Singapore At First Sight

Singapore Flyer

Southeast Asia has been my adopted home for the last three years, and my first point of entry was Singapore.

This was back in mid 2010 when I arrived there after some eight months of travelling around South America, Australia and New Zealand, for the final stage of a trip around the world.

A year spent travelling creates a wealth of unique experiences, treasured memories and first impressions, and the ones that really stand out above the others take on a special significance – there were many such moments throughout that year of travel, and that first visit to Singapore proved to be one of the most enduring, as it sowed the first seeds of my fascination with this region of the world.

My expectations of the place weren’t all that high, to be honest – its reputation as a wealthy, well regulated city with no record of gay rights didn’t appeal much to me as a Londoner.  It was the crazy mega-cities of South America, which had already been the urban highlights of my travels – Quito, Lima, Rio, San Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, all bursting with energy, character and fun – a riot of colour and contrast.  While I enjoyed visiting the major Australasian cities, (Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne in particular), they seemed small and tame in comparison, and I expected the same of Singapore.

Singapore attractions

Three days of exploring the city proved to be a more rewarding experience than I imagined.

I liked the urban plan of the city, making it accessible and easy to navigate.

I liked the different ethnic areas, from Little India with its maze of narrow streets, to the Arab quarter, and its vibrant China town, home to the city’s main gay venues – which I hadn’t expected to find either as high profile or with so many cute and fit Asian guys in them!

I liked the bold architecture and new infrastructure projects – from the newly built (then) Marina Bay Sands, to the Esplanade Theatre.

I liked the city’s many parks and gardens, all made super accessible by efficient public transport networks and some ambitious new construction projects such as the Henderson Waves bridge, and most recently, Gardens by the Bay.

Most of all though, I liked Singapore for its gentle introduction into a whole other world of culture and tradition, the fusion of West and East which is apparent everywhere – from the mixed population of Singaporean, Chinese, Malaysian and Indian to my first sampling of Asian street food, the array of Hindu, Chinese and Buddhist temples, mosques and churches, and even the Asian obsession with shopping and malls.

Here are some of my personal Singapore highlights:

  • Marina Bay Sands, complete with Sky gardens – for the sheer audacity of the architecture
  • The Esplanade  – for its bold architectural statement and major city arts investment into these Theatres by the Bay
  • Raffles Hotel – for a rare sample of Colonial splendour. Recently restored, the Long Bar and its signature cocktail, the Singapore Sling, remain intact
  • Little India – an authentic Indian atmosphere with its maze of narrow streets, Hindu temples and some great Indian restaurants.
  • Orchard Road – for all the world class shopping you could ever possibly need.. or carry.
  • Asian Civilisations Museum – for its broad and integrated perspective of pan Asian cultures and traditions  – a great first introduction to the cultural wonders of Asia.
  • Clarke Quay – for a good riverside stroll, with a diverse range of café and restaurant options.
  • Henderson Waves bridge, another bold architectural statement, and a practical one also, connecting Mount Faber Park with Telok Blangah Hill Park, as part of 10km Southern Ridges of green, open space.

That first trip to Singapore sparked a thirst and desire to discover more about Asia, and marked the beginning of a whole new life journey for me.  As well as the excitement of entering a new and different culture, it also came with a familiar ease of being in a Western influenced city.  With all the buzz and excitement of being in such a dynamic and rapidly growing Asian metropolis, it made for an intoxicating and addictive blend.

27-12-2013 by Tod TGA   |   More: Gay Singapore

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