I’ll be honest, cities aren’t usually my thing, so this travel theme was a tough one for me. Given a choice between concrete jungle or erm, actual jungle, the green stuff wins pretty much every time. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m visiting, I really like all the plus points about cities – the restaurants, bars and cafes, the shops, the museums and theatres. All those social and cultural opportunities that are so delicious to a person living in the backwaters of Brunei, and which go hand in hand with big city living.
But I really don’t think I could live in many cities. Not in the long-term. I find them so overwhelming. Noisy. And not just noisy in an auditory sense. After just a couple of days I feel as though my senses have been thoroughly pummelled, in the way that can only be caused by the constant high energy of thousands of people living and moving simultaneously in one tiny, action-packed space. An all out barrage to the senses.
Having said that, Singapore is a city that has a very special place in my heart. I think if any city could convince me to up sticks and move to the big smoke, it would be Singapore. I even like the airport, although from what I saw last time I was passing through, it seems I am not the only one!
Singapore has all the life and excitement that you wish for from a city, but also with the civility, green spaces and pockets of calm serenity that I find myself needing after a few hours meandering along the thronging Orchard Road. A clothes shopping heaven, at the weekend especially it is packed to the rafters with people looking for bargains, mingling with those seeking higher end goods from the designer labels which are synonymous with Singapore’s high-end luxury reputation. Or contrast that with the wonderful, crowded, vibrantly chaotic Little India, with its colourful saree shops, beautiful temples and the heavenly smells wafting from the restaurants lining the crowded streets.
One of the things I most love about Singapore is the comfortable contrasts. It is a city that is rightly proud of its heritage, but also proud of its achievements and keen to dress to impress. The cutting edge modern architecture sitting alongside the bridges and hotels from bygone eras, the towering skyscrapers sitting cheek by jowl with the parks and urban green spaces.
And as with any city worth its salt, Singapore comes alive at night. Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay waterfront bars and restaurants heave with the city’s workers, winding down at the end of a long day, mingled with tourists eager to make the most of what Singapore has to offer. Even at the painful prices that seem part and parcel with life in the world’s most expensive city.
There are river boats for the tourist market, slowly cruising along past the quays, into Marina Bay and then back down, giving a potted history of the rise and rise of Singapore along the way. As touristy-cheesy as it was, I really enjoyed the river boat trip I took on my first visit to Singapore. It was a brilliantly sunny day, and Singapore was positively shining. But it is also a great trip to take at night. A lot of the skyscrapers along the riverside have very impressive night illuminations, which you only really appreciate when you see them collectively, as you slowly drift by. There is even a light show which explodes into life every evening, further showcasing the 24-7 beauty of the unique Singaporean city skyline and striking architecture.
I am no night-owl – especially now I have a baby and there is no such thing as a lie in or a free-pass if I have a hangover! But I do like finding a nice little Italian where we can eat al fresco, with a glass of wine on the go as we watch the city shift; shedding its daytime energy and bright skies for the sultry sparkly evening attire it wears so well.