fish and half lion. I walked to Clarke Quay and enjoyed a cool drink by the water and then wandered further down the river to Boat Quay, which was hopping with young Singaporeans enjoying their Friday night in the multicultural restaurant district.
On my final day in Singapore I decided to go to the Chinese Quarter. Each of the city’s quarters had its own personality formed by the monuments, landscape and, of course, the people. Colourful temples were spread across the area, some beautifully decorated with gold and others displaying intricate wooden carvings. The quarter also housed striking rows of terraces painted in bright colours and there seemed to be a market on every corner, the best of which was Chinatown. I finished my time in Singapore in the shopping mecca Orchard Road. Here the street was lined not with small stalls but with enormous department stores and brand names like Harrods, Rolex and Tiffany’s.
I was exhausted after jamming so much into my three days and the airport provided a much-needed rest while I waited for my 3am plane. The taxi trip to Changi Airport was very interesting as I watched the bustling streets of the inner city give way to palm-lined avenues and then the spreading urban sprawl of apartments blocks catering for those who can’t afford the city but want the lifestyle. I flew out watching the lights of Singapore dim underneath me.
Johanna Baker-Dowdell is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She owns and manages Strawberry Communications, a consultancy that helps businesses tell their stories through great words and PR. Johanna is based on the NSW Central Coast just north of Sydney, Australia.