NB I wrote this post last week, in Singapore but was too busy shopping to finish writing it. Hopefully posting it from here in the Philippines isn’t too confusing…
Each country we’ve moved on to in our travels has been more modern, more developed, more reliable, richer, cleaner and safer than the last.
In the mountains of Nepal we were walking through regions where everything not made from wood or yaks had to be carried in on the backs of porters, and even in Kathmandu, all roads were single lane and buying anything above necessities was often a laborious task taking up much of the day, if they were available at all.
Arriving in Thailand seemed like being transported into the future – landing in Bangkok was like being swept into a sci-fi film, with its fast cars, neon signs and slick crowds… until we reached Malaysia, where everything again grew bigger and less ramshackle.
But now we have reached Singapore, and suddenly even Malaysia seems ramshackle.
We came travelling in part to escape our safe, predictable, comfortable Western lives. We wanted adventure. We wanted to experience life as the other half of the World’s population live it. And we have. But as well as being stimulating, travelling is also tiring. So arriving in what is essentially a modern Western city after six months on the road is rather a relief.
It’s a chance go shopping without endless haggling, take taxis without arguing over fares, to travel by easy-to-understand, punctual public transport, to enjoy people speaking perfect English, to drink the water and trust the food, to have your privacy respected by strangers, to trust the police. Not that there aren’t downsides: it’s expensive, commercial and scarily strict. But we’re only here for a week. Hopefully we can behave ourselves.
And the city itself is amazing. The skyline is a mosaic of skyscrapers, the monorail is clean and fast, the streets are clean, the people healthy-looking and well-groomed. Like Central London with the grubby bits erased.
So, for a brief few days before we fly out to the Philippines, we’re recharging our batteries and depleting our savings. We’re visiting sights (the zoo, Universal Studios, the ArtScience museum, the famous Raffles Hotel), gawping at the architecture, eating Western food, spending hours in the seemingly endless shopping malls refreshing our well-worn wardrobes, collecting a parcel in the only poste restante we trust in the region, buying gadgets… I’m even going to a game shop for an evening to indulge my hobby of wargaming.
I reckon I’ll be ready to leave here before long, but until then, we’re all enjoying the relief that is Singapore – a home from home while our money lasts.