Singapore, THE showman state

I’m at the check-in desk of one of Singapore’s more extravagant establishments, The Fullerton Hotel, hiding behind an unnecessarily large oriental vase to shield the growing smirk on my face. To my left is a spiraling staircase, drapped in gold and mahogany, with an Olympic swimming pool of fish ponds at the bottom. On my right is a decadent, Vanician inspired hall where High Tea is served between noon and 4pm.

The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore

Why is a £63 a day traveller here? Because her boyfriend decided to take on a half-inebriated dare from the night before. Over a bottle of 7-Eleven’s best Merlot, we joked about booking the presidential suite for the night and took bets on the price. He was closest to being right it turns out, with a modest £3,500 price tag. Joe insists the receptionist check the next available date, and we’re relieved to hear it’s free on our last evening. But, like any budget savvy backpacker would do, we smile politely and say we have to think about it.

The Clifford Pier, Singapore

Singapore is opulent and pristine, structured and sophisticated. It’s money-making core is decorated in a plethora of eye-catching tourist attractions and trendy restaurants and bars. At night, its skyscrapers become a beautiful beacon of artificial light, that stretches out across the sky and bay. The state may be small, but it wants you to know its power is far-reaching!

Singapore skyline from the Helix Bridge

I saw the city as a collector of cultures. You can see influences of London, Paris, New York, and Kuala Lumpur in its foundations. Joe referred to it as a ‘carbon copy of home’, or ‘Disneyland with the death penalty’ 🙈. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in indulgences though. Grandiose shopping malls, futuristic infrastructure and spotless streets create a pleasure seeker’s playground, if your pockets are deep enough.

The Shoppe shopping mall, Marina Bay Sands

For such a progressive state, economically and ecologically, Singapore’s social and political framework’s worryingly archaic. We stumbled across Hong Lim Park, aka Speakers Corner, one day. This plot of land hidden behind bushes in the centre of the booming business district is where citizens can stage protests and demonstrations, as long as they have a permit in order to ‘keep the peace’.

Speakers Corner, Singapore

LGBT rights are also relatively non-existent. Since a reform in 2007, female homosexual relationships were made legal, and heterosexual anal and oral sex 👍. However, male homosexuality can carry a two-year prison sentence as that kind of love is more ‘repugnant’, according to government officials.

Elgin Bridge, Singapore

To me it goes against the fundamental principles of the state. When separating from Malaysia in the sixties, the first leader of a completely independent Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said with passionate determination: ‘We unite regardless of race, language, religion, culture.’ Shouldn’t that include sexuality?

You can still enjoy a few days in the centre on a backpacker’s budget. Dorm rooms in hostels, while double the price than the rest of Asia, are far cheaper than hotels. We stayed at a great place called The Port by Quarters in a double bed for £30 a night, breakfast included.

The Port Hostel, Singapore

You can also save a lot of money eating at Hawker centres, which are food courts scattered all over the city. These down-to-earth culinary hubs are where you can find a wide variety of local dishes, our favourite being the chicken and rice at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.

Maxwell Hawker Centre, Chinatown, Singapore

All the best things to do in Singapore in my opinion are free. The bulk of the city’s historic landmarks are dotted along the river forming a central artery to the densely packed Business District. After a major clean-up in 1983, the bay has attracted tourists from all over the world and continues to bustle with life. We spent hours walking along the waterfront, admiring impressive sites like the Merlion monument, iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, Helix Bridge, and ArtScience Museum.

ArtScience Museum and city skyline, Singapore

If you want that iconic infinity pool snap overlooking the city from Marina Bay Sands you’ll have to fork out for a night’s accommodation, as guests can only use it. There’s an observation deck with spectacular panoramic views you can pay £12 (23 SGD) to get up to though.

Further down, you can enjoy a refreshing drink and tasty lunch at Boat Quay (where we stayed), dance the night away at Clarke Quay where warehouses have been transformed into electric nightspots, or relax at the laid-back Robertson Quay. We tended to eat cheap, then sit on riverside watching the world go by.

Between Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, Singapore

My favourite place and activity was watching the Gardens by the Bay light show. At 7.45pm and 8.45pm every night, the Supertree Grove orchestrates a rhapsody of colour and music to a magical soundtrack! (It was Disney themed when we watched 😁). There’s also a free water and light show called Spectra at 8pm and 9pm in Marina Bay at the Event Plaza.

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Further out, you can stroll around the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This 158-year-old tropical oasis is a short MRT (underground) ride away and is free to use. It has also been honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pack a picnic though if you want to save the pennies, as the cafe/restaurant on site is quite pricey. Other popular attractions include Universal Studios, the Cloud Forest, National Orchid Garden, and Chinatown. This is a great place to visit if you’re a fan of Tintin, as there’s a whole store dedicated to the book!

Tintin shop, Chinatown, Singapore

Would I recommend a visit? Yes, but only for a few days if you’re not willing to break the bank. I’ll return…once I win the lottery.

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