Forget the brolly. Forget harbouring under a tree. Forget cowering under a picnic pagoda. When it rains in Singapore, it rains. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. It bounces upwards. You simultaneously get wet from the top down and the bottom up. I thought these leaking sky episodes were supposed to be short and sharp. But with thunderclaps that made our three-year-old cry, as well as the grown woman besides us, and lightening flashes reminiscent of a dodgy fluorescent tube, we had plenty of time to enjoy the wonders of nature.
The great outdoors is a spectacular thing, except when you are stuck in one of these downpours. At best it was intriguing, but after nearly an hour, we were forced to leave what we thought was a safe harbour, as it began to flood, and flee for the refuge of a fast food joint; as if the storm was an impressive marketing ploy by the restaurants to get more people through the door. But now I’m just being cynical.
This is a fleeting visit to Singapore and I suspect we shall be back. We are only here for three nights, and it has been 14 years since I was last here. I remember the trip like it was only yesterday, only I can’t reconcile my mind’s eye with the reality. Singapore has grown up. I remember low buildings and wide-open skies above, but today felt as if I had stumbled into a man-made jungle of towers, looming over me. On my last trip it was modern, neat and clean. But now it’s almost post-modern. The architecture is more dynamic, more fluid. The transport system has been developed and expanded. Singapore has literally grown, as land has been reclaimed. The sharp edges have been rounded off. I like it.
However, I can’t help feeling that I’m not really sure where this development trajectory is taking it. Evidence of Singapore’s past is still evident. You can go to the museums that document this ex-British colony: modern Singapore was built as a port by Sir Stamford Raffles, and at every corner there are cafes and street names to remind you.
You can learn about the invasion of the Japanese during the Second World War and harrowing existence of those locked up in Changi prison.
You can absorb the history of an ethically diverse population by learning about the Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya, descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (now Malaysia).
But since independence Singapore has reconfigured itself. By modernising its industry, investing in public services and developing a free market economy, the country’s growth has been impressive with one of the highest per capita gross domestic product in Asia.
With only a couple days to experience the country we were going to be on a pretty tight schedule.
Accommodation: Orchard Parade Hotel, west end of Orchard Road. Clean but a little dated, in the process of being renovated. Good location.
This is part of a 14 day trip. For itinerary details please click on trips to try.