Day one in Singapore. Exploring the malls on Orchard Road – an anthropological phenomenon but I can’t say that it really turns me on.
What am I doing here? You may well ask! It seemed like a great idea at the time, when Ross was offered a 3 month interim appointment in Singapore with a Swiss pharma corporation, to be the ‘accompanying spouse’. Not something my friends would normally associate me with, although three years in Geneva should have prepared them. And me.
Arriving for the weekend made it appear like a holiday: unpack, straight out to our local mall and a yummy dinner of chilli prawns, garlic pak choi and spicy aubergine; bed. Then an early morning swim in our 50m pool (outdoor) before heading off to the world-famous Orchard Road shopping city, one of the largest and most modern collections of malls in the world, with familiar designer brands starting at the top end with Cartier, Armani, Prada, etc, then going more prosaic – Zara, M & S, Massimo Dutti, Body Shop (might as well have stayed in London if shopping is the objective). And all ludicrously expensive: I bought a swimsuit in M & S for more than double London price! Given that the average Singapore income for 80% of the population is S$6000 per month who buys this stuff? Notwithstanding the malls are teeming with people; maybe like us, looking not shopping.
Nevertheless the food courts are cheap and full. We had lunch in one of the better known, Food Republic: dim sum and a special soup where you choose your ingredients and they quickly boil them up in a delicious broth, six ingredients all for $4.00.
Then on the amazing underground, the MRT, trains every four minutes, clean, spacious, smooth, efficient, to Chinatown, where we followed a guidebook tour. In between the skyscrapers we see glimpses of what old Singapore must have looked like, 19 century Peranakan houses, with brightly painted shutters and iron grills, the skyscrapers peeking over their roofs, old men ferociously playing checkers, and smaller street food stalls and little Chinese medicine shops.
The area behind China Town – Ann Siang Hill – is now very trendy with boutique hotels and bars (left). Here we find SImon Rigby, a Queens man and Ross’s contemporary who is based here for the next couple of years, sans famille. Caught in an end-of-season monsoon downpour, we sip Earl Grey on his hotel terrace. We catch up with him later, first for drinks in the Fullerton Hotel, the grand old Post OffIce building (see below), and then in IndoChine, a rather touristy restaurant, but well situated overlooking the marina.
Fall into bed – after watching the Wales/Scotland game in a bar, as you do, and woke the next morning, no jet lag! Yay!
Another swim – going to swim 20 lengths every day to keep fit – before meeting more old Cambridge friends for a Japanese Bento box brunch at Moon in Sun in yet another mall. I am surprised to discover Mark and Lucie Greaves live in a house in Singapore, as do our evening dates, friends of friends from Champery and Geneva, who have an old colonial ‘black and white’ set in a luscious tropical garden, with pool and live-in rainforest style terrace. But peeking over the roof of their house is the ubiquitous tower block, albeit rather an attractive one!
Now Day 3 and I wake up and think, What am I doing here? Ross has gone to work and I am faced with setting up a daily routine, which will go something like: early morning tea; emails, online news and Facebook; more tea; swim 20 lengths; read book in sun (one hour); do ‘work’ (research for book, have brought all my mother’s letters, written weekly to her mother since 1939, with me, in my hand baggage); coffee; browse local supermarket for dinner ingredients if not going out; buy sushi for lunch, or whip up a slimming salad; more ‘work’; tea; then what????Wah! this might get a bit monotonous….