Nicer weather today than yesterday, so I decided to walk down to the Raffles area and do the “colonial walk” detailed in Lonely Planet. Rather than get the MRT to the starting point, I thought I’d walk it. Singapore isn’t much bigger than London so there’s no real need to get the underground everywhere (though a lot of people do).
As soon as I got “south of the river”, I could tell I was in financial territory. Two things gave it away: the sudden switch of surrounding dress from floral shirts and shorts to cufflinks and sharply pressed trousers; and the fact that all the buildings were involved in a “let’s see who can be the tallest” competition. The traffic round this area is of London proportions as well, though a lot of the jams can be accounted for by polite drivers actually stopping at zebra crossings for pedestrians.
Before commencing the walk, I indulged in an ice lolly. Someone has managed to combing two of my favourite things and I was happy to part with $1.40 for a sour apply ice pole. Gooey ice cream and sour fruit flavours. Luvverly!
Beginning from Raffles Place MRT, I walked up towards Clifford Pier and past the Fullerton Hotel. I then crossed the road to see the Merlion statues. As the name suggests, this is some kind of lion/seahorse creature thingy and it squirts water into the sea where the river opens out. It’s a symbol of Singapore, though apparently the locals have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it (more on the hate side).
On the opposite side of the river can be seen the Singapore Opera House. There seems to be this thing with opera houses and insane architects. Sydney, Singapore, Gateshead… they’re all mad. Utterly futzball. Yet strangely compelling.
Back over the bridge and a quick stop at the Dalhousie Obelisk, erected to a visiting minister around 1850. He’s credited with making Singapore the financial power it is today.
By now it was fast approaching midday and the sun was starting to get a little warm, so I chose to go into the Museum of Asian Civilisations for a couple of hours until the big glowing ball in the sky decided to drop down a bit.
For $5, this is an engrossing way to spend a couple of hours. In fact, there was far more there than I was prepared to take in. There are eight major galleries covering religion, history, entertainment, politics… you name it. All from most of the southern Asian countries as well as Singapore itself. I met my first genuine Russian people as well, and exchanged email addresses. Looks like I could be adding Moscow onto my travel plans, though I’m still not sure about flying Aeroflot!
Shortly after 2pm, I emerged into the still blazing sunshine and walked north past the Victoria Opera House, old Parliament House and old Supreme Court. On the other side of the road were the Cenotaph, the Indian War Memorial, the Tan Kim Sang Fountain (dedicated to the second Asian to become a Justice of the Peace) and the Lim Bo Sang Memorial (he fought in the underground against the Japanese and died during torture). All kept in immaculate condition with beautiful surroundings.
A little further up the road is the Civilian War Memorial dedicated to all the non-military persons who died during the Japanese occupancy of WWII. The locals call it the “chopsticks” memorial and you can see why – it does indeed look like four chopsticks pointing skywards.
Across the road from there is the largest mall in Singapore, Suntec City. This surrounds the world’s largest fountain, the Fountain of Wealth, which I strode over to see. During the day, it burbles rather than shooting vast amounts of water into the air. Instructions for its use are simple – walk around it clockwise, three times, with your hand touching the water while making a wish.
Well, I’ve spent the last few months blowing eyelashes, crossing fingers,gazing for shooting stars and rubbing pretty much every holy monument I can find with no apparent luck, but I’m not one to give up hope (translation: I’m stubborn like my dad), so I performed the ritual. Don’t hold your breath, but at least I can say I tried.
I was starting to realise that lunch would have been a good idea around four hours earlier, so I began to walk back towards the Bugis area and the hawker market I’d used the day before. On the way I snapped a couple of pictures of the Raffles Hotel (complete with large Indian gentlemen in spotless white jackets and turbans – very “Last Days”). Today I ate mostly duck and rice – which was gorgeous – with watermelon and rose apple for desert. Delicious. All washed down woth a glass of Tiger back at the hostel.
After a couple more fruitless hours trying to find accomodation in Goa for the festive season that wasn’t going to cost us a fortune, I once again grabbed my camera and strode off back towards the Fountain of Wealth.
It was dark now, and the fountain was lit from behind with bright colours and a laser show was being played on the spraying water. I was actually hoping to see jets shooting up into the stratosphere, but instead the water is sprayed outwards in an arc so that it can be used as a screen.
I spent half an hour watching cartoons being projected and then walked back to the hostel. I was peckish on the way back so stopped at for what turned out to be one of the worst burgers I’ve ever eaten. The shop is called WOS Burger (I think – I’ve thrown the wrapper out) and I picked a spicy cheeseburger from the menu. After queuing for almost ten minutes behind one person – who walked off with two soft drinks – I ordered my burger and paid my $3.55. In return I got a plastic table number, even though I was taking away. After another ten minutes, my burger finally arrived.
As fast as my legs could carry me (not fast by now – it had been a long day), I pegged it back to the Inn Crowd, sat down, opened the wrapper and almost balked at the smell. I don’t know what fillings they had in it, but it smelled weird. The cheese was minging and the whole thing looked like it had already been eaten once.
Still, I was hungry. OK, it was spicy. It had cheese. It was a burger. Beyond that… I actually think McD’s are better. It was that bad. As I type this I’m hungry again so it didn’t even hit the spot. Bah. Looks like another expensive visit to 7-11.