Chin-gapore, Sir Gapore or Al Singa Pora?

4 May

Even highways look like parks & flower beds

Even highways look like parks & flower beds

Singapore is a bit like walking in a big garden or park, they just have put a few roads through them, and instead of gazebo’s there’s shopping malls and skyscrapers… The first feel and SMELL is definitely Chinese, but that’s probably because I arrived in ChinaTown, but still majority in SG is Chinese. But the most beautiful parts in town are the Colonial Quarter (veeery British) and the Arab area… Kampung Glam is in the top 10 of picturesque areas, I’ve visited so far during my trip.

Singapore Garden City

Anoher green main street

Anoher green main street

The Singaporeans (or the Tourist Board) pride themselves to be one of the most green cities in the world. And indeed you get the feel you are walking around a park, because there are manicured flower beds everywhere, even the highways are landscaped with trees and plants, and the bridges look like big flower pots stretching across.

Maybe the city also seems so ‘fresh and natural’ because of the strict litter laws (no chewing gum allowed into the country, big fines for spitting, etc – more here) and the superb public transport system – so you don’t really need a car. (still there’s plenty of cars around on the 4 or 5 lane roads.

Chin-gapore – Chinese everywhere

Chinatown - People's Complex (Ppl Cplx)

Chinatown - People's Complex (Ppl Cplx)

Singapore definitely has a Chinese feel to it, and there is Chinese writing about everywhere (also outside the Chinatown). I guess Chinese and English are about on the same level for communication purposes. Road signs would be in English, but most people would speak Chinese. There’s also many Chinese temples.

Speciality: durian pancakes, yummy

Speciality: durian pancakes, yummy

Chinese influence is also clear in the food – and the smell that comes with the food. I arrived in the middle of durian season – and durian is a fruit that smells like hell – and the Chinese just love it (me too). Apparently people camp for days on end under the durian trees in the public parks to catch them when they’re ripe and fall down. So when I arrived I had durian pancakes for lunch.

In the evening, when I went to the hawker center (like a cheap style outside food court) I did decline the pig stomach, pig intestine, pig liver etc (see pic below) and had some famous Nonya soup instead (again a soup, much like the Pho in Vietnam, the breakfast soups in Laos or the different noodle preparations in Thailand: same same, but different).

Sir Gapore – British Influence

This is where Hon Mr Sir Dr Raffles landed

This is where Hon Mr Sir Dr Raffles landed

The ‘civic district’ is where the British based themselves, and the Town hall, the cricket club, Victoria theatre hall, the Raffles hotel, Cavenagh Bridge and St-Andrews Cathedral with them. In the middle of this superbly rebuilt old town (because the tourist authority decided a few years ago to spruce up that part of the city to attract the tourists) there is the Statue of Sir Raffles who landed on the shores of the river there. And street names are sooooo[w] Bri[h]tish: Empress Street, Victoria Quay, Connaught Drive, etc

The famous Raffles Hotel, where Singapore Sling was invented

The famous Raffles Hotel, where Singapore Sling was invented

And it’s in theluxurious (but very British) Raffles Hotel that the cocktail ‘Singapore Sling’ was invented. I didn’t go to Raffles hotel to have a 25 S$ drink, but had it in the local gay bar (still 15 S$ – soooo expensive drinks in SG)

The architecture is superbly (?) colonial (is it PC to say this?). Malls hidden behind 19th century facades, a church that could have been imported from any European country (they call it cathedral, but ir isn’t all that big), in the middle of the city they still have the cricket grounds (!!! Am amazed that no developer laid eye on this huge empty area – there’s only a few crazy guys in white snobby costumes batting balls and running around in no understandable order) with the posh Cricket Club building, the old parliament turned concert hall or museum,… It’s like walking around in London.

Al Sing Pora – Where Arabia meets

Kampung Glam - so cute n quaint

Kampung Glam - so cute n quaint

But without doubt the most charming part of town was Kampung Glam, the Arab quarter (or Malay?, or Muslim? I’m sure I’m offending some people here again – there’s just as much confusion here as in KL ;-). Anyway, it is a little area of quaint streets around 2 of the mosques, lined with lovely little shop houses. Most of them have souvenir shops (as in all touristy places), but there’s also muslim (halal) restaurants, tea houses where you can smoke water pipe, some shops selling head scarves and water pipes. Etc.

Shopping Mekka

And talking about muslims – Singapore is also a Shopping ‘Mekka’. The streets are lined with malls, and even the road maps indicate the malls, so that you can orientate yourself according to your nearest shopping centre… But after walking all the miles outside, I didn’t feel like doing again so many miles inside. I just went to see a film – which turned out to be a Thai film – luckily with English subtitles and not Chinese…

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