Quote

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Translate

23 February 2015

Singapore: A fitting end to mainland Eurasia

 

9th - 13th February

easy to feel small amongst the vista of marina bay, Singapore
Another day and unusually for us another capital. The last time we moved from capital to capital we were leaving Vilnius for Riga and coming to the end of our two month stint in Europe. That part of our journey feels a world away now but only in terms of distance.


Marina Sands Hotel from the gardens with the Singapore Flyer in the distance
Singapore Flyer from Gardens by the Bay
 It was fair to say that compared to the rest of Asia, Malaysia certainly felt like home more than anywhere else. They drive on the correct side of the road, its incredibly easy to travel by bus and coach, the population is football mad. But Singapore seems to have takes the ideals of the western world at done one better.


Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay
The stunning Supertree Grove

The border crossing was certainly the most organized we have seen for a while now and it made the Thai-Malay border look as chaotic as wildebeest crossing a crocodile infested river in the Masai Mara. We were through in a matter minutes and that even gave them time for a little interrogation regarding whether we smoke or not?
The city itself is no different. Everything runs like a well oiled machine and despite the population density and tourist hoards you can walk around without suffocation on exhaust fumes and getting crushed trying to get on the metro. The place is so well oiled in fact that many feel this clinical metropolis lacks character. But I beg to differ.

 
Gardens by the bay also showcases a great range of wood sculptures

Singapore is an ultra modern, international trading giant and financial hub. Its also incredibly small and this means unlike any other city in the world it can manage things a little differently. If you have ever been to other parts of Asia the first three things you will think is "Hmmm how come nobody is gozzing (spitting for those who aren't English) and there isn't a bonfire in the road and litter in the river". If you think about it that is what gives the place a unique feel.
indoor waterfall ....check
I'd watch out for the cactus mate
The first tourist attraction we visited in Singapore was "Gardens by the Bay". This 101 hectare garden is an amazing feat of horticulture, eco-architecture and sustainability. It's like the Eden Project after ten Red Bull's. The park contains a plethora of habitats thanks to two huge dome conservatories. The park is dominated by the amazing treelike structures in "Supertree Grove". These verticle gardens perform many functions such as harness the suns rays for energy, collect rainwaters and act as an exhaust filter to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now I'm sorry if all this sounds quite boring but as an Environmental Manager I spent a lot of time trying to reduce carbon footprints and know one thing that is very hard to do is get a population thinking from the same page. In the UK most of the time the only way you will get anyone involved is with cash incentives. In Singapore they use this too but alongside projects like Gardens by the Bay which educate new minds. Oh yeah and with some good old fashioned fines thrown in for good measure. It what every city should strive for but I feel Singapore will remain an anomaly as its uniquely small and affluent.

Chinatown

Right green rant over its important to remember what getting to Singapore meant to us. The country lies on the Southern tip of the Malay Peninsula so in many ways it represents the last country before we have to set sail again. The last time we sailed the seas we were leaving Harwich, England for the Hook of Holland as we made landfall in mainland Europe. Therefore as a symbol of the lengths we have travelled Singapore represented a true milestone. In eight and a half months Bruvs with Blisters had made it across mainland Eurasia, from Amsterdam in the North-East to Singapore in the South-West so there was cause to celebrate.

Future destination maybe
Grab a granny day at Universal Studios



That wouldn't normally be a problem for us but there are a few things you need to note when visiting Singapore. There seems to be an unwritten rule in Chinatown that you can only purchase a pint if your also going to have food. Strange I know but it took three attempts before we found an establishment kind enough to accept customers looking for a laugh and a few pints without having to navigate their way through a plate of noodles. The cost is another factor and if you think the price of a pint in London is steep your wallets going to hurt feel as empty as a Chelsea fans head on the Paris metro (see I can still keep up with the news back home). Despite this we decided to forget about our dwindling pot of travel cash and celebrate.
After hitting a few cheapish local bars in Chinatown we moved towards Little India stopping in for a pint on the way and soon discovered the watering holes here are very different to the Fox & Hounds back home. Firstly there full of balding, middle aged men (I know your thinking that sounds exactly like an English pub but bear with me). Secondly, there are lots of women wearing not a lot and Thirdly, the windows are generally blacked out and fourthly everyone seems to want to shake hands.....all the time. I'm still not quite sure what was happening but all I know is that many guys were going upstairs and not coming back and one of the girls seemed interested in me until she found out I'm technically unemployed and homeless.   
pterodactyl's eye view

The next day we carried our hangovers and headed towards Sentosa Island and Universal Studios. Both of us had been looking forward to this theme park for a while now after deciding it would be a good way to treat ourselves for making it all this way. Sadly despite enjoying aspects of the park the day went like a lead balloon.
Universal Studios Singapore is a relatively new and therefore small theme park and really if you want to make the most of Sentosa Island you need a couple of days to visit the waterpark as well. Most of the rides are rides incorporating 4D (Shrek and Transformers). The real annoying thing for us was that on the day we visited the two scariest and therefore best rides (Return of the Mummy and Battlestar Galactica Rollercoasters) were closed for maintenance. This left the Jurassic Park zone (which is always good), Shrek kingdom (ok), Madagascar (would be good if we were 7) and Sesame Street and they never reduced the entrance fee.
I'm sure when all the rides are open there would be enough to distract visitors for a full day but the only memories we could take with us were getting soaked on the awesome river rapids in Jurassic Park and being pressganged into dancing with Cookie Monster and Grover because we stood out like sore thumbs in a room full of Korean tourists (I still think some people thought we were a relation of Big Bird).

"Come to Singapore, it's the pits" 


Beat him by a whisker
In dead last it's Dick Dastedly
On our fourth and final full day Jono decided we should head back to Marina Bay one last time and have a closer look at the F1 track. Part of this was for ourselves but mostly it was for our friends Tom and Katy back home who run a very successful F1 blog could WTF1. Back in September we were in Vietnam at met quite a few people who had visited Singapore during the GP and said it was an awesome spectacle with the city backdrop, parties and firework displays. It's fair to say that February is definitely the tracks down seasons with nothing really happening but it did provide a great contrast to our friends blog who normally follow the events of the F1 calendar and rarely see the flipside. It turned out that you don't even need to pay to check out the pits, you can just follow the road around the Singapore Flier along the bay towards the permanent grandstand. Despite the minor preparation works for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations none of the workers seemed to bothered about two lanky foreigners dicking about and trying to replicate a photo finish. Its true when they say that the best things in life our free. Jono experienced a similar thing in LA when he snuck into the old and mostly unknown (when he asked for directions most people hadn't a clue what he was on about) Olympic Stadium


If you would like to see the results of our antics check out WTF1 at:
http://wtf1.co.uk/marina-bay-circuit-off-season/


It was a mixed visit in Singapore. On one hand some of the attractions we planned to visit turned out to be a little overrated but the sights we happened to pass by were fantastic. It was certainly nice to experience the height of civilization for a few days at least. But anyway after an endless list of bus, coach and rail travel it was time to grab our second ocean ferry to our penultimate country before the finish line INDONESIA!!!.


Useful Links

WTF1
Gardens by the Bay
Singapore Flyer
Universal Studios Singapore