I first visited Singapore 12 years ago as the final city on my backpacking trip and I have to be honest I hated the place and had quite a bad experience there.
Singapore didn’t really lend itself to backpackers. It was quite expensive and my hostel was awful. I was in a room with no windows and no air con. The owner had knocked out a few bricks in the wall and provided a fan for ventilation.
It was however the overbearing heat that probably saved my life and those of my fellow hostel room mates. Struggling with the humidity at night I often found myself drifting to sleep before awaking again drenched in sweat . It was at this point I’d visit the communal showers for a quick cold shower and head back to bed. After going through this process 3-4 times I awoke again at around 4am, dragged myself out of bed and headed for the showers.
This time though I never got there. I stepped out into the hallway to be greeted by plumes of smoke. Somewhere downstairs the hostel was on fire. After a few seconds of trying to clear my dry croaky throat I managed to begin shouting and waking everyone up. We headed to the fire escape which was a ladder out of one of the windows with 3 rungs missing in a section. Thankfully the building was only 3 stories so it wasn’t too difficult to get out.
The owner of the hostel was an arse about the whole situation I’d paid upfront for a weeks stay and hadn’t even had one full night. I never got my money back from him either.
So there you have it I was caught in a fire with no smoke or fire alarms and luckily managed to escape. If there was air con I am sure I would have slept through it!
I never had any desire to return to Singapore but it fitted nicely around my Malaysia trip so I booked 4 nights and hoped to exorcise some memories.
…….and that is exactly what I did! So what made Singapore so great the second time around.
Interestingly upon checking old passports I realised I would arrive in Singapore exactly 12 years to the day. The strange world of coincidence.
The biggest difference during this trip was probably money. Here are all the things I could do this time around
- I stayed in a great hotel, Royal Scotts on Plaza, just off Orchard Road
- I could afford taxis to and from the airport (although I used the MTR to get around the city)
- I had money to shop in all the fantastic shopping malls
- I could afford to buy alcohol and enjoy myself near Raffles Place and at Circular Quay
- I could actually afford a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel
- I went to Sentosa on the cable car and had a day of fun
- I visited the night Safari
All of the above cost quite a bit of cash. The sort that I definitely didn’t have as a backpacker.
To be honest I am one for doing a lot of the free and cheap things in a city. There are plenty of cools things to do in Singapore for not much money such as wandering around the fantastic Marina by the Bay Gardens and exploring Little India and Chinatown. I ducked in and out of quite a few temples and had a fantastic lunch of spicy Carrot Cake and noodles at the Maxim Hawker centre. However to be honest I found that Singapore tends to be a city where it helps if you’ve some cash to burn.
So did I enjoy my second trip to Singapore…………. well yes I loved it. I am one for taking places as they are and I knew deep down if i returned I would have a great time.
The heat was pretty oppressive in May and quite tiring so I was thankful for a nice cool shower and air con when I returned to my hotel.
I still think Singapore is not the greatest city or backpackers but in recent years some excellent hostels have opened and its worth a few nights of your time if you are travelling through SE Asia. If you eat at hawker stalls and just wander the streets (one of my favourite things to do in any city) then you can get by on a few dollars a day.
To me Singapore is a fantastic modern Asian city, it’s just missing something. I think I like the underbelly and edge that Bangkok and Hong Kong have, perhaps my lasting image of Singapore is that everything seems a little too clean cut.