So here I am with an almost empty bottle of water and a half peeled satsuma bought in Marks and Spencer on the Walworth Road, banished from my room before I got back into it by a smiling maid who says she needs forty-five minutes to finish the room she’s doing now and then mine.
I’ve opted for an outdoor seat. Air con is all very well, but after spending most the day thus far walking about in 88% humidity and sheltering from a sudden but predicted thunderstorm, this almost feels cool.
The view from here
I like Singapore. I like it a lot. It enjoys London’s diversity with a sunnier, more relaxed temperament. By relaxed, I don’t mean laissez faire. Everyone seems to be working terrifically hard, but quite happy about it. There’s a lot of smiling. The hotel staff have been superb. I was given maps, they were drawn on, bus routes inked onto the streets; my boarding pass was printed, every question I have had so far has been patiently and conscientiously answered. The manager came to my room to reset the safe which wasn’t working. She chatted, and I mentioned I hadn’t had breakfast as the choice was a vast buffet or nothing. I just wanted something small, a cup of coffee and a croissant or equivalent. The next thing I know she’s back in the room with a cup of coffee and two small croissants. She also gave me her card in case I got lost as I told her that my sense of direction is not the best. So forget the bathroom, I would , come back to this hotel happily. I feel like a welcome, valued guest.
There’s a huge prison complex, I discover, just a couple of miles from the hotel. A big sign outside says Captains of Change. Rehab, Renew, Restart. You’ll never see that outside Pentonville or Wormwood Scrubs. The size of the prison is something of a surprise. Apart from one bit of graffiti and some litter that is negligible when you compare it to what blows along the average street in London every day, I have yet to see evidence of anti-social behaviour. The only hints are in the frequent notices – Pick Up Your Dog’s Poo being my favourite so far – and threats of fines or even the death penalty for those who disobey. I can only surmise that enforcing these notices is something of a priority, but all the same, not everyone in the prison complex can be a repeat Dog Poo offender. Though now I have mentioned dogs, I am wondering if Singapore’s dark underbelly includes the dog meat trade and the horrific cruelty that perpetuates. And if it does, then I very much hope the rehab works, nd is not just an airy fairy wish.
Not much sign of rebellious youth either. I have seen a couple of boys with those mega black ear studs that don’t so much pierce a lobe as dig a tunnel through it. Maybe the prison complex is full of teenage rebels. I’m told that chewing gum isn’t on sale to stop people from leaving it stuck to the pavement. Now that is an idea I should happily see replicated at home. I am now very curious about social structures here, and if Singapore dies have a dark side.
As for Singapore City, well it was a delight. I started the day with a local walk in the park and the local covered market area, then down to the sea. I only meant to have a ten minute stroll, but I was out for over an hour. The member of staff who printed my boarding pass told me of a coastal walk along a boardwalk which really appealed, but when she realised I only have a day here she was insistent I visit the City. I didn’t do it all, but I’d hoped to cover four neighbourhoods. Part way through the third my blood sugar didn’t so much as plummet, so I ate a hastily chosen mushroom curry. But although I felt steadier, I knew I was fading, so I missed out on Chinatown and caught the bus back to the hotel which gave me the chance to look at lots of buildings without much effort.
I don’t know how much time I have here on the return leg of my trip, but if I can, I’ll explore China town then. In the meantime, some more photos.
Official street sweeper
And the great thing is, I now really feel like I am on holiday.