Happy Chinese New Year – Singapore Stylee!

A Singapore Sling cocktail

Around the World Trip: Singapore

Despite the many hassles, I was sad to leave Thailand, so as I went to the airport and paid the departure tax (work that one out – if you don’t pay you can’t leave?!), I left a little piece of my heart, and a layer of skin (post sunburn) in the land of smiling faces.

The short flight to Singapore was pretty empty, so I could stretch out and enjoy the spectacular views of the hundreds of ships passing through the straits as we came in to land. Hotel Orchid 81 was the place of residence for Stewie JT 29, a hotel that holds the world record for the smallest rooms… probably. Following the common theme of my stay in Asia, the hotel was not close to anything, although the public transport system is efficient and cheap so it was no big deal this time… except that my hotel was in Geylang (the red light district). The first words anyone said to me as I went for a quick stroll were “Hello. Fuck, okay?”. Er no, fuck not okay. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been as offended if she wasn’t such a pigdog. Thanks STA Travel for booking me in here!

So after a heavy session of hoaring… not really! The next day I took in all the sights: Arab Street with it’s rugs, magic lamps and Al Qaeda propaganda (yeah, not really worth seeing), followed by Little India which, for those who know, is a bit like the Bury Park area of Luton, except more people speak English. Here there were all sorts of shops selling things such as the latest Hindi and Punjabi music and those turban motorcycle helmets. It was here that I decided to have lunch, entering a restaurant where I noticed that everyone was using their hands to eat. Bit messy, but whatever floats your boat, I thought. When my meal came you can imagine my reluctance to do the same, but I was too shy (ahh bless) to ask for a fork, so I tucked in regardless. I was doing okay with this back to basics approach and had nearly finished when I noticed a fork and spoon underneath the menu. Muppet! I needn’t have made such a mess! I quickly paid and left, picking the curry out from my fingernails – hmm tasty.

After making an arse of myself, I wandered down to the famous Raffles Hotel, slowly burning from the inside out thanks to the ‘mild’ curry. At the Raffles I did the tourist thing and had a Singapore Sling cocktail and asked how much the rooms were for a laugh, pretending I was a scruffy playboy. Bit above my budget (top room £1300+). I then carried on down to the waterfront and took a boat tour – at a slow speed for a change. Much better than the Thai water rockets. Think I caught the sun again…

And so to the evening – Chinese new year’s eve to be precise. The main road was closed and decorated in lights, as you’d expect and the ‘entertainment’ to commence later as we saw out the year of the… er… something or other and saw in the year of the rooster. That’s rooster to be precise. Not, as I wrongly guessed, the year of the phoenix or dodo. Well, sorry but some of these ‘symbols’ didn’t look like a rooster, okay? What the entertainment amounted to was as many TV presenters as possible on the tiny stage that hardly anyone could see, all talking bollocks for ages, trying to pass the time, followed by skillful acrobats (impressive), ‘Generation Game-style games (oh dear!), more talking bollocks (grr) and Asian pop singers (tap those feet!). The crowd was at best mildly interested until the countdown to 12 which was signalled with the sound of heavy artillery fire. As I ducked for cover, everyone else showed their appreciation of the hundreds of firecrackers that were creating the deafening noise. We were then treated to a firework display – I say “we” but it was at this point that I realised that I was standing under a bridge, so I had to push some old ladies and children out of the way to gain a better view. Then I battled through the crowd to hop on the train and head back to Geylang (or Pimptown as I like to call it) to get hassled close to my hotel once again. Freaks…

The next day I met up with Camy who lives in Singapore (I used to work with her). I was treated to a proper Chinese family new year celebration at the family aquarium and animal sanctuary. Well okay, it’s not really, but they do have some exotic pets which I had fun feeding. I was also pleased to witness a traditional chinese dragon dance in their street that caused deep trauma to the neighbourhood pets (especially a poor parrot that was trying to hide behind its perch). In the evening we had a chilled mini-party with the Camster’s closest friends which was a nice way to wind down after a busy visit (thanks for your hospitality Camy).

So, that’s it for Asia. I’m now in Sydney as I plan where to visit up the east coast.

Happy lunar new year!!

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