Manila International airport needs to be shutdown and started again. Arriving two and a half hours before our flight we were still waiting 20 minutes before the check-in desk closed with a queue behind us that were surely doomed. After a variety of innovative fees passing through the various security check points we had just about enough time to grab an overpriced coffee before boarding our flight.
Singapore airport is the polar opposite – gloriously opulent, clean and high tech, with free inter-terminal shuttle that took us over to the metro. We hopped on and then hopped off when we’d got about as close as we could to our guesthouse. We’d decided to stay in Little India as it was just about the cheapest place Fi could find and we had designs on catching up on a cuisine we’d been without for far too long.
The heat was pretty intense and made for a fairly tough slog fully laden over to find our place. I’ve yet to find a time where I’ve wished the heat away yet. Maybe it’ll come but for now I’d take it any time over grey cold drizzle.
Our pad didn’t take too long to find. We knew it was opposite the Mustafa centre, a kind of sprawling multi-building megastore that’s open 24 hours and appears to sell everything.
We didn’t do much for the rest of the day but did make a point of sampling a tasty nearby curry house.
The next day we wandered the city. We started at the top of Orchard Street and made our way steadily all the way down to the Marina over the course of the afternoon, marvelling at the way the city mirrored the airport’s attributes perfectly.
Throughout all of Asia we hadn’t once seen the traditional oriental lion performances that as a kid I’d watched whenever the TV needed to throw together a few clichés to make it clear our hero was in this part of the world. Here in Singapore at arguably the last possible opportunity we stumbled upon a local school competition that’s best described as a “Lion-Off”.
We hung around for a couple of the very long performances – the first appeared to be centred upon a red lion overcoming an aversion to lettuce, while the second took advantage of a very small kid operating the head of the yellow beast creating a very tall lion who liked nothing more than jumping on whatever obstacle it came across. It was good fun and the kids were great at it but it was extremely over long.
We reached the Esplanade and had a coffee while watching a few bands do live interviews for the festival that they were performing in including ‘Los Campesinos!’ who I think are fairly well established in the UK these days. We then nipped to a nearby mall for a bite to eat and found a record-breaking Gundam [large Anime robot] made entirely of balloons as well as loads of other intricate balloon models. We then returned to the Marina now that darkness had fallen to capture the Singapore skyline and attend the free I-Light festival.
The I-Light festival was a series of Art Installations scattered around the Marina by contributing artists for all over the world using light via electricity from a sustainable source.
There were loads of fascinating and cool gubbins to snap pictures of. I enjoyed some of the exhibits so much that we never completed the circuit.
The next day we took to exploring Little India. We set out for Kampong Glam and found ourselves waylaid watching a chef preparing a variety of different examples of Murtabak – a dish that neither of us had tried before. We shared a beef and a special deer Murtabak for lunch and thanked the chef on the way out – delicious.
We reached Kampong Glam and met a wonderful chap whose name – unsurprisingly these days – escapes me. He spoke passionately for a good half an hour about Islam and what it meant to him. He was a really bright, interesting and comical gent who volunteered there on weekends. He did make some very interesting points on how far removed radical extremists were from the teachings of the Quran.
We carried on wandering and took in a building that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Gotham City and a Hindu temple as well over the course of the afternoon.
The next day was our flight to Bali – only the second flight of our round-the-world ticket meaning we’d effectively made our own way from Berlin to Singapore via almost every imaginable method of transport.
En route to the airport I’d tasked myself with visiting a couple of spots that my mum and grandma had mentioned from when they used to live there back in the ‘60s. My granddad had been based there with the RAF and I’m assured Singapore was a very different place back then.
We were back to being fully laden and the heat was out in force so it was hard-going but I managed to make it to the address I’d been given – No. 1 Jalan Tangjon. I was expecting a bungalow but instead I found a two-storey compound with the current residents receiving a takeaway pizza delivery for lunch. I couldn’t help but think that the house on the opposite side of the road looked a lot more like their old house had been described to me so I snapped both and wandered back. I later found out that I’d been given the wrong house number and it was indeed No. 2.
We lunched at Bedok Corner; my Nan swears this is the greatest special friend rice in the world. I can vouch that it is indeed quality though I’ll be damn surprised if it’s still the same chef.
Singapore airport was bliss and we were even upgraded to more legroom for free. Airports of the world take note – this is the standard by which all should be measured.