Thứ Bảy, ngày 02 tháng 8 năm 2014

Time flies in the buzzing Far East city of Singapore with its mixture of ...

MY first visit to Singapore was more than 20 years ago and if there was one thing putting me off a return visit, it was the 14-hour flight from London.


The good news is that flying from Scotland with Emirates via Dubai now offers a great way to break the journey. In reality, time may only seem to pass quicker but that’s good enough for me.


That said, any complaints about hours spent on the plane soon disappear when you step into the warm tropical air. Situated just one degree above the equator, Singapore has no real seasons unless you count wet and dry.


The average temperature all year is about 27 degrees and the only variation is in rainfall with November to January wettest and May to July driest.


That’s all a bit academic because for us Scots, the humidity means just a walk down the street leaves us panting and perspiring.


So the best advice is to save that walking for early morning and late evening and the rest of the time enjoy the air conditioning, which keeps every building nice and cool.


Since my last visit, Singapore has been through a huge period of change. The most obvious example is the Marina Bay area, which is now home to a Formula 1 track and one of the most dramatic hotels in the world.


Marina Bay Sands looks like three skyscrapers joined together at the top by a giant Arabian boat.


In reality, the boat is a swish roof terrace with an infinity pool and even a nightclub.


I visited at midnight when it was in full swing and it felt like the hottest ticket in town but there are lots of great rooftop bars and restaurants with spectacular views.


Stephen Jardine in Singapore

 


The area is also home to a variety of malls. That is useful because shopping is one of the big things to do in Singapore. If you choose your purchases carefully, especially in terms of electronics, you can pick up some good bargains and local sales tax can be reclaimed when you get to the airport.


When you’ve had enough shopping, head to the other side of the East Coast Parkway road for some proper peace and quiet.


Gardens By The Bay is a huge 100 hectare park built on reclaimed land. Consisting of domes, conservatories and three main garden spaces, it makes Cornwall’s Eden Project look like a suburban back garden.


Singapore has always been a green city but the government want this new development to transform it from a garden city into a city in the garden.


Judging by the progress so far, they are well on their way.


The final big change waiting for me in Singapore was just along the coast on the island of Sentosa.


Joined to the mainland by a causeway, since my last visit the former military base has been developed into a resort that attracts five million visitors a year.


With Universal Studios and other theme parks, there is lots to do for all the family. It was fun for a time but after a while you can’t escape the sense that everything is man made and artificial.


That’s when Singapore’s history comes to the rescue. If you grab a cab and head to Chinatown or Little India you can immerse yourself in culture and tradition that hasn’t changed for generations.


The same experience awaits at some of the grand old hotels, which are a reminder of the days when Singapore was a British crown colony. Raffles is the most famous and popular but I like The Fullerton. Named after the first governor general it was originally the general post office and you can still walk through the tunnel that brought overseas mail from the dockside for sorting.


During the World War II, The Fullerton was the headquarters of the Japanese occupation force but these days it is a smart five-star hotel with prices to match.


I’m sure the food is delicious but for me eating in Singapore is all about getting away from the hotels and into the street food culture.


With so many nationalities providing a cultural melting pot, Singapore offers a bewildering choice of places to eat.


The locals take food very seriously, making this one of the best places in Asia for food of every description. Enjoy the local delicacies but also look out for Scottish salmon and seafood.


Our reputation for producing top quality produce has reached Singapore and it is now a key export market for us. Whatever your taste, there is a restaurant to keep you well fed but my top tip is to visit the hawker markets.


Regulated by the government, these street food stands are clustered together around the city and offer brilliant local food, prepared to strict hygiene standards at bargain prices.


Most of the dishes are pictured on the menu to help you order but I always check what everyone else seems to be eating and have some of that. Often that means the local delicacy sweet chilli crab.


Sticky and spicy, it is the perfect dish to enjoy with a cold beer at the end of a long day.


All too soon my trip was over and it was time to face the journey home.


But no matter how long it takes, it won’t be 20 years before I’m back in Singapore.


This dynamic and exciting city is definitely going places and believe me, you should go too.



Time flies in the buzzing Far East city of Singapore with its mixture of ...

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