‘SINGAS’ the pearl of the orient.

The above photograph so represents what Singapore is, or should I say used to be. The fishing villages, the boats, the canals, the humidity, colonial buildings mixed in with shop houses and an eclectic mish mash of nationalities going about their daily business.

Pongal Point Cafe and restaurant. Photo courtesy of Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board.
Bugis Street. After about 10 pm this street would come alive and could be described as the underbelly of Singapore.
Photograph courtesy of nowhere.per.sg
Change Alley – One could obtain just about anything here and it was always the right place to exchange currencies.

I spent a lot of time in Singapore in the late 60’s and early 70’s when it went from a post war colonial outpost to a vibrant city. It was fascinating, alive with the remnants of all of Asia cocooned together on this tiny island. I loved every moment I had there, the Chinese Puppet Opera, Change alley, the smell of durians in season and Bugis Street. Water skiing from Mosquito Island off Pongal Point followed by a feast of cracked crab with chilli sauce and eased down with an icy cold Tiger beer. There are so many memories here and all of them good.

There was this story floating around the traps about the famous comedian Bob Hope who was passing through Singapore. As the flight steward opened the door of the aircraft, a waft of sickly sweet humid air entered the cabin. Bob Hope was heard to exclaim to his aide, “My God, what is that smell?”, the aide replied “I don’t know Bob, but it smells like shit!” to which Bob countered ” You’re right, but what have they done to it!” In those days they didn’t have the luxury of an air-conditioned air-bridge joining the fuselage of the aircraft to the terminal, passengers had to descend a set of steps wheeled up to the aircraft and then walk across the tarmac to the terminal and their first taste of Singapore was commonly called the smell of the Orient.

Cathay Cinema with the Cathay Hotel behind

Back in 1967, when I was in my early 20’s, I used to stay at the old colonial Cathay Hotel. Whilst consuming a cold beer in the bar as a new chum to Singapore, it felt as though I was living out a scene from a Somerset Maugham or Ernest Hemingway novel. As I said before, it was the 1960’s and the room was full of business people, military and naval personnel, civilian aircrew, tourists, expats. and locals, people from all walks of life really and this was what made it so fascinating. Unfortunately, All that is left of this grand old dame now is the facade fronting another shopping mall.

Living in this modern metropolis of Singapore is probably great for the locals and I don’t begrudge them one little bit, but for me, I’d rather have the colourful, post war ‘Singas’ with all of it’s smells and sounds any day, and I am happy that I had the fortune of spending some time there and still have the memories of what it was like.

Well, that was then and this is now.

Gardens by the Bay

And, as we herald in the modern era, the new city of Singapore is brightly lit at night with a mix of colonial and modern architecture and chock full of honey, just for the taking. As busy as a hive of bees.

Gardens by the Bay
A tribute to Singapore’s architecture.
Singapore taken from the cable car to Sentosa Island.

It is a modern city and therefore you would expect to see good modern architecture and you have it, lots of it, mixed in with the old British colonial and Asian shop-houses. It has an air of urgency about it and at the same time, the locals look perfectly relaxed.

Tanjong Katong

Ten minutes drive outside the CBD and it is as if you are in a different world, one with vertical living next to an array of restaurants and bars, with a similarity to the old Singapore.

This is getting out of control as I could go on and on but I won’t, ending this post here.

Information you may find important: https://www.visitsingapore.com/en_au/contact-us/

The 15 best Things to Do in Singapore: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attractions-g294265-Activities-Singapore.html

Jimmy Bee