We’ve just got back from our honeymoon! I bet you didn’t see that one coming? Truth be told, neither did we until a few days ago.
I’m a great believer in ‘striking whilst the iron is hot’ so when Pedro got back from work last Thursday evening and announced that we had to go to Singapore the following morning to sort out our Singaporean bank account, my immediate thought was ‘Hello!’ this might just be the perfect occasion to cash in our ‘Honeymoon I.O.U’ at long last. (We married in London in early September but because of work commitments and various other projects, plus packing and planning our move out to Jakarta, we haven’t been able to take a romantic break as such. Certainly not until this jewel of an opportunity arose last week. Singapore? Why not!)
After an ultrasonic one and a half hour flight heading due north across the Java Sea (during which we were fortified with a soggy chocolate bun and a glass of warm water gifted to us, courtesy of JetAir , – all in-flight entertainment on the other hand was provided by Pedro) we touched down on Singapore soil at midday last Friday. Pelting monsoon rains, and a thunderous reception greeted the ‘honey-mooners’ as we waited at the taxi rank albeit, only very briefly, as within the blink of an eye we were soon in the back of Wee Koon Teck’s taxi and being driven away at high speed from Changi Airport and through the pristine and relatively empty streets of Singapore. Wee Koon is the answer to every new visitor’s prayers to Singapore. What this delightful pony-tailed man doesn’t know about his city, frankly isn’t worth knowing in the first place. Within the space of 20 minutes we had amassed all the info we needed for our shotgun 48hr Singapore honeymoon. (To book his marvellous services in advance, call: Wee Koon Teck H/P: (65) 9749 4009)
We said our ‘good byes’ and ‘thank you’s’ to Wee Koon as he dropped us of at the Sheriton Towers Hotel and then, making for the hotel entrance we were greeted by none other than Dr Livingstone. Well I presume it was him. (check out his photo and see what you think) Dr Livingstone smoothed our passage through check-in and helped carry our bags up to our room, from whence we headed at furious speed straight down to the bar and wrapped our lips round the first glass of wine in over 3 weeks. An ambrosial moment if ever there was one.
Tempting though it would have been to have had just ‘one more’ we had to head out once again, this time to visit our American Bank and the original purpose of our visit to Singapore lest we forget. A fairly painless hour was spent sorting out our finances and then with that job done and dusted, it was time to get cracking on with the really important stuff. Lord only knows how we ended up at Harry’s Bar at ‘Crazy Hour- Crazy Prices’ time, but we did. That was our first port of call, swiftly followed by another bar (the name of which escapes me) where we had the most disgusting Australian ‘flat’ cider. Australians make great wine but crap cider, FACT. Definitely in need of some sustenance by this stage we ate (on Wee Koon’s suggestion) at Jumbos and had Chilli Crab, and the most sensational salad of shredded duck and mango. Feeling fully relaxed, replete, and very happy we set off back to ‘the towers’ for a nightcap before crashing into our marital bed.
Singapore is the polar opposite of Jakarta, and it’s anodyne neighbour. Immaculately clean, well run, efficient and very organised. You can drink the tap water with impunity, throw your loo paper down the loo, and eat salads, raw vegetables, and meat without running the risk of amoebic dysentery or getting worms of Anaconda- like proportions. You can walk absolutely anywhere and everywhere safely, and if you don’t want to walk, there are clean, shiny buses or take the underground system which is ‘plus moderne’, easy to use and extremely cheap. (You even get a deposit back on your tube ticket when you’ve finished with it). The weather seems about 5 degrees cooler than Jakarta (I can’t check it for sure as our Internet is down, yet again) and the air is much fresher, cleaner, and even sweet smelling. The roads have a fraction of the traffic on them and we didn’t see one scooter during our two day sojourn. There were no visible signs of poverty anywhere that we went, and there were no beggars, tuk-tuk’s , rickshaws or hand pulled carts. It’s an extremely prosperous place no doubt about it, and probably at least 20 years ahead of Jakarta in regards of just about everything. I know comparisons are considered odious but one can’t help but make them, especially as I happen to have huge affection for ‘The Big Durian’. There is no mistaking the ‘Englishness’ of Singapore, colonisation has left a permanent stamp. – It’s visible everywhere, from the radios playing in taxi cabs, down to the signage, street names and tube stops. Comforting Enid Blyton’ish names such as Orchard Street, Church Street, and Scott Road to name but a few, and on the Underground how do you fancy getting off at a stop called Dover, Yew Tree, or Lavender?
English is the first language in Singapore according to Wee Koon, and Mandarin the second. Looking around there seems to be an almost equal mix of ‘Caucasian’ and ‘Asian faces’ which again is very different from Jakarta, where Pedro and I are very much part of a minority group.
I guess the bottom line is this; If you want to live in Asia but don’t want to have to put up with the grotty, insanitary side of things, then living in Singapore is probably perfect. However, if, like Pedro and I, you want to get right under the skin of Asia and experience and live it as it really is (albeit in a middle-class ‘Western’ way) you have to be prepared to put up with all the difficulties, the slowness of pace, the disorganisation, and general inconvenience. Aside from romance and our love, above anything else our 48hr Shotgun Singaporean honeymoon has served as a salutary reminder to us both, of the myriad reasons why we chose to move to Jakarta in the first place, not least when all is said and done, no one can argue that Jakarta is boring.
To be continued………………