Short but sweet
01.07.2011 - 03.07.2011 30 °C
En route to Heathrow we sighted Alan Whicker in the pub, which we felt could only bode well for our travels. So far, so good: we had an easy flight during which we both slept for a surprisingly long time, breezed through immigration and found our hostel in Chinatown with only a couple of navigational errors from Tom.
It was early evening and we'd read that the Asian Civilizations Museum was both interesting and free on a Friday night (it's also interesting at other times, apparently). An hour or so there was enough for us, as the aircon was a bit too effective and dinner was calling. We happen to be staying above the main street market in Chinatown, so returned there to eat.
On Saturday we thought we'd properly explore the city, despite the heat and humidity. We wandered up to the various quays that line the river, which once were bustling with trading boats, but are now lined with somewhat bland bars and restaurants. We succumbed to the tourist cliché that is having a Singapore Sling in Raffles, and enjoyed throwing peanuts on the floor.
Refreshed, we strolled through Fort Canning Park, which was a real contrast to the city: almost deserted, with large jungle trees and filled with the sound of cicadas. Immediately after leaving this oasis we found ourselves at the start of the enormous shopping strip that is Orchard Road, filled with large malls and expensive designer shops. After lunch we chanced the bus network to get to the Botanic Gardens, and then back to Chinatown.
Dinner tonight was at Little India, across the city and bustling with street stalls. After wandering through the side streets, and numerous invitations into restaurants, we ate our best meal yet in Singapore in the hawker centre.
We had several options for activities on Sunday, all taking us out of the city. In the end we chose to visit Palau Ubin, an undeveloped island between Singapore and Malaysia, which also seemed a popular choice for many Singaporeans. After a journey involving tube, bus and "bumboat", we arrived and rented bikes of dubious quality to explore the island. Mangrove swamps surround the island, and a walkway and observation tower allow you a good view of these. The interior is covered with rainforest, and home to a surprising number of animals. We saw wild boar, monkeys and a hornbill as we cycled around.
Returning home, we popped into the large and ornate Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is just around the corner from our hostel. It was full of opportunities to sponsor tiles, statues, and possibly even a whole monk. The orchid garden on the roof was a peaceful contrast to all the gold and bright lighting in the building below. After dinner at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, we sampled a durian crepe: this was not a pleasant experience. In an attempt to get the rather rotten taste out of our mouths, we bought some sweets that we'd had our eyes on for a couple of days: edible, at least, but still not great. We hope to find better sweet treats in our next destination, Melaka.