Singapore

The perfect stopover destination, Singapore is well connected through one of the best airports in the world, and has plenty to fill at least a few days. I’ve been through the airport many times, but only found the time in 2012 to explore the city. Looking back at these photos I really should return sometime soon.

The relatively unknown Ubin Island was my favourite place, a rare remaining example of how Singapore was before it gained independence in 1965. It’s a small island, a 15 minute small boat ride from Changi village, close to the airport. Before the skyscrapers came Singapore was covered in rainforest and subsistence farming. From a peak of 2,000 people there’s almost no one left living on the island, there were only 38 when I visited.

The best way to explore the island, given its size and the ever present heat and humidity in Singapore, is by hiring a bike to cycle around. There was an impressive amount of wildlife, with wild boar, giant lizards, and monkeys happy to wander out close to people.

Venturing off the main track I nearly had a closer than desired encounter with giant spiders who had made their webs over the track.

There is a beach on the island, though Ubin Island is one of the parts of Singapore closest to Malaysia, explaining the pretty serious fence.

The Jejawi observation tower offers great views across the island and back toward the mainland.

My highlight though was this Tudor-style house built in the 1930s by an English Chief Surveyor of Singapore, home to the only working fireplace in Singapore. It’s never cold enough to warrant a fire but an Englishman’s home wouldn’t be complete without one…

On the boat ride back the heavens opened in typical Singaporean fashion, with torrential rain for about half an hour.

Also in Changi is the moving Changi Museum, commemorating sensitively the prisoner of war camp established here by the Japanese during WW2, brilliantly captured in J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, and the film of the book by Steven Spielberg. No photography was allowed inside unfortunately, but it is well worth a visit.

Another relatively unknown gem is the unexpectedly wonderful Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Gallery, far more interesting (to me at least) than it’s name would suggest. Part of the government dedicated to improving the quality of life in Singapore, it has the most incredible models in various scales.

The URA Gallery is in the middle of Chinatown, home to colourful temples, and a typical hawkers food market.

More familiar to shoppers is Orchard Road, the main shopping street in Singapore, where I was caught another day by a typical end of day downpour. You really shouldn’t leave your accommodation in Singapore without a decent umbrella…

One of the skyscraper bars offered good views of the city centre skyline. It isn’t as distinctive as many cities, lacking a standout tall building, but has its charms by the water.

By which is the most distinctive building in Singapore, the impressive Marina Bay Sands Casino, opened 2010. I didn’t visit the famous infinity pool at the top, I was more interesting in the place below.

The magnificent Gardens by the Bay, which had just opened when I visited. One of the most memorable gardens I’ve visited, it’s amazing what can be achieved with large amounts of money and some imagination.

To end with something that caught my eye looking back through the trip photos while drafting this blog post, a series of sculptures in the garden from Papua New Guinea, which I had recently returned from, somewhat unexpected to find in Singapore!

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