On Monday 18th October 2010 we set off on our Round the World trip. First stop was Singapore and we got there 13 hours after setting off from Heathrow. We travelled on a Qantas A380, the largest passenger plane in the world. I dont know what the more expensive classes are like but steerage (sorry, economy) is still snug. But it was reasonably comfortable and the seat back entertainment was very good, especially the view from the live camera high in the tail. A bit boring while flying, except to make sure the wings were still attached, but good for takeoff and landing.Note added 26/10/2010:- I have added several photos of Singapore to the end of this post.
We had booked the most over the top hotel in the world for our first few days. This is the recently opened Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which has a distinctive shape.
We got a room on the 41st floor in the middle tower, and it was huge. The grounded supertanker stuck on the roof is called the Skypark (floor 57) and has an infinity pool which will no doubt be copied in other parts of the world.
As you can see the hotel is huge, but that is not the extent of the development. Much is still being built, but so far there is a Casino, which seems to attract a large clientele and the shopping centre is filling up fast. And they seem to have got all the big names in fashion and jewellery – but not much else. You won’t get a cheap watch but you will find a Audemars Piguet shop. Van Cleef and Arpels had a magnificent necklace of emeralds and diamonds, but they have stiff competition from dozens of other shops full of upmarket bling.
Most of them are not crass enough to put a price on things in their windows – “If you ask the price, you can’t afford it.” The hotel seems to be aiming itself for the well heeled, especially those from eastern Asia. And there certainly seems to be a market for what they offer. There seems to be a fascination with celebrity and brand names.
And the rest of Singapore seems to be the same. There are countless shopping malls, not all as expensive as Marina Bay Sands, but all dedicated to parting you from your money. It is easy to identify the cheaper ones – you can’t just browse, you are pursued by salespersons inviting you to have a closer look and offering you a special discount – “Just for you, Sir!”
The city is in the midst of a perpetual building boom. There are cranes everywhere – not least around our hotel. Skyscrapers abound, and they are not just for offices and hotels. On our way in from the airport we passed many blocks of flats. And, being Singapore, the Switzerland of south east Asia, they all looked well-maintained.
The island is densely populated and very clean. Wherever you look there will be somebody sweeping the streets or the floor. We did not see a single beggar and everyone is unfailingly polite. Walking the streets at night, we did not feel at all threatened.
But not all of Singapore is antiseptically modern. We wandered through Chinatown and Little India and this is not modern, but fairly clean. Chinatown is full of restaurants and Little India full of gold shops and garland makers.
Environmental aside:- At one restaurant, the bottled water was from Italy! At the hotel the bottled water in the room was distilled, in Singapore – absolutely nothing in it!
The weather while we were there was hot and sticky. Looking out of our hotel window I first thought that it was a cold, wet, overcast, dreich, November day. I was wrong on the cold, wet and November bits, but, if I had added “humid”, otherwise correct. Photography was unrewarding as the light was so flat. So my apologies for the pictures. Some of them have been digitally tortured to make them look better.
On Thursday 21st October we flew to Bali where we now are. Internet speeds are slow so that explains the few photographs. If we get a faster connection I may add some more Singapore photos.
News from Bali will follow soon – I hope!
Here are some more Singapore photos.